F Entessarian, Member of ISO Technical Committee 176, Responsible for writing Quality Management Standards, Vice-President of the Iranian Quality Management Association; and Managing Director of Iran Group of Surveyors
F Entessarian, Member of ISO Technical Committee 176, Responsible for writing Quality Management Standards, Vice-President of the Iranian Quality Management Association; and Managing Director of Iran Group of Surveyors


Management System Standards:

past and present trends

The concept of standards originates in prehistoric times. Indeed no social human form of life can exist without some sort of standards. With the evidence at hand, one could confidently claim that the ancient Egyptians were fully aware of standards of lengths and weights as can be seen from the hieroglyphic writings that remain from the Egypt of the ancient times. The concept of standards, which at that time was confined to measurements, is quite evident. But the history of "writing standards" as we know it today is only 3-400 years long and seems to have begun with the development of the shipbuilding industry.

At about the same time, modern scales of measurement emerged with inches and feet and pounds soon turning into the more abstract but useful scales of the meter and the kg. The standards on quality of products soon came into existence, and today we are standardizing methods, while methods are becoming integrated into systems.

Management System Standards, however, are a totally new concept, perhaps only 50 years or so old and first emerged as safety and quality management standards in industries. Perhaps the oldest document in which quality assurance standard has been discussed is a document issued by the Tzar of Russia in the 19th century in which makers of shells for guns are warned that if the charges failed to operate the makers would be responsible and could be even executed in certain circumstances. Today, when we examine CE, or ISO 9000 standards and the various related directives and regulations, we realize that we have come a very long way.

Management Systems and Systems Standards
A system is made up of a number of elements that interact and thus, through some process, produce an output from certain inputs. If the interactions take place in an orderly fashion the output can be well defined and distinct. In an organization these orderly elements of interaction are the personnel with defined responsibilities and authorities, defined inputs and internal resources etc. If the organization is intended to produce something, in a controlled condition, then the production system concentrates on definite production processes. Within this system we must follow certain policies towards definite aims. On the one hand we have to manage the production and on the other hand the quality of the product and so we need a quality system. Then we have to manage the financial affairs, i.e. we need a financial system. Then we have to protect the environment and therefore we need an environmental management system, and so on. But these systems must work together in harmony and coordination. This point was neglected until recent times when the International Standardization Organization started to develop the ISO 9001 Quality Management System. Then in order to harmonize the two Quality and Environment Standards, ISO set up the Technical Committee 207 responsible for the development of ISO 14000 series and the Technical Committee 176 responsible for the development of ISO 9000 standards and set the two committees to form a Task Group. As the new ISO standards were developed the integration of the systems and harmonization of the standards became more and more crucial. In this respect ISO 9000 standards are the main standards and the other standards must be harmonized with these.

Unfortunately even today we do not have standards for all management systems. For example ISO has still not developed any standards for strategic management and human resource management. But we have to keep in mind that all management systems, whether complying with any standards or not, must be kept in harmony with each other in order to form an Integrated Total MS. No system is indefinitely stable, and may vary with times and so we have to keep them under control through proper auditing.

Here we should divide standards into two groups: Those standards which merely act as guidelines, and they make up the majority; and those standards that can be audited such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001 etc. To ensure that auditing itself is carried out according to standards, a committee has been set up in ISO, titled CASCO, that prepares Conformity Assessment Standards. This committee determines the mode of action and performance of organizations and individuals who play roles in evaluating/assessing companies and organizations such as accreditation and certification bodies. One of the aims in the development of Management System Standards is to help organizations to succeed and to remain successful. For this purpose they must adopt three policies: 1) organizational effectiveness in the sense that the organization must ensure customer satisfaction; 2) efficiency, that is making optimum use of time and resources; and 3) agility, the ability to adapt with a changing environment.

ISO 9001 addresses the first issue and ISO 9004 both the first and the second. However, the future revision of ISO 9004 should address all the three issues. An important point that the senior management of any organization must bear in mind is that standards and certificates must not be viewed as publicity materials but rather the means of achieving better management. Unfortunately, in our country, as in many other countries, these standards and particularly the relevant certificates are considered to be simply objects of prestige.

Difficulties and Possible Solutions
The environment in which standards and management systems are established varies from one country to another because laws and regulations as well as the mentality of the people vary.
In our country, the Environmental are Protection Organization, Institute of Standardization & Industrial Research (ISIRI), and Ministry of Health and Medical Treatment are the organs responsible for the protection of the environment and consumer interests, i.e. safety and quality of products. But, unfortunately their approach is the "end-of-pipe" approach which means being concerned with the result/product and not the process. Therefore, if a defective end product is observed or an evidence of environmental pollution is found, immediate action, even legal action, may be taken but no real action is taken with respect to the Quality Assurance Management System or Environmental Protection Management System of the organization.

Management In 1992 a new approach was adopted by the EU which was registered as the "New Approach". One of the main features of this Approach is the replacement of the end-of-pipe approach with the management system approach, such that instead of concentrating on the result they look for the root causes. Towards this end, new organs were established which are today known as accreditation and certification bodies and which act as the monitoring and assessment bodies acting systematically. Besides, certain changes and modifications were made in the Consumer Production Act. One modification was the addition of a chapter on Product Liability. Product Liability requires that if a producer should produce an item that harms a consumer in any way, it is sufficient for the consumer to claim such a harm or damage and the burden of proof to the contrary shall rest with the producer. The minimum ceiling on the liability of the producer is about 100,000 euros for EU countries that is to say no EU country can set a maximum level of reparations below this figure. There is no such law in our country and therefore producers do not have the same sense of responsibility, as they should. The producer has no responsibility vis-a-vis the consumer but is only responsible before some public organizations such as ISIRI, Ministry of Health, and Environmental Protection Organization. If we had such a law in force in Iran every producer of every product would do his utmost to make sure none of the products leaving his production plant would be defective or harmful in any way. And for this purpose and to protect the producer's interests against the consumers, quality assurance, environmental protection, and safety and health systems become of absolute necessity.

Now that we are about to join the WTO we have to note that lack of interaction with the outside world has resulted in a big gap between our country and the rest of the world in management, in legal matters, and in standardization methods and procedures. Therefore to be successfully present in the world market we need laws and standards similar to those prevailing in the advanced world: consumer protection acts, social accountability, organizational responsibility, business ethics, copy rights, intellectual property rights etc etc.

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