What is the new & current ISO 9001 standard?

In this blog post, we will review the current ISO 9001 standard, and all it’s previous versions. ISO stands for International Standardisation Organisation, which is a global network on national standards bodies. This body, issues standards relating to all aspects of the industry. There are several management system standards, including:

  • ISO 9001 – Quality Management
  • ISO 14001 – Environmental Management
  • ISO 27001 – Information Security Management
  • ISO 22000 – Food Safety Management
  • ISO 50001 – Energy Management

History of the Quality Management System

current ISO 9001 standard

ISO 9001 finds its roots back in World War 1. Allies were dropping bombs onto enemy territory, and yet the bombs would not explode, as some of them were defective. In World War 2, the problem was attenuated. Sub-contractors for allies had issues within their manufacturing processes, that resulted in bombs exploding within the manufacturing plant.

Naturally, this caused havoc and destruction of the manufacturing processes of armaments, and Allies knew they had to discover what this manufacturing defect was. With that in mind, they have asked all their subcontractors to write procedures on how they were producing ammunition for the Allies.

When they received the procedures from their subcontracts, Allies were forced to try to decipher where the information about the steps was included within the procedures. With that in mind, they decided to create a standardized way of writing up procedures. And with that, the first standard for ISO 9001 was born.

Versions of ISO 9001

As years passed from the initial version of the standard, and industry requirements changed, ISO has adapted the ISO 9001 standard in line with these changes.


The first ISO 9001 standard was better suited to the manufacturing industry. At the time, most companies were focused on producing goods, and the standard reflected just that. The standard was split up into smaller sections namely:

  • ISO 9001 – Quality Assurance in Design
  • ISO 9001 – Quality Assurance in Production
  • ISO 9003 – Quality Assurance in Final Inspection


This standard, rather just asking companies to develop procedures on how they were doing their work, tried to instill the first concept of continual improvement. The ISO 9001:1994 version included a reference to preventive actions. Rather than rely on Final Inspection (ISO9003:1987), this standard encouraged Quality Managers to seek to identify problems as early as possible within the Value Stream.

By thinking of what can go wrong, and find ways to prevent that from happening, businesses started seeing some of the benefits of ISO 9001, and thereby getting the Quality Certification to improve the Quality of the product and service being given to customers.


In 2000, the ISO started seeing the rise of the service industry. And the update of this standard reflected that. Given that not all service companies engage in the design & development of products (or services), this revision allowed companies to exclude the ‘design & development’ procedures.

Certain changes in terminology were also done. For example, we now started to refer to ‘suppliers’ rather than ‘subcontractors’. Also, the content within the standard was grouped into 4 major categories. Clauses 5 to Clause 8 (which you can read more about here in ISO 9001 Clauses explained in plain English).

Another major change in this update was that procedures now allowed for greater flexibility by the company implementing the standard. In the sense that since now the standard was catering for both manufacturing and services companies (for all industries), it could not dictate on how certain processes are to be done. But rather, it could only state what elements must be considered when designing and building a Quality Management System based on ISO 9001 Requirements.


The update of this standard was relatively ground-breaking. ISO 9001 now started to really understand that service businesses were the future. Non-manufacturing companies such as marketing agencies started to get ISO 9001 certified. With that in mind, the standard now focused on 3 main concepts:

  • Continual improvement
  • Process Approach
  • Customer satisfaction

These 3 principles can be adapted by any company and started paving the way for ISO 9001 to become the leading Quality Management System is service businesses.

Latest Version: ISO 9001:2015

As an ISO 9001 consultant with over 8 years’ experience in the Maltese Industry, I strongly believe that this update was critical for the future of ISO 9001. This update starting seeing the Quality Management System as an integral part of the business plan for the organisation.

Elements such as PESTLE, and SWOT analysis were included within the external factors section of the standard. We were now asked to consider all stakeholders within the business (investors, employees, management, paying customers), as the customers. This means that now we had internal and external customers.

In previous versions, the Process to get ISO 9001 Certified was regarded as something that has to do with the ‘Quality Manager’ of the organization. Not in this version. Now, given that the standard greatly overlapped with the business plan, top management was also included within the creation of the Quality Management System.

If you want to get ISO 9001 certified Fast, I now invite you to get a quote for ISO 9001 Certification. Or else, if you think that you have a good grasp of the requirements of the standard, to check out this Free 7-point ISO 9001 Readiness Checklist. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about ISO 9001 certification in Malta, click here.

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