Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association


ISO 9000 and ISO 14000

What are ISO 9000 and ISO 14000?

The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation consisting of member bodies from 91 countries, which promotes the development of international manufacturing, trade and communication standards.

ISO 9000 refers to a generic series of standards published by the ISO that provide quality assurance requirements and quality management guidance. ISO 9000 is a quality system standard, not a technical product standard. The ISO 9000 series currently contains four standards - ISO 9001, ISO 9002, ISO 9003 and ISO 9004. Firms select the standard that is most relevant to their business activities. However, these four standards will be revised in late 2000. More information is provided later in this paper under ISO 9000:2000.

ISO 14000 refers to a series of standards on environmental management tools and systems. ISO 14000 deals with a company's system for managing its day-to-day operations and how they impact the environment. The Environmental Management System and Environmental Auditing address a wide range of issues to include the following:

  1. Top management commitment to continuous improvement, compliance, and pollution prevention.
  2. Creating and implementing environmental policies, including setting and meeting appropriate targets.
  3. Integrating environmental considerations in operating procedures.
  4. Training employees in regard to their environmental obligations.
  5. Conducting audits of the environmental management system.

ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 are tools to assist business and government to insure the quality of their products and services, and to manage the impact of their activities on the environment. Like all ISO standards, their use is voluntary unless a business sector makes them a market requirement or a government issues regulations making their use obligatory. Organizations that implement ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 voluntarily do so to improve operations and provide real benefits.

Why Consider ISO 9000 Registration

There are several benefits to implementing this series in your company. There is also a strong belief that having a documented quality procedure gives a firm a strong advantage over its competitors. For example, it will guide you to build quality into your product or service and avoid costly after-the-fact inspections, warranty costs, and rework.

Most importantly, more contractors are working with ISO certified customers every year as the certifications are more widely used and accepted in the United States.

Becoming ISO Certified or Registered

In order to become certified or registered (either term may be used) for three years, companies must be audited by a third-party registrar to make sure they comply with all of the elements of the standard. A registrar is a third-party company that is contracted to evaluate an organization's quality management system to the requirements of the ISO 9000/14000 Standards. For a list of accredited registrars contact:

    Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB)
    Phone: (888) 722-2440 or (414) 272-3937
    Fax: (414) 765-8661, or

Typically, contracting firms apply for registration under 9001 if a contractor performs design work or 9002 if they just install work. In the case of the 9001 Standard, there are 20 elements covering such items as management responsibility, quality system, contract review, design control, document and data control and purchasing.

The auditing process takes an average of 12-24 months if the firm currently uses a quality system. Consultants can be hired to assist a firm in preparing for the audit. Using a consultant to help a firm prepare for registration is not required; however, research on certification shows an initial ISO 9000 series failure rate of 60% for companies that try to prepare without outside consulting help.

The cost of certification varies depending on the size and sophistication of a company. Some rough estimates are:

    Certification Consulting $25,000 - $80,000
    Certification Registrar $10,000 - $30, 000

Registrars typically perform an initial visit, two-three day preliminary audit and then a four-day final audit. Once a firm is registered, there are also some costs involved for surveillance audits, which occur every six months and the re-audit process every three years. Additionally, each firm must have an internal audit team for continuous improvement and auditing.

Though the investment of time, money and staff resources are considerable in the ISO 9000/14000 certification process, most certified firms report returns on their investment through monetary savings, marketing advantages and better procedures and information to help them to continue to reduce costs and waste in their firms.


When a firm is approved, they receive a certificate of registration for the facility registered and ISO standard used. They can then use the certificate number and symbol on advertising and correspondence. The registrar lists them in its directory identifying facility locations, ISO standard used and certificate number. For continued certification, they should expect registrar surveillance audits about every six months and a re-audit every three years.

Changes Planned to ISO 9000 in 2000

The International Standards Organization (ISO) periodically reviews the ISO 9000 Standards to ensure they are current and relative to the needs of industry. As a result from feedback of the 1994 version of the standard, a new draft standard called ISO 9000:2000 is currently under review and is expected to be released in the last 3 months of 2000.

Key needs addressed in the new standard include:

  1. A process or whole system approach
  2. Compatibility with other management systems likes ISO 14000
  3. Continuous improvement
  4. Stakeholder needs
  5. User friendly language

What is expected to change when the new draft if approved can only be considered as tentative at this time. The following items are most likely to change when the ISO 9000 is finalized.

  1. The current series has 20 published standards. The proposed new model will have a mere four, which are:
    1. ISO 9000 - Concepts and Terminology
    2. ISO 9001 - Model for Quality Assurance
    3. ISO 9004 - Model for Quality Management
    4. ISO 10011 - Guidelines for Auditing Quality Systems
  2. Many elements of the 20 standards will be folded into the core set. Additionally, once ISO 9001:2000 Standard, the standard that applies to contracting firms is finalized, it will replace the need/use of ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 in this standard. This new standard will be flexible enough to incorporate all three previous standards into one.
  3. The biggest change in the ISO 9001:2000 will be a new emphasis on the closed loop process. The revised standard is designed to place more emphasis upon "the processes" of a business, rather than being "system" based. This means emphasis is placed on the plan, do, check-act model already incorporated in ISO14001, the environmental standard.

Sources for Further ISO Information

For a list of sources on ISO 9000 and ISO 4000 information, go to SMACNA's link page or contact the following organizations:

  • American Society for Quality. Contains information on both ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 in a questions and answer format.
  • International Organization for Standards. The official ISO website, providing information on ISO 9000/14000 certification.
  • NSF International Strategic Registrations, Ltd.. Provides Quality and Environmental Management Systems registration services.
  • AQA Press. Provides publications, forms and downloadable software on ISO 9000/14000 certification processes and training and other related ISO links.
  • Quality Resource Center. Offers full-service ISO 9000 implementation assistance, ISO 9000 maintenance and improvement support module, and continuous improvement support modules.