MRO Magazine

What standards mean for maintenance

Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics, to ensure that materi...

November 1, 2002 | By Bill Roebuck, Editor

Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics, to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose,” says the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This respected group is a non-governmental, worldwide federation of national standards bodies from more than 140 countries.

The mission of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating the international exchange of goods and services, and to developing co-operation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity. ISO’s work results in international agreements which are published as International Standards.

Do you think these sound like lofty ideals that have nothing to do with the maintenance activity that goes on in Canada’s mines, mills, factories and utilities?

International standards are important — right down to the shop floor — for several reasons you may not consider in your daily work. No industry in today’s world can truly claim to be completely independent of components, products, rules of application, etc., that have been developed in other sectors. For example, bolts are used in aviation and for agricultural machinery; welding plays a role in mechanical and nuclear engineering, and electronic data processing has penetrated all industries, from corporate management to machinery maintenance activities.


Consider the screws that hold much of your equipment together. The diversity of screw threads for identical applications used to represent a major technical obstacle to trade. It caused maintenance problems, and lost or damaged nuts or bolts could not easily be replaced. A global solution is supplied in the ISO standards for metric screw threads. That’s just one small example of how standards make today’s work easier, safer and more productive.

Mechanical engineering

It was mainly mechanical engineering that led to the creation of international standardization as far back as 1906. In 1946, a new international organization, “the object of which would be to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards,” was launched, and ISO began to function officially in February 1947.

What do you know about companies — many of your suppliers, I’m sure — that claim adherence to international standards? Likely, you’ve heard companies say they are certified to ISO 9000, or its subsets, ISO 9001, ISO 9002 or ISO 9003. (The ISO 9000 family actually consists of more than 20 standards and guidelines.)

These particular standards are not related to products or product quality, but are a measure of an organization’s capabilities regarding quality. They are quality assurance models against which organizations can be certified. Like me, you have probably wondered what the difference between them is. The answer is that the difference is simply one of scope. It works like this:

ISO 9001 sets out the requirements for an organization whose business processes range all the way from design and development, to production, installation and servicing;

For an organization which does not carry out design and development, ISO 9002 is the appropriate standard, since it does not include the design control requirements of ISO 9001 — otherwise, its requirements are identical;

ISO 9003 is the appropriate standard for an organization whose business processes do not include design control, process control, purchasing or servicing, and which basically uses inspection and testing to ensure that final products and services meet specified requirements.

(Another commonly heard certification, ISO 14000, refers to a company’s compliance to an environmental management system aimed at protection of the earth’s environment while spurring international trade and commerce.)

Basically, an organization chooses to have its quality system certified against ISO 9001, ISO 9002 or ISO 9003 according to the business processes covered by the quality system.

It’s important to know that there is no difference of quality ranking between the three standards.

So when you read in the news about a supplier proudly announcing it has received ISO certification, it’s good to pay attention. It means standards, like those that have helped make it easier to deal with machinery and equipment from around the world, are being applied to a company’s business procedures. That can only mean good things for those who rely on these certified suppliers.


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