Clauses vs. Elements in ISO Standards


What, if any, is the difference between the words “clause” and “element” in ISO standards?
Specifically, “customer shall conduct an internal audit addressing all elements of the management system.”  And, at what level is this in the standard, eg, 4 or 4.1 or 4.2.1


1) The difference between the words “clause” and “element” in ISO standards? – No difference.

2)”Customer shall conduct an internal audit addressing all elements of the management system”. –  Customers do not perform internal audits on suppliers.  If this person means that  customer requires a full QMS audit, so does the standard.  “All elements” probably means all QMS processes.

3) At what level is this in the standard, eg, 4 or 4.1 or 4.2.1 – 4 is the clause/element; 4.1.& 4.2 are “sub-clauses”

George Hummel
Voting member of the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 176 – Quality Management and Quality Assurance
Managing Partner
Global Certification-USA
Dayton, OH

Posted in ISO 9001 - Quality Management Systems, Other | Tagged | Leave a comment

ISO Certification and Suppliers


I work for a small family company that purchases items and potentially processes or packages them into heat protection materials. One of my existing customers is asking for ISO certification for some materials that I will sell to them. The material I’m trying to sell him comes from my supplier who is ISO 9001 certified, but my company is not. How can I show my customer that my supplier is ISO certified without the customer knowing who my supplier is?


The company is doing a value added process, and not a distributor.  As a result, if the customer is demanding ISO 9001 certification from the company, they need to make the decision, do they want to do business with the company? If so they need to pursue certification. If they do not want to pursue certification, they should tell the customer they do not want to pursue certification.  The customer can make the decision whether they will purchase product from the company.  I have had an experience where I did not want to do an audit with a company.  We told the customer, we will not do it.  The customer responded and came back with a reasonable proposal.  They wanted the business.

John G. Surak, PhD
Surak and Associates
Clemson, SC
A member of Stratecon International Consultants

First, ISO certification is for a company’s quality management system, not for particular materials.  I would let the customer know, on company letter head, that:  “We certify that the materials we purchased are from ISO 9001 certified suppliers only.  The name of these suppliers is company confidential.”

James D. Werner
Principal Consultant
Medical Device Quality Compliance, LLC

Posted in ISO 9001 - Quality Management Systems, Other | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Six Sigma Statistical Meaning


I need to understand the statement, “Adding a 1.5 sigma shift in the mean results …….”
I’m used to the bell curve and + /- three sigma.
How does the extra +/- three sigma fit in, and what is this about moving the mean?
Does ASQ have a good book that includes this detail in with basic statistics?


The idea of 6-sigma leading to a process with 3.4 parts per million defective is not a totally statistical statement.  Using the normal distribution, we know that a process that is centered on its mean will have 0.135% of the distribution outside 3 standard deviations on each tail.  That same process would have 0.00000010% outside of 6 sigma, which does not lead to the aforementioned 3.4 million parts per million outside.  Dr. Mikal Harry in 1992 published a book (see chapter 6) entitled Six Sigma Producibility Analysis and Process Characterization, written by Mikel J. Harry and J. Ronald Lawson. In it is one of the only tables showing the standard normal distribution table out to a z value of 6.  Here is where he stated that processes can shift by 1.5 sigma leading to only having 4.5 sigma limits and the 3.4 parts per million outside the “6-sigma” limits.  I would suggest you look at the six sigma division on the ASQ website ( that will help to better explain the rationale for the shift.

Steven Walfish
Secretary, U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 69
Principal Statistician

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ISO 9001 Certification and Moving


My small company is considering ISO certification because some of our customers are asking for it. My concern is that if we continue growing at our current rate, we may be moving in 12-18 months. Is ISO certification site specific – i.e. if we obtain certification and then move, do we need to undergo a whole new certification?


After the certification audit your company will get a certificate for three years, and you will be adhered to a surveillance audit each year during the mentioned duration. There is no problem in moving if your moving did not lead to changes in your processes, activities, services or products which were included in your Quality Management System’s scope during the first certification audit, but it was just moving to another address. 

Ibrahim Moussa
Founder and Managing Director, at VOICE OF QUALITY for Training and Consulting Services


Posted in ISO 9001 - Quality Management Systems, Other | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Creating a Culture of Quality


I was introduced to Quality Management (& ISO 9001:2015) recently. The culture of the organization that I am concerned with has not embraced Quality Management, and it is often the subject of outright and unprofessional antagonism. I seek direction in order to arm myself with greater knowledge or qualifications as well as change attitudes toward Quality Management at all levels within the organization. I thought that ASQ would be a good resource. Since there are so many channels, a plethora of literature, and various certifications and conferences, I am a bit overwhelmed. I need to focus my efforts, and I hope to be able to do so with some direction from a professional who can relate to such growing pains. Thank you.

Answer 1

Thank you for your question.  I can certainly to relate to you and your plight – I was in a similar circumstance early in my career.   If you were introduced to ISO 9001 this year, I have to assume that your company is not yet registered.   Most manufacturing companies are required by their customers to have registration, but if you are not in that situation, you have to sell Quality Management on its own merit.  The bad news is, that if your senior management doesn’t want a Quality Management System, there is nothing you can do about that.  Now, that being said, you can begin by examining some of the “pain points” in your organization and showing how quality tools can help to solve them.  Management will never embrace quality until they see what is in it for them.   You can start with an analysis of the Cost of Poor Quality.  When your leadership sees the cost of nonconformance, they will be keen to bring those costs down.  COPQ typically includes the cost of external customer complaints, replacing products, late deliveries, and internal costs such as scrap, rework, re-makes etc.  If there has ever been a problem that traces back to not properly understanding a customer’s needs, that is a text-book example of how Quality Management can help.  Start with that.   Look at the costs of poor quality, and sell the idea of using quality tools to bring those costs down.  You will have no chance of selling your management on quality until they can see what’s in it for them.  Good Luck!

