ISO 9004-3 1993 in Plain English

Guidelines for Managing the Quality of Processed Materials

While the ISO 9004-3 standard discusses many useful concepts
and offers many important suggestions, it is now technically
OBSOLETE. Please see the new ISO 9004 2009 standard.

Also see the NEW ISO 9001 2015 quality management standard.

This web page is based on the ISO 9004-3:1993 quality standard 
published by the International Organization for Standardization
It presents a detailed interpretation of this standard using
language that is clear and easy to understand.

ISO prepared the ISO 9004-3 guidelines to explain how quality assurance 
concepts can be applied to organizations that process materials. This web 
page will summarize these guidelines by listing the main points. Much of the 
material in ISO 9004-3 repeats what we have already discussed elsewhere 
(see ISO 9000-2 and ISO 9004-1, for example). To avoid wasting your time, 
we have tried to minimize this repetition.


Processed materials 

Processed materials are tangible products that result from
transformations. Processed materials can be solids, liquids, 
or gases, or a combination of these materials. They are
usually transported in bulk using pipelines, drums,
bags, tanks, cans, or rolls.


Develop a quality policy and quality objectives 

  • Develop a quality policy. Design a policy that describes  your attitude towards quality and ensure that it is understood  and applied by everyone in your company.

  • Develop quality objectives. Develop objectives  that support your quality policy.                                


Develop a quality system 

  • Develop a quality system. Develop and implement a quality  system in order to apply your quality policy and achieve your  quality objectives. Your system should:

    • Meet customer needs and prevent quality problems.

    • Control every phase of your product life cycle including:

      • Market and technical research. 

      • Design engineering and product development. 

      • Material purchasing, receiving, and storage. 

      • Process planning and development. 

      • Production, process control, and maintenance. 

      • Product inspection, testing, and analysis. 

      • Product packaging, handling, and transport. 

      • Product sales, use, and disposal.


Develop a quality organizational structure 

  • Develop a quality organizational structure.

    • Define and document all quality-oriented activities. 

    • Define, document, delegate, and distribute the  responsibility for performing quality-oriented activities. 

    • Give your people the authority they need to carry out  all quality system responsibilities.                            

    • Define the patterns of interaction and communication  that will integrate and regulate your quality system. 

    • Define the patterns of reporting and accountability  that will integrate and regulate your quality system.

    • Provide the resources that are needed to implement,  maintain, and improve your quality system.


Document your quality system 

  • Document every aspect of your quality system. Document your quality policies, procedures, programs, and plans. Documents  will include manuals, records, and reports.

  • Develop written quality system procedures. Develop procedures  to govern and control all quality-oriented activities. Your  procedures should:                                         

    • Implement quality policy and achieve quality objectives. 

    • Describe how quality-oriented activities should be done. 

  • Develop a quality manual. Develop a manual that describes your quality system and serves as your main coordinating document.

    • Make sure you specify a method for updating your  manual and controlling document revisions. 

    • Your quality manual may consist of many manuals.


Develop a quality plan 

  • Develop a quality plan. Develop and document a quality plan whenever you intend to launch a project to develop a new  product, service, or process. Your quality plan should:

    • Define the quality objectives you want to achieve. 

    • Allocate responsibility and authority for each project phase.

    • Develop steps that should be taken to implement the plan. 

    • Specify tests, inspections, and audits that should be done. 

    • Explain how your quality plan can be modified.


Develop an internal quality audit plan  

  • Develop an internal quality audit plan. Develop an audit plan that describes how every element and aspect of your quality system  will be routinely evaluated. Your internal audit plan should:

    • List the activities and areas that will be audited. 

    • Define the qualifications that auditors should have. 

    • Describe how audit results will be reported.



  • Perform internal audits. Your audits should evaluate:

    • Organizational and interactional structures.

    • Policies, procedures, plans, and programs. 

    • Work patterns and personnel behavior.

    • Tools, technologies, and equipment.

    • Processes, products, and services. 

    • Documents, reports, and records.

  • Prepare internal audit reports. These reports should:

    • Itemize nonconformities, deficiencies, and causes. 

    • Recommend corrective and preventive actions. 

    • Evaluate corrective actions that were taken  in response to previous quality audits.


