The History of ISO

Iso 9001 certifiedISO has its beginnings in post-World War II Europe.  Many cities needed to rebuild their infrastructure, and retool industries.

In 1946, the International Organization for Standardization was founded to develop common methodologies.  The purpose was to develop common manufacturing, trade and communications standards.  Today, for example, we accept without question that one computer can talk to another using TCP/IP or the Internet Standard Protocol.

Without agreed upon standards, much of today's commerce would not function. Standards are the basics of connectivity. International trade operates on the underlying assumption that everything can fit. The international standardization that we now enjoy did not occur spontaneously. Standards were generally established outside of politics but did not always come easily.  But common sense, and the interests of cooperating nations, have prevailed since the late 1940s.


ISO is both a (French language) acronym for the International Organization for Standardization and an accurate description of its purpose. Now based in Geneva, Switzerland, ISO is comprised of over 100 member countries. Each country is represented by its appointed member body. This national body establishes and controls its own country's national standards. Each nation has a single vote despite the often vast disparities in size, population and level of economic development among member countries. The United States is represented by The American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Member countries are not under any international legal obligation to enforce ISO standards. However, many countries chose to adopt ISO standards as their own national standards. ISO develops universal standards for all industrial and commercial activities, except in the electrical and electronic engineering industries. These are the responsibility of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), also based in Geneva. ISO and IEC work closely and cooperate on the development of common standards.

From its early beginnings in 1946, ISO has responded to the awesome task of bringing the world together through common standards. Today, ISO standards are found in almost every industrial and commercial endeavor from heavy manufacturing to world currency exchange.

The development of quality assurance standardization was both hampered by, and benefited from, the Cold War. Many early national and international standards arose from quality control demands for military and civilian nuclear industry needs. These standards were either quality system requirements to be used by contractors or specification requirements for purchasers and suppliers. Most were also classified and therefore not available for wider industrial or commercial use.

The ISO 9000 Series of Standards in a direct descendant of the U.S. Department of Defense MIL-Q9858 quality assurance program adopted in 1959. In 1968, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, adopted the principles and much of the content from the Department of Defense.

The first broad civilian use of quality assurance systems came in 1979 when the British Standards Institute (BSI) issued standards for industrial and commercial use. The development of the European Union was also a major catalyst in the logical growth of international quality assurance standards.

The 1970s also brought rapid global improvements in information and transportation technology. Computers, telecommunications satellites and airlines all changed business. The need for harmonized product quality requirements and guidelines became increasingly obvious. Differing national quality standards were increasingly seen as serious barriers to global trade. Countries could no longer insist that their standards were superior to other national standards. The solution was to provide product standards and quality system guidelines to companies worldwide as the basis of export/import trade and domestic vendor/customer relationships. Standards became essential for world trade.

It was not until 1987 that an ISO Technical Committee finally agreed to a common set of quality standards and published the ISO 9000 Series. The term ISO 9000 Family or Series refers to the comprehensive group of standards developed by Technical Committee 176 and published in its entirety as ISO/TC176. Only ISO 9001, ISO 9002 and ISO 9003 are quality assurance standards. The other ISO/TC176 documents are guideline standards.