ISO (International Organization for Standardization) develops standards for organizations/industries to ensure quality, safety and efficiency of products, services and systems.
In 2018, there were over 20,000 companies that were ISO Certified in the U.S. There are very few in freight forwarding.
I have been through ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 9001:2015 audits over 13 years as I helped MTS Logistics develop our own Quality Management System. As a medium size company, in service sector, we are customer-focused and at the same time all our success is based on the efficiencies we create – this can be internal by procedures, external by counterparts or vendors, or basically by technology. We have to be in front of the curve at all times.
In a fast-paced environment where everyone is busy, you do make day-to-day decisions, but ISO 9001:2018 enables you divert your focus on the main road that you would like to walk on.
Here are the core actions on that route:
- Be Customer Focused
- Continue to improve
- Make sure your processes work under a system designed by your management and leadership
- Make decisions based on facts
- Choose the right partners and tools based on your standards
- Proactively assess your risks
- Have your people involved
- Make sure you sustain continuity of information
When you look at this list, you say “Well that’s what any company does one way or other” and that is partially correct. Any management team would say they know all about this. The question is how many of those companies record each of these steps, go through them few times a year, make improvements, and share standards within their organization based on the changing needs of their customers, their industry and their organization? We all know our job – it can be one piece of the process, or the whole process – we work day in/day out, and we believe the way we do it is the best way to do it. Is there no other way to improve?
Once you step back, once you communicate with others, once you look for improvements and risks, you do find better ways. Then the next challenge comes: you find better ways and apply them, but how about when you are not there, how will those valuable applications stay in the organization? How will that pass from one person to another? How is that done in the same way among a whole organization? The answers to these questions is the really in ISO Standards.
My personal favorite on how ISO Standards create value to my organization is audits.
To keep and renew our ISO certification, we get auditor visits every year that evaluate our processes, our system and our organization. They look for opportunities for improvements, corrective actions and non-conformities in our system. Usually, auditors won’t be from our industry (since there are very few freight forwarders in the market that have ISO certification), so it gives us an opportunity to have a fresh look into our system. Somebody that is exposed to many different industries looking at your system gets you exposed to questions that you won’t really think about. That kind of thinking really lets you catch those small holes you may have in your system, and triggers opportunities to improve. We had many improvements in the past 13 years based on those audit findings and melting them in our system.
Overall, we see huge differences in the way we operate: we choose partners, we train our team, we define our goals and how to reach those goals if we were not ISO certified. We hear similar feedbacks from our clients, in regard to how they feel like working with us. It is in our core to make ourself better everyday and we feel like ISO Standards help us on this route.