Quality Management System (ISO 9001) Certification vs. Compliance

When implementing a Quality Management System you have two options available to you: Iso 9001 certification or Iso 9001 compliance. What option do you choose; a few factors could influence your decision like:

  • What is your clients requirements do the what you to be certified or do they only require compliance?
  • What is your own company goal regarding a QMS?
  • What is my budget available for a QMS?
  • How much time do I have to implement a QMS?

To answer this questions we need to look at what each system entails and what the major differences there is between the two as well as some advantages and disadvantages. Let�s start with certification.

ISO 9001 Certification

Quality AssuranceDevelopment of an audit ready QMS system takes roughly 6-9 months depending on factors like company size, location, complexity and client commitment to the QMS process etc. Development of an Iso 9001 quality management system could range from R35 000 � R100 000 depending on before mentioned factor. (Consultants usually charges a monthly fee, so above mentioned amount would not have to be paid all at once) During this time you need to gather at least 6 months of running stats of your implemented QMS, which is a minimum requirement from your Certification Bodies like SABS. Your system needs to address all Iso 9001 requirements, so getting an Iso 9001 consultant company to develop your system would be advisable. As they have all the necessary skills and experience to get you audit ready, just keep in mind that they would not be allowed to certify you as they developed your system. You would have to get in the service of a reputable Certification Body to get you certified.

What is ISO 9001 Quality Management System?

After the development and implementation is completed you can engage with the certification body of your choice. Time frames for the certification process vary between 1-3 months. Costs involved with a certified system would have two factors development and certification. Certification could range from R45 000 � R120 000 depending on company details and certification body used. After successful completion of the certification process that consists out of two audit: Stage 1 Documentation and Stage2 Implementation you would receive your Iso 9001 certificate which is valid for three years only.

During your three year certification phase they would audit you at least once a year after the initial certification audit. These audits is called surveillance audits and are merely there to make sure that your system is continually improved and used to ensure constant adherence to the standard, as you could lose your certification if the system is neglected. In year 4 you would go for a recertification audit to recertify you for the next three years, this process would continue for as long as you want to be Iso 9001 certified. Certification costs named above would not have to be paid at once, but payment options differ from Certification body used. You would however pay the amount quoted during the three year period and would be quoted in year 4 for the next three years. This would be a constant cost for as long as you want to be Iso 9001 certified.

ISO 9001 Compliance

This is a Qms system that complies with the Iso 9001 standard, but you do not go for certification. You would however get the benefit of implementing the system in your origination as you would run your company in accordance with the Iso 9001 standard and some of your clients would accept a complaint system. A complaint system takes roughly a month to develop and only costs between R7 000 - R20 000. The complaint system is the same as the certification system as they are both written based on the Iso 9001 Standard but mostly you get a compliant system you would have to implement the system yourself to make it compliant in your company. So that when your client wants to audit you to confirm that you have a QMS in place that you would be able to give the relevant documentation and stats. The road to certification would then be easier and shorter if you implemented the complaint system correctly, if you would like to go for certification at later stage.

Let�s have a look at the main differences between Iso 9001 Certification and Compliance


  • You get a certificate from a registered certification body
  • Takes between 6 � 9 months to develop.
  • Certification cost is between R45 000 � R120 000 for three year certificate.
  • Development cost is between R5 000 � R20 000 per month for above mentioned time frames.
  • Certification Body ensures constant adherence to Iso 9001 standard, with advice on improvements.
  • Monthly visits, consultation and support from consultants up to the point of certification.


  • You do not receive a certificate but mostly get a letter from your consultant who developed your complaint system, only confirming that you received a complaint system that the company would implement themselves.
  • Takes between 1-2 months to develop.
  • No certification cost.
  • Development costs is between R7 000 � R20 000 once off
  • Company to be self disciplined to ensure continual adherence to Iso 9001 standard and to ensure implementation of QMS.
  • Three visits only from consultants where you receive a complaint system and training on how to implement system yourself to make it complaint in your company.

Summary: A certified Qms is the best option to go for but if you do not have the time, budget or your client only requires compliance it would be the best choice. At least you would be able to get the tender/contact and get exposure to the Iso 9001 system. So if you would like to go for certification at a later point in time, then the road would be shorter and easier.

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