A Detailed History of the ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is the globally recognised standard that has evolved over the past 70 years to become the most prominent management standard in the world. It has now become universally recognised as a framework for quality, a basic requirement for new contracts, and a great tool for marketers to utilise.


If you are interested in ISO 9001, you may be just as interested in the history of ISO 9001, and se how it has changed over the past seven decades. In this article we will outline the history of ISO 9001 as well as the changes and adaptations that have been made as the global society around it has changed.


ISO 9001: 1950-1959


The first time ISO 9001 was discussed was back in the 1950s when there was a significant boom in technology. This boom was especially evident in the military sector. Before standardisation, military officials used to individually assess suppliers for their capacity to provide high grade products.


Unfortunately, this method at the time would not meet quality standards today. Quality requires regular reviews in order to make sure that standards have not dropped, and have at least improved over time or have been maintained. In this time period, military officials would do a brief check and leave it at that.


Nuclear power stations began producing electricity in both the United States of America and the United Kingdom at this time. As a result of the growing concerns of enforcement in this sector, standardisation became a hot topic, a priority for several large-scale global organisations.


ISO 9001: 1960-1969


During the 1960s, the global military sector saw massive expansion with the development of NASA and NATO. The nuclear programs at the time were also of significant relevance to this period of time. The industry saw ever-increasing risk to contracts, security and general safety.


In 1966, the United Kingdom began a campaign under the name ‘Quality is everybody’s business’ which aimed at addressing the issue of quality across the region. By the end of the 1960’s quality had become a priority amongst businesses and consumers. Every major supplier was, at the time, evaluating how they could improve processes to avoid waste of time, money and other resources.


In 1968, NATO was the first of many large scale organisation to adopt the Allied Quality Assurance Procedures (AQAP) in order to unified standards. The following year, the British government appointed Colonel G W Raby to make sure that the military followed similar standards and systems.


The conclusions of all these changes, meant that a generic set of standards should be written up and assessed by an impartial third party. This would soon become the start of the ISO 9001.


ISO 9001: 1970-1979


The 60s saw a massive change in the way that quality and standards were perceived. By the 1970s, proper management and system optimisation was a key priority for businesses. In 1971, the British Standards Institute (BSi) were the first organisation to publish a standard specifically for quality assurance. This document, known as the BS 9000, was the first one of it’s kind anywhere across the globe. This document was primarily focussed on the electronics industry and was geographically specific to the United Kingdom.


During the period of the 1970s, there was significant debate over what quality assurance should cover, who should be responsible for governing it and what the legal implications might be fore suppliers and contractors.


The British Standards Institute followed up the BS 9000 with a published version of the BS 5179, that was officially titled ‘Guidelines for Quality Assurance’. This continued to increase and lead the way towards the development of third party assessment and the assurance industry.


By the end of the 1970s, the British Standards Institute were guiding the way towards the future of quality management standardisation. Several other industries were still conflicted and unable to come to any consensus about the standards for their specific industries.


After a decade of the British Standards Institute’s BS 1579 and BS 9000 being widely available, the institute updated their standards yet again to meet the demands outlined by the previous decade. This document was the BS 5750 and set the framework for all future standards.


ISO 9001: 1980-1989


While the 70s was truly the peak of interest in standardisation, following growing interest through the 1960s, the 80s were when standardisation went global. New internationally recognised standards were soon adopted based on the foundations laid down by the British Standards Institute. Originally, the BS 5750 was only meant to be employed by a strict number of manufacturing industries.


By 1987, a new standard based on the BS 5750 was established – it was the ISO 9000! The ISO 9000 was the first internationally recognised quality standard and was a collective name for a series of sub standards that included the ISO 9001 used specifically for quality assurance.


This radical shift saw quality assurance drift from the United Kingdom to be employed internationally by several large scale companies across the globe.


ISO 9001: 1990-1999


With the ISO 9000 finally established, the key was to make sure that the standard did not fall behind and was continually revised to match the needs of a changing globalised world. In 1994, the first revision of the ISO 9000 was made, and included a more preventative approach to quality assurance. Rather than being responsive to problems, it was important within the ISO9000:1994 to develop processes that would mitigate risks.


One of the problems of this approach was the significant amount of bureaucracy and paperwork required to prevent these issues, document changes, and check implementation. Quality management became a full-time job in of itself. In some industries and companies, Quality Management departments were developed purely to make sure that standards were adhered to.


ISO 9001: 2000-2009


By the year 2000, a new revision was made to streamline some of the issues that the 1994 revision had caused. Prior to the year 2000, there were three separate branches of standards that were applied depending on your industry. The 2000 update meant the merging of these three into one universal streamlined quality standard and focussed on core management and business processes. The biggest change was the increased importance of the quality output of departments. This revision also resulted in the idea of trackable improvements through a better refined Quality Management System. One of the key features of the ISO9000:2000 was the drive for customer satisfaction by collecting feedback after sales in order to maintain quality assurance.


Similar to many other standards across the globe for health & safety, and for electronics, the 2008 revision of the ISO 9001 helped modernise some of the terminology present in ISO9000:2000. The approach, however, has remained very much the same since 2000.


As the British Standard once pioneered the area of quality assurance, the ISO 9000 has become the new international standard. It has quickly become the approach recognised around the world, and is continually being refined, with a new version being updated on a regular basis.


ISO 9001: 2010-Present


There have been some radical changes to the world in terms of technology over the past ten years. The advent of mobile and portable devices, coupled with cloud technology, has made digital devices ubiquitous. The impact of this on quality management is obvious. Giving responsibilities to staff wherever necessary and offering hands on experience and training has become of renewed importance. On top of all this, streamlining the existing standards has also been important as time has gone one.


About the International Organisation for Standardisation


The International Organisation for Standardisation was established as early as 1926 as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations, also known as ISA. In 1942 the organisation was briefly suspended due to World War II. After the war, however, the recent United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) proposed that a new global standards body be implemented. In 1946, the United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee and the National Standardizing Association met with other delegates from 25 countries to join forces for the new International Organization for Standardisation.


The International Organisation for Standardisation describes it as this:


“ISO 9001:2015 sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to (although this is not a requirement). It can be used by any organization, large or small, regardless of its field of activity. In fact, there are over one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries certified to ISO 9001.”


As well as the current ISO9001:2015, there are several sector-specific applications that can be applied depending on your services. Some of these services include:


ISO 13485 – Medical devices

ISO 17582 – Electoral organizations at all levels of government

ISO 18091 – Local government

ISO/TS 22163 – Business management system requirements for rail organizations

ISO/TS 29001 – Petroleum, petrochemical and natural gas industries

ISO/IEC 90003 – Software engineering  


The ISO 9000 series was only published in 1987 and has since gone through several revisions. The purposes of this guide is to help businesses looking to improve their operation, It also allows businesses to adapt their working strategies to optimise costs and savings.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *