With the adoption by construction firms of BS EN ISO 9000 there has been much debate concerning its effectiveness and value as a quality management system. In spite of the reported benefits of ISO 9000 certification, however, concerns regarding its overall benefit to construction firms due to unnecessary bureaucracy and paperwork, increased costs, stifling of innovation, etc. still persist in the industry. This paper reports on the results of a research carried out on the implementation of BS EN ISO 9000 as a continuation of BS5750 in the UK construction industry from the view point of the experiences and perceptions of quality assurance managers of selected construction firms.
The development of ISO 9000 in the United Kingdom has been based on the application and adoption of BS5750 (Ghanbari-Parsa, 1996). In 1979 the British Standards Institution introduced a new set of standards aimed at promoting quality of services and goods provided by different sections of UK industry. This was developed in order to increase the competitiveness of British industry in Europe and international markets. In 1987 a number of countries ratified an agreement recognizing an International Quality System Standard, the ISO 9000 series, which was a direct equivalent of BS5750 (1987). In mid-1994 the ISO 9000 series was revised and developed internationally into BS EN ISO 9000, which is now used in more than 70 countries. The 1994 revisions include some new requirements and clarify some points with specific requirements. The current standards are expected to be reviewed after the year 2000. The new BS EN ISO 9000 reflects the European (EN) and wider international (ISO) recognition for this series, which was developed originally in the UK and is becoming the basis for the development of quality management systems for ensuring quality assurance in the provision of goods and services on an international scale.
Given continuing concerns regarding achievement of quality in the construction industry and the international recognition and long establishment of ISO 9000 as a continuation of BS5750, firms within the construction industry are increasingly adopting ISO 9000 as the basis for their quality management systems (Bayes, 1993, 1994; Barrett, 1994; Latham, 1994; Doe, 1995; CIRIA, 1996, 1997).
There is, however, a continuing debate as to the suitability of ISO 9000 and formal quality assurance to the particular conditions of the construction industry (Seymour and Low, 1990; Pheng, 1993; Shammas-Toma et al., 1996). Among other concerns, such systems are seen by these authors to lead to a stifling of initiative, increased confrontation and excess cost and paperwork which, in the end, reduce rather than enhance quality and seem not to bring any other major benefits to the construction firms concerned. Apprehensions regarding some of these concerns and the need for ...