Family of related, auditable, international standards and supplementary guidelines on quality management and quality assurance. First published in 1987 (and continually updated) by the International Standards Organization (ISO), these standards are not specific to any industry or product (good or service) but are nearly universally applicable and recognized. Although called 'voluntary,' they are almost mandatory for practically all manufacturers and service providers selling to multinationals and large or governmental organizations. To be awarded certification, a firm's operations and internal systems must be verify by independent (third party) and accredited auditors (after an on-site audit) to be in compliance with these standards. To remain certified, the firm must continue to pass the on-site audit conducted at regular intervals (usually every two years). In addition to the gains in productivity, the ISO 9000 certification brings recognition and credibility and provides a structure on which a total quality management (TQM) system can be built.
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