A Comprehensive Guide to ISO 9000 Standards

Learn what the ISO 9000 standards series is, how it differs from ISO 9001 and other ISO certifications, and the quality management standards falling under this family.

iso 9000

What is ISO 9000?

ISO 9000 is a collection of global industry standards for quality management. It sets a broad yet rigorous benchmark to improve the quality of products and services across all industries worldwide. The ISO 9000 standards series describes the foundations of an effective Quality Management System (QMS) through its principles, guidelines, and best practices.

ISO 9000:2015 tackles the framework, concepts, and principles underlying a robust QMS. Aside from this, it also contains the key terms and helpful notes used in the rest of the QMS standards. It discusses terminology related to organizations, people, processes, activities, systems, ISO requirements, and related themes.


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) first published the ISO 9000 family in March 1987. Business leaders during that time envisioned an international benchmark that would define the essential characteristics of a quality system for businesses from all industries and geographic locations.

During its early years, mainly large companies used the standards. However, this trend changed in the mid-1990s when it rose in popularity among small- and mid-sized businesses. These efforts culminated in revisions to adapt to the ever-changing market.

Years later, ISO 9000 has become the most successful standard series in the world, with its latest version released last September 2015.

Why Is It Important?

An ISO 9000 certification offers organizations and businesses the following benefits:

Improves Quality of Products and Services

ISO 9000 enables organizations to consistently document and assess their processes in order to improve their quality systems. These measures ensure that businesses deliver quality products and services to their customers. Moreover, enacting these quality protocols allows them to detect and resolve quality issues before the final product reaches their customers.

Increases Customer Satisfaction

The customer lies at the heart of every QMS that businesses build. With that in mind, ISO 9000 pushes companies to improve the quality of their final products and/or services through rigorous quality metrics. It also helps them re-shift their focus on specific areas to please their customer base. Implementing these metrics ensures that the customer only receives the best services and/or products.

Drives Business Productivity

ISO 9000 sets the standard for internal and quality operations. By having clear, well-defined guidelines, employees can perform their jobs better and give their best for the customers. Moreover, it encourages different departments in an organization to collaborate in resolving quality concerns raised during audits. This way, organizations can become more productive in the long run.

Reduces Operational Costs

ISO 9000 empowers businesses to optimize their operations and deliver quality products. It involves weeding out practices that slow down the pace of work and innovating ways to speed up processes. As companies develop efficient, cost-effective ways to streamline their functions, they also save huge amounts of money and time in the long run.

Boosts Credibility in the Industry

Obtaining ISO 9000 certification exhibits an organization’s commitment to providing quality products and services. This certification shows customers and clients that the organization has passed the rigorous metrics set by an international authority on quality standards. It establishes a reputation for high-quality products and/or services, thereby giving them a competitive advantage.

ISO 9000 vs. 9001: What’s the Difference?

People sometimes mistake the ISO 9000 with the ISO 9001—and for good reason. While both provide standards for Quality Management Systems (QMS), these two ISO standards differ in terms of their function and content. The table below shows the distinction between these quality benchmarks.

  ISO 9000:2015 ISO 9001:2015
Name Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary Quality management systems – Requirements
Latest version 2015 2015
Content Guidelines, best practices, and standard vocabulary Actionable items
Purpose Provide details about the basic terms and benchmarks for QMS. Guide organizations and businesses seeking ISO certification for QMS.
Best used for Clarifying concepts and terms stated in other ISO quality management standards Implementing ISO quality management guidelines in the workplace

Standards Under the ISO 9000 Series

The ISO 9000 standards family encompasses three ISO certifications for quality management: ISO 9001, ISO 9004, and ISO 19011. This section will discuss these standards further.

ISO 9001:2015 (QMS – Requirements)

ISO 9001 is a gold standard for benchmarking quality management systems in the world. Recently, it has certified over one million businesses and organizations in more than 170 countries.

The ISO 9001 standard provides organizations with a framework for establishing their own QMS. It lists action items based on the seven quality management principles. By grounding itself on a risk-based philosophy and a Plan-Do-Think-Act (PDCA) cycle, the standard promotes a high standard of quality for internal processes and protocols.

ISO 9001 allows organizations to meet customer demands and regulations through comprehensive guidelines and best practices. It applies to organizations and businesses that want to create, manage, and continuously enhance their QMS.

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ISO 9004:2018 (QMS – Managing for the Sustained Success of an Organization)

ISO 9004 is a document that shows organizations how to keep improving their quality system. It goes beyond implementing ISO 9001 for a single time; it envisions a long-term application. Sustained success becomes possible by learning how the organization develops in an ever-changing context.

The ISO 9004 standard includes rigorous self-assessment tools to help organizations identify the areas they need to work on. It also lets them observe how their QMS aligns with ISO standards and find solutions to fill these gaps. These guidelines are consistent with the principles outlined in ISO 9000.

ISO 19011:2018 (QMS – Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems)

Lastly, ISO 19011 rounds up a set of guidelines for performing audits in line with the ISO 9000 standards. It takes a broader approach to quality management system auditing because it encompasses internal and external (second-party) audits. Organizations can incorporate the audit results into their business planning processes.

ISO 19011 includes the principles of auditing that auditors and audit teams must follow. It also details how to perform QMS audits and manage audit programs in compliance with ISO 9000. Moreover, this document equips organizations with measures to evaluate the competence of the people involved in the audit process.

Leizel Estrellas
Article by
Leizel Estrellas
Leizel Estrellas is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. Her academic and professional training as a researcher allows her to write meaningful articles that create a lasting impact. As a content specialist, she strives to promote a culture of safety in the workplace through accessible and reader-friendly content. With her high-quality work, she is keen on helping businesses across industries identify issues and opportunities to improve every day.