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BS 5750 or ISO 9000

  • BS 5750 is a national standard for quality management – it certifies that a company’s quality management system works efficiently
  • The system is defined as ‘the organisation structure, responsibilities, activities, resources and events that together provide organised procedures and methods to ensure the capability of the organisation to meet quality requirements’
  • BS5750 requires the company to listen to what its customers want, to ensure it has mechanisms for assessing product quality and to apply whatever lessons are learned in the process – manuals are then written listing how these tasks are to be achieved – these manuals have to be approved – finally, certificates are issued by a recognised and independent third party when the company shows the rules are being applied
  • Essentially it’s ‘say what you do, do what you say, and then prove that you’ve done it’
  • BS 5750 started life as an MoD code for ensuring ‘value for money’ on large purchases – it was launched nationally, in 1979, by Maggie Thatcher and the BSI (British Standards Institute) to bolster the quality of British industry output
  • It was then taken up by Europe (EN 29000) and the ISO (International Standards Organisation) on behalf of the rest of the world (ISO 9000)
  • It’s benefits are said to include:
    • A reduction of waste and time-consuming reworking of designs and procedures
    • More soundly based and efficient procedures
    • More satisfied customers because you have built in quality at every stage
    • A kitemark qualification without which you could not become an approved supplier – and many customers demanded it even though it did not focus on the company doing the ‘right things’ for them
  • But BS 5750 has as many critics as advocates – they complain that it is:
    • Too expensive, especially for smaller companies, and does not save money
    • Ineffective in improving procedural efficiency, sales or market share
    • Not a guarantor of high quality, although it does show a firm cares
    • A bureaucratic waste of time, good for the inspection industry alone
    • Manned by assessors of poor experience, many having failed in previous jobs
    • Flawed because ‘customer satisfaction’ is ignored
  • Toyota tried ISO 9000 once, and binned it after concluding it was of no value
  • As Tom Peters pointed out, almost all quality improvement comes from the simplification of design, manufacturing, layout, processes and procedure – in other words, certificates and culture change programmes are not the answer


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