Develop a management review procedure 

  • Develop a management review procedure. It should explain  how senior managers would evaluate your quality system.  These reviews should:                                       

    • Examine internal and external audit results. 

    • Review how well the quality policy is being applied. 

    • Evaluate how well quality objectives are being met. 

    • Recommend how your system can be improved.

    • Study the impact that innovation and changes  in technology are having on your quality system.


Measure quality costs 

  • Measure quality costs. Measure the cost of your quality system  and routinely report this to senior management. Track and distinguish between:                                                 

    • Internal quality operating costs. There are two kinds:

      • Investments, which are divided into:

        • Prevention costs. This is money spent trying  to prevent failures and nonconformities. 

        • Appraisal costs. This is money spent on  testing, inspections, reviews, audits, etc. 

      • Losses, which are divided into:

        • Internal failures. This is money spent handling  nonconforming products before they're sold.

        • External failures. This is money spent dealing  with nonconforming products after they're sold.

    • External quality assurance costs. These are costs incurred  trying to prove to customers that your quality system meets  all requirements.                                                    


Perform market research 

  • Ask your marketing personnel to:

    • See if there is demand for product you wish to develop. 

    • Define market demand and clarify who needs product. 

    • Specify exactly what customers expect from your product. 

    • Explain customer needs and expectations to personnel.


Prepare a product brief  

  • Prepare a product brief. Ask your marketing personnel to  prepare a product brief. This document is a preliminary specification. It should describe the product and list  customer needs and requirements. Your brief should:

    • Define all product performance requirements.

    • Specify all sensory and aesthetic requirements. 

    • Clarify all safety and environmental requirements. 

    • Discuss all packaging and storage requirements. 

    • Identify all handling and transportation requirements. 

    • Highlight all relevant regulatory requirements.


Develop a customer feedback 


  • Develop a customer feed back system. Ask your marketing  people to develop and maintain a feedback system.  Such a system should:                                     

    • Monitor customer comments, experiences,  expectations, and problems.                             

    • Provide a basis for improving the quality  of your products and services.                            


Design your product 

  • Select a design team, develop a design  plan, and then design your product.                           

    • Select a design team. Select a product design team,  define their responsibility and authority, and give  them the resources they need.                           

    • Define a product development plan. Ask your design team  to define your product development project. Ask them to  define a project plan that lists the steps that should be  taken and the resources that will be needed.

    • Design your product. Ask your design team to:

      • Ensure that customers help translate qualitative  expectations into quantitative specifications.

      • Translate the product brief into a set of technical  specifications. Define specifications for:      

        • Materials

        • Products

        • Processes

      • Provide technical data that can be used to:

        • Purchase raw materials. 

        • Verify that products conform to requirements. 

        • Confirm that processes meet requirements. 

      • Ensure that product meets regulatory requirements.

      • Describe all of the characteristics that will  define the quality of the product. They should  identify characteristics (qualities) such as purity, durability, reliability, safety, suitability,  disposability, longevity and so on. 

      • Define all of the characteristics that will be used  to control the quality of the process and to plan process maintenance tasks.                       

      • Specify product and process testing and measurement methods, and define the technical criteria that should be used to accept or reject product and process results. Specify:           

        • Accuracy requirements. 

        • Target values and tolerances. 

        • Sampling and measurement methods.


Appoint design review team 

  • Appoint a product and process design review team.

    • Define their responsibility and authority.

    • Ask them to develop a design review procedure.


Develop a design review procedure

  • Develop a design review procedure. This review  procedure should be carried out at the end of each  phase of the design process.                                        

    • Your review procedure should:

      • Compare product briefs and specifications.

      • Evaluate both product and process designs. 

      • Determine if customers' needs will be satisfied.

      • Inspect and test product samples and prototypes.

      • Verify designs using alternative tests and methods.

      • Verify designs using alternative calculations.

      • Ensure that product misuse will be prevented. 

      • Confirm that you can manufacture the product.

      • Prove that your product will meet requirements. 

      • Make sure that safety requirements will be met.

      • Make sure that environmental needs will be met.

      • Verify that only approved design features are used. 

      • Prove that production process meets requirements.

    • Your review procedure should ensure that:

      • Regulatory requirements will be met. 

      • Potential product failures will be benign. 

      • Product manufacturing needs will be met.

      • Manufacturing costs have been evaluated. 

