Just before we get too lost in the concepts and theories, could i just throw in some experience on this subject.
It is very often said that if you produce crap without ISO with ISO you will produce consistent crap.
My experience is that a ISO system can be implemented that results in very little year on year immprovement. I suppose none of us like to admit that such systems exist, but i suspect these are in the majority.
However this all ignores that there is usually a step improvement when ISo is implemented and many depts make an effort to tidy up long existent loose ends.
Incidentally my brief reading of the new ISO 9000/2000 makes me think that they are getting more serious and insisting on more Continuous Improvement.
In the conclusions of the docuement issue by the European Union Members State (April 1997, Quality Series Nr. 5): "The added Value and credibility of third party certification of QMS in the European Union" we can read:
1) Certification must be put into perspective in relation to a company´s quality efforts.
2) Need of clarity as to the difference between the ISO 9000 standards and TQM.
3) How can quality system implementation according to ISO 9001/2/3 standards and certification lead to customer satisfaction and continuous improvement and be seen as a natural step towards further quality efforts susch as TQM?
4) How can confidence in quality system certificates be enhanced?
The short answer (too long to write on):
1) Third party certification of quality systems should be put in perspective (QMS implementation vs Certification benefits).
2) European industries must be encouraged to go beyond the ISO 9000 level of quality.
3)Quality systems should lead to continuous improvement and customer satisfaction (this was the principal motor to improve the ISO 9000:1994).
4)Confidence in certificates should be enhanced (increasedd transparency, harmonisation of certification and accreditation procedures).
Free Copies of this kind of documents could be requested to mailto:"Antonio.Silva Mendes"@dg3.cec.be