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North America Lags Behind

Since 1993, ISO Central Secretariat has outsourced the collection and compilation of a yearly survey that outlines the worldwide certification of management systems. The 2013 survey gave results for 2012 and is posted on its website ( These figures don't include organizations that have implemented ISO as their framework but have chosen not to seek certification. The report includes a breakdown of certificates by industry sector, as well as world, region, and country, and can be purchased from ISO.

By the end of December 2012, there were 1,101,272 Quality Management (ISO 9001) certificates issued in 184 countries. This steady growth in quality management system implementation around the world confirms the importance of ISO 9001 for global supply chains.

The top 10 countries leading in quality management certification in 2012, in order, are: China, Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, France, India, United States, and Brazil. The top countries for growth in the number of certificates in 2012 were Spain, China, Romania, France, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Indonesia, Switzerland, and Vietnam. The 2012 totals represent an increase of 2 percent (21,625) over the 2011 numbers.

North America lags behind, with the fewest ISO 9001 certificates, with only the following attained in 2012: United States, 26,177; Canada, 6,907; Mexico, 5,502. What will this do for global trade for North America in the future?

The top five industrial sectors for ISO 9001 certificates in 2012 were in the following areas: basic metal and fabricated metal products; construction, electrical, and optical equipment; wholesale and retail trade; repairs of motor vehicles, motorcycles, and personal and household goods; and machinery and equipment.

We do know that many of the manufacturing industries have moved to China and India and that many of the corporate offices are in North America. Will North America be a service industry? North America is well known for its policies, know-how, and technology, which are sought after around the world. Government bodies and businesses have been involved with the development of standards and policies in North America and have given this information away free to other countries.

When I researched the countries who lead in certification, I found that these countries provided support to their small and medium-sized businesses to implement management systems with funding and tax incentive programs. When I approached the Canadian government for such programs, it said it is working to provide jobs in Canada. Without supporting business principles and practices meeting international requirements, it will be very difficult to ensure jobs for the future.

ISO 14001 (environmental management systems) had 285,844 certificates, a growth of 9 percent (+23,887) in 167 countries, with the top three countries being China, Japan, and Italy. The highest growth in certificates was in China, Spain, and Italy. Although many of the environmental technologies are in North America, the certification is not.

The ISO survey does not include OHSAS 18001 (occupational health and safety) as it is not an ISO standard but a British standard.

China is in the top 10 countries for six out of the seven standards that were covered by the survey, a definite leader in ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22000, and ISO/TS 16949 (automotive). It is interesting to note that Japan takes the lead in the information security sector (ISO 27001), with about 35 percent of certificates. IT is definitely important to Japan; I hope other countries are paying attention.

Having trained organizations from manufacturers to service providers to institutions since 1994 on how to implement international standards and conduct audits, I am amazed that participants have not included owners, presidents, CEOs, or directors of a company, but middle managers and ISO coordinators. The business structure and changes to an organization need to start with top management. For those organizations that are considering putting in a management system structure meeting ISO standards or that presently have ISO standards in place, it is important for owners and top management to understand what the structure consists of, how it can assist in providing correct information to make decisions, and the systems in place for tracking and improving business operations.

Many organizations have put in systems only for marketing reasons and do not understand or utilize the dynamics of the ISO management system framework for their business operations and improving profitability.

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