      • Training programs will be ready when needed.

      • Independent design evaluations are performed.

      • Product maintenance requirements will be met.

      • Purity and tolerance requirements will be met.

      • Product performance requirements will be met.

      • Aesthetic and sensory requirements will be met.

      • Product testing and inspections will be possible. 

      • Product labeling and tracking needs will be met. 

      • Product packaging and handling needs will be met. 

      • Raw materials, tools, and supplies will be available. 

      • Products can be mass-produced at specified costs. 

      • Product delivery and storage needs will be met. 

      • Process parameters are known and are controlled. 


Perform a market readiness review 

  • Perform a market readiness review. Before you begin full-scale production, make sure everyone is ready to bring the product to market. Your review should confirm that:

    • Initial products were tested and approved. 

    • Field personnel are trained and ready to go. 

    • Field trials and qualitative tests were successful. 

    • Procedures for handling and storage are ready.

    • Product packaging was inspected and approved. 

    • Distribution and customer service people are ready. 

    • Procedures for transportation and delivery are ready. 

    • Production process is capable of making the product.


Control design changes 

  • Develop and document procedures to control changes  in product and process design. These procedures should:

    • Regulate the release and use of all design documents.                           

    • Control the removal of obsolete  designs and specifications.                           

    • Authorize and control changes  in product and process designs.                        

    • Verify that authorized design  changes were implemented.                         

    • Allow you to make emergency  changes to avoid nonconformities.                            

    • Ensure that design reviews and  tests are repeated when needed.                                


Re-evaluate products and processes 

  • Develop procedures to periodically re-evaluate  your products and processes. Do so in order to:

    • Ensure that all existing requirements  are still being met.                                         

    • Determine if changes should be  made to meet new requirements.                              


Authorize commercial production 

  • Authorize commercial production of your product.

    • Ask your senior management to review and approve all documents that define the quality of the product before  you go ahead with full-scale commercial production.

    • Ask your senior management to review and approve all documents that specify how the product will be manufactured before you go ahead with full-scale commercial production.                                       

    • Ask your senior management to authorize  commercial production of your product.


Control purchasing 

  • Develop a quality purchasing program to plan and  control your procurement activities. Your program  should ensure that:                                           

    • Purchase orders are used to  procure materials and supplies.                       

    • Technical documents are used  to tell suppliers what you want.                       

    • Qualified and competent suppliers  and subcontractors are chosen.                  

    • Dispute settlement methods have  been developed and are used.                   

    • Purchased materials and supplies are inspected and controlled.                   

    • Records are kept to track purchased  supplies and services.                           

    • You and your suppliers and subcontractors agree:                          

      • On your approach to quality assurance. 

      • On the methods you will use to verify purchases.


Control your purchasing documents 

  • Control purchasing documents. Develop procedures  which will ensure that your purchasing documents:

    • Refer to the relevant quality system standards. 

    • Specify packaging, labeling, and transportation  expectations and requirements.                         

    • State any laboratory tests and analyses that must be conducted and documented.                  

    • Define the grade, composition, and properties of  the products, supplies, and materials being purchased.

    • Request evidence that proves that your suppliers'  process controls are adequate and functioning properly. 

    • Ask suppliers to notify you when they plan to make  changes that may affect the quality of their product  or process as well as yours.                          


Control your suppliers

  • Control the selection and supervision of suppliers.

    • Control the selection of suppliers. Develop procedures  to evaluate and select your suppliers. These procedures  should ensure that you:                               

      • Review suppliers' quality systems. 

      • Examine suppliers' product test results. 

      • Check suppliers' historical performance.

      • Evaluate suppliers' products and facilities. 

      • Evaluate suppliers' manufacturing process. 

    • Control communication with suppliers. 
      Develop a feedback system to help you to:                   

      • Make quality improvements. 

      • Solve problems and avoid disputes. 

      • Maintain a close working relationship.


Develop quality assurance and verification agreements 

  • Develop quality assurance agreements with your suppliers.  These agreements should help ensure that all supplier products  and services will meet your quality requirements. Such agreements could specify that you will:

    • Rely on the supplier's own quality system. 

    • Ask suppliers to send inspection or test data and documents with each shipment.                  

    • Ask suppliers to send process control  records with every shipment.                            