Denis J. Devos, P.Eng
A Fellow of the American Society for Quality
Devos Associates Inc.
(519) 476-8951

Answer 2

it sounds like this company needs a culture change. This change can happen only at the direction of the company’s leadership.
Here’s some suggestions:

  1. Each department head has to establish three (3) measurable goals on how his/her department is improving on the quality of their department’s output/work.  These are to be reported at each executive monthly meeting.  Department manager’s must be held accountable for lack of quality improvements.
  1. Every individual’s performance review must include “quality performance.”  This also needs to be measurable (less than last year, improved customer satisfaction from surveys, reduced ‘cost-of-quality’, reduced audit nonconformance observations, etc.)
  1. If the company has a bonus program, individuals/departments bonus is tied into quality performance.  ISO observation means 10% or more cut in bonus.
  1. Have top executives hold meetings on the need for quality and it’s everyone’s responsibility – not just the QA department.  If employees don’t like it they are welcomed to find employment elsewhere.


Jim Werner
Voting member to the U.S. TAG to ISO TC 176 Quality Management and Quality Assurance
Medical Device Quality Compliance (MDQC), LLC.
ASQ Senior Member

Posted in Cost of Quality, ISO 9001 - Quality Management Systems, Quality Culture | Tagged ,

Acceptance Sampling Inspection


We have an Acceptance sampling inspection in place where we use the ANSI/ASQ Z1.4 – 2013 standard under Normal Inspection, using General Inspection Level II to drive our samples size and accept, reject criteria. We do not uses switching rules as we have always found them too difficult to manage. I have two questions.

If I have one lot that fails Acceptance sampling and I am trying to bound the issue is it suitable to bound it to the one affected lot if the lot before and after pass or do I need to carry out additional sampling.

My second question is if I have a batch that passes acceptance sampling but at a subsequent downstream process a defect being inspected for by the upstream acceptance sampling inspection is found how do I determine if the lot is acceptable? Do I trust the acceptance sampling inspection or react?


The first question is not an uncommon one and actually it is a good practice to isolate the lot and do 100% inspection of it.  That way you can estimate the % defective and if another failure occurs in the next 5 lots, then increase the sampling until you have some confidence that the supplier has fixed the problem.  Once that confidence is restored, then you go back to what you inspected originally.

The second question, is one that you have to understand how well do you follow the acceptance sampling process?  If your alpha level is at 95%, 5% of the time, you can accept a bad batch as good. That is the pure definition of the alpha risk.  If this failure falls within the 5%, your process is working and while you sort through the lot, and notify the supplier, it is not something that you over react to.

I hope this helps.


James Bossert, PhD, MBB, CQA, CQE, CqM/OE
Sr Performance Improvement Consultant

Posted in Sampling, Z1.4 & Z1.9 - Sampling | Tagged , , ,

Charging Lab Fees


We are in the process of getting our new laboratory ISO 17025 certified. At this moment, our lab is a part of a parent organization. However, it has been requested that the lab should have its own name and with the ability to charge fees, etc. My question is would that be possible without establishing the lab as its own company (LLC, division, etc.)? If we charge fees, would we be considered a third party lab in relation to our parent company with our own, HR, admins, IT, etc separate from the parent company?


The ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation (not certification) process allows for captive laboratory under a parent organization to accredited. ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Clause 4.1.4 states:

If the laboratory is part of an organization performing activities other than testing and/or calibration, the responsibilities of key personnel in the organization that have an involvement or influence on the testing and/or calibration activities of the laboratory shall be defined in order to identify potential conflicts of interest.

 NOTE 1 Where a laboratory is part of a larger organization, the organizational arrangements should be such that departments having conflicting interests, such as production, commercial marketing or financing do not adversely influence the laboratory’s compliance with the requirements of this International Standard.

 NOTE 2 If the laboratory wishes to be recognized as a third-party laboratory, it should be able to demonstrate that it is impartial and that it and its personnel are free from any undue commercial, financial and other pressures which might influence their technical judgement. The third-party testing or calibration laboratory should not engage in any activities that may endanger the trust in its independence of judgement and integrity in relation to its testing or calibration activities.”

There is no requirement that the “laboratory should have its own name and have ability to charge fees”. It is up to the laboratory to organize in a manner that it sees fit as long potential conflicts with the parent organization are identified. Notes 1 and 2 provide more guidance for this Clause. Nor is there a requirement that it have its own IT, HR and other departments as long as those arrangements are identified and any potential conflict of interest resolved to the Accrediting Body’s interest.

Dilip A. Shah
President, E = mc3 Solutions,
Technical Director, Sapphire Proficiency Testing Services
Chair, ASQ Measurement Quality Division (2016, 2012-2013, 2007, 2004-2005)
Past Member of the A2LA Board of Directors (2006-2014)
Tel: 330-328-4400
Fax: 1-888-226-9533

Posted in ISO 17025 - Testing and Calibration Laboratories | Tagged