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How much does the ISO 9001 implementation cost?

The cost of ISO 9001 implementation is one of the first topics that come up when deciding to get into the project, and very often, the main drawback because it is very hard to make a precise estimate at the beginning of the project.

The price of implementation depends on many different factors, and the more you get familiar with the standard, the easier it will be for you to determine the price range and make a precise estimate. This article will discuss the main elements of ISO 9001 implementation costs and help you make your budget for the project.

What influences the cost?

The cost of the implementation will depend on many different sources, i.e., kinds of costs. Depending on the implementation options you choose, they could be significantly different. Also, the costs will depend heavily on the size of the organization and complexity of its processes. In most cases, a smaller organization will have less complex processes and technology in place, so related costs will be lower.

So, let’s find out what kinds of costs (and their origins, i.e., how they are incurred) there are, to understand better what causes the implementation costs to vary.

Although I can’t give you a number or exact cost of the ISO 9001 implementation in your company, here are the elements that will influence it:

  1. Acquiring know-how – The most important thing to be gained during the implementation project is the knowledge necessary not only for the implementation, but also for later maintenance of the QMS (Quality Management System). Your employees, or at least the ones involved in the implementation, will have to attend training and read some relevant literature. The cost of the training can be very high, but if you do a little research, you can find some more cost-effective online courses that can meet your needs, and yet save your money. You’ll find the same situation with books.
  2. External help – The training itself won’t be enough – in most cases, you will need some extra help to keep the project running. If you don’t have employees with experience in ISO 9001 implementation, you’ll need someone who does have such knowledge. The help can come from consultants and other sources. Online solutions are getting more and more popular because of their lower cost and easier accessibility. The greatest value of using professional help is that you won’t get stuck with the implementation project – spending a great amount of time doing activities that won’t move you forward, or developing tons of documentation that neither the standard requires or your company needs.
    However, be careful here – do not expect the consultant or online solution to do the implementation instead of you – ISO 9001 can be implemented by your employees only.
  3. Cost of your employees – This is often neglected because companies are already paying their employees and they rarely see the employees’ time as additional cost in this kind of project. The fact is that the employees will be dealing with the implementation activities rather than doing their regular assignments, and this is one of the hidden costs of the implementation. What you want to avoid is to pay someone a manager’s or engineer’s salary for determining what documents are mandatory for ISO 9001. This is the main reason why you need to balance external and internal human resources in the project.
  4. Certification costs – The project is not complete until it passes the certification audit. The certificate is the evidence that you managed to implement the standard successfully, and your future efforts should be towards the improvements. The cost of certification will depend primarily on the number of employees you’ve got and the number of locations you covered with the QMS scope (read the article How to define the scope of the QMS according to ISO 9001:2015 to learn more). One of the options for cutting the costs is to shrink the scope to a couple of the most important locations and later to widen the scope, but that is not always possible. Another very important factor is the certification body you choose; some more prominent certification bodies have higher prices than their competitors, and it is up to you to decide whether you need a world-wide recognized certification body, or if you can go with the local one.
  5. After the implementation – This, of course, is not an implementation cost, but it also needs to be considered when implementing the standard. Once you pass the certification audit, you will get surveillance audits for the next three years, and then you will have the recertification audit again. The cost of the surveillance and recertification audits are often smaller than the certification audits, but that is not always the case, so when talking with the certification body, make sure you find out how much those audits cost. Other than that, you wouldn’t have any additional costs other than your employees’ time spent on activities required by the standard.

Making a good estimate is the key to success

In a few words – be careful! The last thing you need is to get in the middle of the project and realize you don’t have enough resources to finish it. Many issues will arise, many obstacles will get in your way, and you will need to put out fires on an (almost) daily basis. Hidden costs can sink you project and the only way to prevent them is to conduct a thorough analysis, have appropriate discussions, and find the best possible solutions that will help you manage the costs.

Good preparation is the key for success. That means that the people involved in the project, as well as the scope of the QMS, have to be well prepared and well defined. For the people involved, that means education and knowledge of your own organization and quality management. And, last but not least, you need to have someone to lead (a project manager, prepared for the implementation) and a sponsor of the project (to authorize resources, i.e., costs, and to push the project inside the organization).

Use this free template for a  Project Plan for ISO 9001 implementation to learn how to organize your ISO 9001 implementation project.

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