    • Expect suppliers to develop and implement an  ISO 9001ISO 9002, or ISO 9003 quality system.

    • Expect the supplier to perform  regular independent quality audits.                 

    • Expect suppliers to test or inspect  every shipment before it leaves.                      

    • Test or inspect every incoming shipment yourself.

  • Develop quality verification agreements with your suppliers.  These agreements should explain how conformance to quality requirements would be verified.


Control incoming materials 
and supplies 

  • Develop procedures to receive, inspect, and control incoming products, materials, and supplies. These procedures should:

    • Ensure that unqualified or uninspected materials,  supplies, and products are not accidentally used  in the production process.                                

    • Make sure that inspections of all incoming materials  and supplies are planned and executed. 

    • Specify the characteristics (qualities) that will be  routinely tested and inspected to assure compliance.

    • Ensure that sampling tools, instruments, and containers, will be ready for use when materials and supplies arrive. 

    • Ask suppliers to submit samples for analysis  before large or costly shipments are initiated.


Control production process 

  • Control your production process. Your production process  must operate under controlled conditions. You must control  your raw materials, supplies, tools, equipment, and instruments.  And you must control your process and environmental variables.  You must:                                                                  

    • Carry out process capability studies to ensure  that your production process will work properly. 

    • Define production standards of workmanship.  These standards should define, in concrete terms,  what good workmanship means. Use work samples, pictures, and so on.                                          

    • Define causal relationships between production  process characteristics and product characteristics. 

    • Verify that your production process is consistently  capable of producing products that conform to all  quality requirements.                                            

    • Confirm that all environmental influences and  conditions are carefully monitored and controlled.  Make sure they support and preserve the quality  of your production process and your products.


Develop process control procedures 

  • Develop process control procedures. Develop procedures  to control every aspect of your production process. Develop procedures to:                                                               

    • Make sure raw materials meet  requirements before they are used                         . 

    • Sample, evaluate, and verify the  quality of processed materials.                   

    • Monitor, evaluate, and verify  production process characteristics.                        

    • Track and trace materials that are  used in the production process.                           

    • Control the storage, use, testing, maintenance,  and repair of all production tools and equipment. 

    • Verify the performance of special process stages-those  that have an extremely important impact on process or product quality. Evaluate people, equipment, records, and measurements.                                  

    • Control changes in the production process.

      • Authorize, monitor, and document  production process changes.                    

      • Document how particular changes in  process characteristics create particular  changes in product characteristics. 

      • Define what, when, why, and how production  process adjustments should be made. 


Control incoming products

  • Develop methods and procedures to monitor and control  the quality of all incoming materials. These methods and  procedures should ensure that:                                

    • Bulk materials are segregated, marked, inspected,  tested, and accepted before they are used.

    • Packaged materials are segregated, marked,  inspected, and accepted before they are used.

  • When incoming shipments cannot be inspected or tested  prior to use, make sure you have taken other steps to assure  the quality of these shipments.                                         


Control in-process materials 

  • Develop methods and procedures to monitor and control  the quality of in-process materials. These methods and  procedures should:                                           

    • Ensure that all production process parameters stay  at target values or within a target range of values. 

    • Use process sensors and equipment to monitor  and control process performance.                       

    • Use automatic on-line methods and techniques  to inspect and analyze process materials.

    • Use manual off-line methods to analyze the physical  and chemical composition of process materials.

    • Expect process operators to monitor  instruments and do visual checks.                         


Verify final products 

  • Develop methods and procedures to prove that your final products meet all quality requirements.

    • Perform acceptance tests and inspections.

    • Take continuous or periodic samples.


Control measurement process  

  • Develop procedures to control the measurement  process. Your procedures should ensure that:

    • Appropriate measurement equipment is used. 

    • Measurement equipment is regularly recalibrated. 

    • Unreliable measurement equipment is not used. 

    • Measurement methods are tested before use.

    • Reference is made to published standards. 

    • Measurement records are maintained.


Control nonconforming products 

  • Develop procedures to control nonconforming products. Your procedures should ensure that nonconforming products are:

    • Identified, segregated, and recorded. 

    • Reviewed to determine what should be done. 

    • Used only if customers agree to accept the defect.

    • Reworked, reclassified, or scrapped when  customers have not agreed to accept defects.

