QMS Certification Programs

There are a growing number of QMS (Quality Management System) Certifications available, but which one is best for your business? Ultimately, it's all about what your customer wants.

The following is a list of QMS Certification programs that I am aware of. However, as more companies become dissatisfied with ISO, we should expect to see this number grow.


ISO 9001 (Quality Management System Standard)
By far the most popular general (generic) quality standard standard is ISO 9001. While ISO does not operate any sort of certification program relating to ISO 9001, there are literally hundreds of ISO 9001 registrars throughout the world. Because there is no common database for all ISO 9001 certifications, it is impossible to determine the exact number issued. However, as of 2017, ISO estimates that there are approximately 1 million certifications world-wide. It is important to note that of this number, approximately 1/3 (350,000) of these certifications are issued to companies located in China. After reaching a high point of approximately 40,000 certifications issued in the USA, this number has now fallen to approximately 25,000.

In the words of Nigel H. Croft (ISO/TC 176/SC 2 Chair), ISO 9001 is an “entry point” quality management system standard.1) And, according to Maria Lazarte (Team Leader - Media and Engagement at ISO), “ISO 9001:2015 is even less prescriptive than its predecessor.”2)

Consequently, ISO 9001 is NOT intended to be a standard for excellence, or even a mid-level standard, but rather a very basic, minimalist, quality management system standard that appeals to the largest possible base (i.e., the lowest common denominator).


SAE AS9100 — “Quality Management Systems - Requirements for Aviation, Space, and Defense Organizations”
Certification process managed by the IAQG (International Aerospace Quality Group)
After a great deal of debate, the committee for AS 9100 decided to continue to use ISO 9001:2015 as the foundation document for AS 9100:2016 (Rev. D), with further requirements added to make the standard more robust.

According to IAQG, AS 9100 “standardizes quality management system requirements to the greatest extent possible and can be used at all levels of the supply chain by organizations around the world. Its use should result in improved quality, schedule and cost performance by the reduction or elimination of organization-unique requirements and wider application of good practice. While primarily developed for the aviation, space and defense industry, this standard can also be used in other industry sectors where a quality management system with additional requirements over an ISO 9001 system is needed.”

Not everyone agrees with the above statement… or that AS 9100:2016 has delivered on any of the performance results IAQG expected. And it certainly has not reduced or eliminated organization-unique requirements or promoted wider application of good practices. In fact, several major aerospace companies have independently decided to issue comprehensive “Supplier Quality Requirements” to supplement (i.e., strengthen) AS9100:2016. This means that the level of QMS sophistication of AS 9100 certified companies varies significantly depending upon which customers they serve.


When it comes to food and agricultural products, quality and safety are much more closely linked than many manufactured items.

FSSC 22000 (Food Safety System Certification)
With over 20,500 certificates issued worldwide (in 154 countries), certification to the FSSC 22000 standard is designed for companies that process or manufacture animal products, perishable plant products, products with a long shelf-life, and food ingredients (e.g., additives, vitamins, bio-cultures, etc). Like many of the ISO standards, the ISO/TS 22000 series is inadequate for meaningful certification. However, FSSC 22000 uses ISO/TS 22000 standards as the “foundation” upon which further requirements were added to create a “robust” standard.

Brand Reputation through Compliance Global Standards (BRCGS Certification)
BRCGS is a leading brand and consumer protection organisation, used by over 28,000 certificated suppliers in more than 130 countries, with certification issued through a global network of accredited certification bodies. BRCGS' Standards guarantee the standardisation of quality, safety and operational criteria and ensure that manufacturers fulfil their legal obligations and provide protection for the end consumer. Certification to BRCGS' Standards is now often a fundamental requirement of leading retailers, manufacturers and food service organisations.

GAFTA (Grain and Feed Trade Association) Certification
GAFTA offers certification in 3 main areas:

  1. Grain and Feed Superintending
  2. Fumigation of Vessels and storage facilities
  3. Laboratory Analysis
Croft, Nigel H. “ISO 9001:2015 and beyond - Preparing for the next 25 years of quality management standards” (dated 28 August 2012). International Organization for Standardization. https://www.iso.org/news/2012/08/Ref1633.html (accessed April 14, 2018).
Lazarte, Maria. “ISO 9001:2015 - Just published!” (dated 23 September 2015). International Organization for Standardization. https://www.iso.org/news/2015/09/Ref2002.html (accessed April 14, 2018).