A quality standard that stays static and is not itself targeted for continuous improvement, is a standard that is breaking one of the first tenets of quality. This is why the ISO 9001 specification has been updated several times since its introduction in 1987. The first version was fairly modest. The most recent version was released in September of 2015. It represents a significant change from the two prior versions, ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 9000:2008, which were largely similar except for the level of detail in the specification itself. Companies that are committed to quality are adopting the latest version. Open-Silicon, a SIFive company has announced their ISO 9001:2015 certification, which means they have implemented the most up to date quality processes.
It’s worth noting that the Geneva based ISO does not perform certification, there are a number of accredited certification bodies. Open-Silicon was certified by SGS, an ANAB-accredited inspection, verification, testing and certification body. ISO 9001 affects every aspect of a company’s operations. One of the interesting things about the most recent 2015 version is that it moves responsibility for the quality processes from a designated management representative and places the responsibility with the entire leadership of the organization.
Another key new development in the specification is the inclusion of risk-based thinking, by adding formal risk analysis, which has supplanted the preventative measures section of the prior version. The new version has adopted the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle and this is apparent in the sections that define the overall process.
Open-Silicon has a business model that covers a wide range of activities, from design planning and specification all the way through managing manufacturing. By achieving certification, they have shown that they have reviewed and modified all their internal processes with the goal of maintaining the highest level of quality. It’s important to understand that the ISO 9001 certification also applies to their sales process, customer support, finance and every aspect of their business. This can only improve their ability to meet customer expectations over the near and long term.
Of course, Open-Silicon was already certified under the prior ISO 9001:2008 specification. So, this updated certification represents an evolution. As is often the case, improving quality through this process is not an add-on, but rather a structural change that is undertaken throughout the entire organization. For every process in the company ISO 9001:2015 looks at the inputs and outputs. Also, there is examination of the sources and receivers. At each point, an effort is made to look for ways to monitor and improve the process.
The semiconductor business is one that requires precision and accuracy. Consumers take the high performance and high reliability of electronics products for granted. This has happened despite the massive growth in complexity and the tighter tolerances on design and manufacture. It’s a testament to the effectiveness of ISO 9001 that the industry has been able to achieve such remarkable results. Open-Silicon is at the forefront of this effort, with their top down approach to improving quality. There is more information about their ISO 9001:2015 certification on their website.