Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C.

 ISO Standards are Our Servants, Not Our Masters

ISO Standards Users: Is ISO 9001 something you "have to do" to make your customers and/or marketing department happy, and just an added expense in terms of registration costs? Do you regard audits as adversarial activities in which you hope the auditor doesn't "catch" you doing something "wrong" for which he or she can issue a nonconformance?

 Original image: Edward Poynter (1867): Israel in Egypt. Public domain due to age.

The Truth

Source: The Arabian Nights Entertainments, with Illustrations by Milo Winter. Rand McNally, New York, published in 1914 (public domain due to age)

  • ISO 9001 provides a framework for a quality management system that prevents the generation of poor quality, and that can even be used to address the other six Toyota production system wastes.
    • These wastes, unlike poor quality, are asymptomatic; they do little or nothing to announce their presence. They are often more costly than poor quality. They can, however, be dealt with (once they have been identified) by the same corrective and preventive action (CAPA) system you must have in place under ISO 9001.
    • ISO 9001 is best described as "invisible when present, conspicuous when absent"--the perspective also taken by Tubecon.*
  • ISO 14001, when used properly, can add a lot of profit to your bottom line while reducing costs for your customers and raising your worker's wages. Henry Ford proved this more than 70 years before the standard was developed, and when he could have legally thrown into the nearest river whatever environmental waste wouldn't go up his smokestack.
  • ISO 50001, when used properly, applies Henry Ford's proven principles for reducing energy costs.
  • ISO 9004's clauses on organizational identity, organizational culture, and motivation, empowerment, and engagement of workers, offer an overwhelming competitive advantage to any organization that can implement them.
  • ISO 45001 is synergistic with OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program, and can reduce your experience modification rating (EMR) for worker's compensation premiums along with Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART)**.
  • Audits are Nonadversarial Activities. ISO standards users should want the auditor to find nonconformances before they make trouble--just as most of us would rather have the dentist find a cavity before it turns into a root canal issue, and the gasteroenterologist find a polyp before it develops into colon cancer.
* Does not imply endorsement of this Web site by Tubecon, whose site we found through a Google search on the indicated phrase. The takeaway is that this is how intelligent ISO standards users approach the issue.

** OSHA: "The average VPP worksite has a Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) case rate of 52% below the average for its industry."
More on ISO as your servant and not your master

Detractors of ISO standards are quick to point to cases in which an ISO 9001-certified organization has produced poor quality, just as vaccine skeptics are eager to point out everybody who gets sick after getting the vaccine as proof the vaccine "doesn't work." The flu pandemic of 1918, which took place before flu vaccines were available, killed 675,000 Americans (almost six times as many as were lost during the First World War). Flu killed about 80,000 people, out of a population three times as large, in 2018.* Vaccine detractors will be quick to point to the 80,000 who died (including perhaps a handful among those vaccinated) while ignoring the invisible millions who, because of the vaccine, never got sick in the first place. The ISO standards detractors similarly fail to acknowledge the poor quality that never gets produced because of the standard, the poor quality that is produced but does not reach the customer because of the clauses whose specific purpose is to prevent that, and the corrective and preventive action that makes sure the poor quality is never produced again.

Standards are most conspicuous when they are absent (or not followed). Lack of standards for the rivets that held the Titanic together--or failure to meet whatever standards existed--played a major role in the loss of the ship and most of its passengers. We should instead be able to take it for granted that the ship doesn't sink, the airplane doesn't crash, and so on, and standards help make this happen. We take it for granted that steam boilers do not explode in the 21st century, and we have ASME standards (which were developed after a series of such disasters in the 19th  and early 20th century) to thank for this. We also take it for granted that factory workers are rarely injured by machines in the 21st century, but how many people have ever heard of Robert A. Shaw, Henry Ford's director of occupational health and safety?  A Chinese folk tale about three brothers, who were doctors, teaches the same lesson. The youngest cured serious diseases, so he was famous throughout the realm. The middle brother cured diseases in their early stages, so his name never went beyond his village. The eldest prevented the diseases, so nobody ever heard of him. We take it for granted that we do not get smallpox or polio in the 21st century, but how many people have ever heard of Edward Jenner or Jonas Salk? This is how ISO 9001 should work for you.

* Our position (not medical advice) is that most of these deaths were preventable by an annual injection that costs less than $30 even without insurance. The Ford Motor Company's maxim regarding poor quality applies to publich health as well: "Don't take it, don't make it, don't pass it along." If you get the vaccine, you won't take it (the disease) or, if you do, you will probably get a much milder case, and you will be less likely to pass the disease along

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