The organization which today is known as ISO began in 1926 as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA). This organization focused heavily on mechanical engineering. It was disbanded in 1942 during the second World War but was re-organized under the current name, ISO, in 1946.
Even the name of the organization is standardized. The name, "ISO" is not an acronym but was derived from the Greek word "isos" meaning "equal". (The relation to standards is that if two objects meet the same standard, they should be equal.) This name eliminates any confusion that could result from the translation of "International Organization For Standardization" into different languages which would lead to different acronyms.
ISO is a voluntary organization whose members are recognized standard authorities, each one representing one country. The bulk of the work of ISO is done by the 2700 technical committees, subcommittees and working groups. Each committee and subcommittee is headed by a Secretariat from one of the member organizations. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the United States representative to ISO. The ANSI ASC Z-1/ASQ Standards Group coordinates the United States representation in the ISO Technical Committees 176 and 207 which are concerned with the ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 standards respectively.
Each standard goes through a six stage process before being published as an ISO standard. The first stage is the proposal stage in which a need for a standard is determined and members are identified who are willing to work on it. The standards then ent ers the preparatory stage where a working draft of the standard is developed. When the working draft is completed, it enters the committee stage and is sent out for comments until a consensus is reached. The output of this stage is the Draft Internation al Standard (DIS). The DIS then enters the enquiry stage where it is circulated among all member bodies and then voted upon. If a DIS does not receive 75% of the vote, it returns to lower stages and work on it continues. If it passes the enquiry stage , it becomes a Final Draft International Standard and enters the approval stage. During this stage it will again circulate through all member bodies for a final vote and again it must pass this stage with 75% of the vote. If the standard passes this sta ge, it enters the publication stage and is sent to the ISO Central Secretariat for publication.
Because certain technologies are changing so rapidly, ISO has instituted a Fast Track procedure that allows a standard which has been proven in the market to enter the approval process at the enquiry stage.
This page was prepared by Cynthia J. Martincic , February 20, 1997