ISO 9000 Standards for the Construction Industry

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Many organizations in the building construction industry implement quality systems that are based on ISO 9000 series standards (Ali, 2010). ISO provides a set of guidelines for establishing quality management systems for product and services. ISO 9000 standards are anchored on seven principles: customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision making, and relationship management (International Organization for Standardization, 2015). Piskar (2007) argue that customer focus is the most vital principle in the ISO and all other QMSs. On the hand, Jiroplura (2000) asserts that continual improvement is also an important principle in ISO 9000 family. He defined continual improvement as recurring activities aimed at increasing the organization’s ability to satisfy requirements. One of the recommendations in the ISO standards is that organizations should continually improve their effectiveness in line with the requirements of the international standard.

ISO 9001 standards also comprise of 20 elements including management responsibility, quality system, design control, and inspection and test status (see Table 2.1). The 20-elements were later replaced by a 5-section structure comprising: (1) systemic requirements, (2) management requirements, (3) resource requirement, (4) realization requirements, and (5) remedial requirements (Zhang & Russell, 2005).

Table 2.2: Twenty Elements of ISO 9001 Standard

ISO 9001 Elements ISO 9001 Elements
E1 Management responsibility E11 Control of inspection, measuring and test equipment
E2 Quality system E12 Inspection and test status
E3 Contract review E13 Control of non-conforming products
E4 Design control E14 Corrective and preventive action
E5 Document and data control E15 Handling, storage, packaging, preservation, and delivery
E6 Purchasing E16 Control of quality records
E7 Control of customers’ supplied products E17 Internal quality audits
E8 Product identification and traceability E18 Training
E9 Process control E19 Servicing
E10 Inspection and testing E20 Statistical techniques

Source: Willer (2012)

According to Kariliunas (2010) organizations implement ISO 9000 quality systems for several reasons. The first reason is to improve internal processes, and quality of services or product. Another reason is to increase share in markets where ISO certification is valued. Many firms view ISO certification as a tool for enhancing their image in the market with regard to quality issues. They seek to use ISO certification as marketing tool rather than a tool for improving quality. Organizations also implement ISO quality systems due to request or pressure from customers. Some institutional customers have policies that require their major suppliers and consultants to obtain ISO certification. For instance, the Hong Kong government has made ISO 9000 certification a mandatory requirement for contractors wishing to secure public sector projects (Ali, 2010). Kariliunus (2010) argues that organizations that implement ISO based systems with the view of improving processes, services, or products rather than merely seeking certification are bound to obtain greater positive results.

Empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of ISO 9000 based quality system in guaranteeing quality with the construction industry is unequivocal. Iwaro and Mwasha (20120 found that ISO 9001 certified construction companies had better workmanship performance than non-ISO 9001 certified organizations. Keng and Kamal (2016) found that the implementation of ISO based QMS by Malaysian construction companies was associated with improved management and work efficiency. However, the implementation of ISO quality system was hampered by lack of awareness among staff.

Although ISO 9000 has been reported to improve the service quality of construction firms, there are still many complaints regarding the quality of services delivery of ISO certified contractors. Ali (2010) found that time and cost performance of construction projects implemented by ISO certified contractors in Malaysia was poor. Constructors rarely completed construction projects without altering time and budget estimates. Babatunde and Low (2013) also found that, due to short-termism and complacency in the implementation of ISO 9000 standards, most building contractors do not translate these standards to total quality management.

ISO standards are also criticized for having high implicit and explicit implementation costs. Various studies have confirmed that quality management systems based of ISO 9000 standards are expensive, resource and time consuming, and impersonal and too formalized (Mo, Chan, & Dip, 2009; Guchu & Mwanaongoro, 2012). Small organizations may, therefore, experience difficulties in implementing ISO standards. Kumar and Balakrishnan (2011) also found that there is a high number of ISO certified organizations that are still recording poor business performance. The study established for categories of gap in these organizations including leadership issues, failure to link strategy and ISO standards, quality system related issues, and social responsibility issues.

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