Not having ISO-accreditation when a tender specifies the need for one will result in the bidding company's tender response being disqualified.

So says Vanda Bell, Business Development Manager at Blackmores. But ISOs (International Organization for Standardization) offer other benefits too – beyond bidding for contracts.

“ISOs promote being a customer-focused business, which gives prospects confidence in you as an organisation and increases the likelihood of repeat business," says Bell. Other benefits of ISO accreditation include:

  • Giving a structure to your business that promotes leadership and credibility;
  • Providing a process-based approach to improve efficiency while reducing duplication errors and lost time; and
  • Ensuring that your standards of excellence extend to your wider team and subcontractors.

While ISO accreditation may seem a big task for small builders, Bell says, “ISO standards work for any organisation, large, small, public or private. Many small and medium-sized enterprises take the opportunity to establish their processes around recognised international best practices and use ISOs to their advantage as their businesses grow.

“ISO management systems are not set in tablets of stone and should be flexible to adapt to the changing needs of the business as new risks and opportunities emerge.” 

ISO certifications relevant to SME construction companies

  • ISO 9001:2015 Quality management systems (frequent tender requirement);
  • ISO 14001:2015 Environmental management systems (frequent tender requirement);
  • ISO 45001:2018 Occupational health and safety management systems (frequent tender requirement);
  • ISO 37001:2014 Anti-bribery management systems;
  • PAS 91:2013 Construction prequalification questionnaires;
  • ISO 10005:2018 Quality management, guidelines for quality;
  • ISO 27001:2017 Information security management; and
  • BS 99001 Quality management systems (specific requirements for the built environment sector).

How can I get started with ISO accreditation?

Bell says to break down the process into simple steps:

  1. Obtain a copy of the standard from the BSI and read it thoroughly before embarking on implementation;
  2. Engage a consultant to translate ‘ISO speak’ into practical procedures;
  3. Deal only with a UKAS-accredited certification body;
  4. Undertake a gap analysis to determine what you have in place already;
  5. Communicate with your team so they come on the journey with you;
  6. Carry out an internal audit to see where you can improve;
  7. Conduct a management review to draw conclusions about your current operations and how to improve them;
  8. Begin the stage 1 assessment with your chosen certification body to confirm the management system framework is ready for full assessment; and
  9. Move onto stage 2 assessment to demonstrate the management system is working, along with the necessary evidence required.

Bell says: “A lack of available resources can be a challenge for SMEs. Seek out funding where this is available to support training and development.”

The investment in time and other resources will be worth it, Bell argues. ISO certification with a UKAS-accredited certification body can provide access to tenders and opportunities to undertake work for public sector bodies such as government buildings, schools and hospitals, as well as to win subcontracting work from larger construction firms.

Top tip: Blackmores offers an online service at www.isologyhub.com to help through the ISO process.

This article was originally published in the August / September 2021 edition of the Master Builder magazine. Members can login to view a copy, non-members can request the latest copy via email.