    • Controlled and contained when they have  inadvertently been delivered  to customers.

      • Develop emergency response plans to deal with  cases where the sale and delivery of nonconforming  products is automatic or unavoidable.


Correct or prevent product nonconformities 

  • Develop procedures to correct or prevent product nonconformities. Procedures should ensure that:

    • Responsibility for taking corrective or preventive actions  and for implementing emergency response plans to deal  with nonconformities is allocated, and authority is granted. 

    • The importance of a quality problem, its root causes, and  its precise impact on quality is analyzed and evaluated. 

    • Preventive and corrective actions to deal with product nonconformities have, in fact, been taken. 

    • Permanent changes, designed to correct or prevent product nonconformities, are suitably documented. 

    • Product and quality system characteristics are  monitored to see whether solutions actually work. 

    • Nonconforming products are recalled when safety,  environmental, or legal standards have been violated.


handling, storage,
and servicing procedures

  • Develop and document procedures to handle, store,  identify, package, and deliver processed materials.  Develop procedures to:                                         

    • Prevent damage, deterioration, or contamination  during product handling, storage, and transport. 

    • Identify and track processed materials so that  product recalls, tests, inspections, and customer  complaints can be handled.                              

    • Specify how processed materials should be  packaged in order to prevent product damage, deterioration, and contamination.                         

    • Ensure that customers do not accidentally use  products that have deteriorated during transport.

  • Develop customer service and support programs. 

    • Develop an after-sales service program to advise  customers on how to handle and use your products.

    • Develop a customer feedback system to:

      • Collect customer complaints.

      • Track product failures.

      • Initiate corrective actions.

      • Encourage design re-evaluations.


Control quality documents and records 

  • Control quality documents and data.  Develop procedures to control the:                       

    • Creation of quality system documents.

    • Use of quality system documents.

    • Revision of quality system documents.

    • Removal and disposition of old documents and data.

  • Develop a quality record keeping system and control its use.  This system should identify, collect, index, file, store, and  maintain quality system information. 

    • Develop a materials record keeping system  to document the verification status of materials  used in the production process.                           

    • Develop a production process record  keeping system to document:               

      • Changes in production process parameters. 

      • Abnormal production events and activities. 

    • Develop a measurement equipment record keeping  system to document the use, maintenance, repair, calibration, status, and storage of all measurement  and test equipment.                                             


Develop quality training, awareness, & recognition programs 

  • Develop training, awareness, and recognition programs.

    • Develop an executive training and awareness program to teach all senior executives about the quality system, including how it should be managed, monitored, reviewed, and evaluated.                               

    • Develop a personnel training program that covers all aspects of your quality system. Make sure that all workers know how to do their jobs, and make sure that all workers understand how they contribute to quality. 

    • Develop a quality awareness program to motivate everyone to do their best and to make them aware of why quality is important.                                  

    • Develop a quality recognition program. Develop a  quality job recognition program to identify, recognize,  and reward individual and collective quality  achievements and improvements.               


Develop a product safety program 

  • Develop a safety program that will minimize your risk by  maximizing product safety and minimizing product liability.  Your product safety program should:

    • Develop a policy that describes your  company's attitude towards safety.

    • Identify all relevant safety standards and ensure  that your specifications respect these standards.

    • Test all designs and prototypes to ensure that  they meet all safety requirements.                    

    • Warn customers and users that your product could  be hazardous if specified precautions are not taken.

    • Track your products so that you can trace, recall,  and investigate safety problems and incidents.

    • Identify all relevant safety laws and regulations  and make sure that your products respect them.


Control the use of statistical methods and techniques 

  • Control the selection and use of statistical methods.

    • Consider using statistical methods and  techniques in order to help you to:                      

      • Study market trends.

      • Define quality levels.

      • Review product designs.

      • Study process capability.

      • Control process performance.

      • Predict product performance.

      • Control measuring equipment.

      • Analyze performance data.

      • Develop inspection plans.

      • Assess product defects.

  • Consider using the following kinds  of statistical methods and techniques:                       

    • Factorial analysis.

    • Regression analysis.

    • Variance analysis.

    • Safety analysis.

    • Risk analysis.

    • Control charts.

    • Correlation analysis.

    • Sampling techniques.


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 Updated on November 29, 2014. First published on June 6, 1997.

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