Cost of Consulting & Certification

We have been getting a lot of inquiries from companies that are trying to budget for consulting and implementation of an ISO 9001 based quality management system (QMS).  These inquires include every QMS standard:  TS 16949, AS9100, TL 9000, ISO 13485, and even ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.  The last inquiry went like this:  “I would like to have a ball park figure on what getting certified to ISO 9001 would cost. . . . I am attempting to put together a slide show on the benefits of being ISO 9001 certified.”

While this subject deserves a detailed discussion, I finally decided to summarize and generalize my response to this very popular subject.

QMS (and EMS) implementation and consulting costs for any company can vary greatly.  You tend to find this out shortly after starting the research.  The range of prices that you are likely to hear is approximately $500 to $40,000+.  The actual price depends on the size and complexity of your company and on what you are trying to achieve.  It also depends on the level and type of service you are looking for.

On the low end of the scale, you can purchase an “ISO in a can” documentation package for around $500 (some run even less).  This approach will provide you with a set of generic text-based documents that you will then have to edit (fill in the blank) to make them somewhat representative of your company’s operations.  You will still need to have some training for your general staff, management, and internal auditors.  This training can be obtained on the web for a cost that will be measured in the hundreds of dollars.  Like the “ISO in a can” packages this kind of training is usually very generic and therefore limited in its business value, especially for a company that does not make a physical product.  Generally, most mass market, low cost, do-it-yourself ISO products are designed for companies that manufacture/produce some kind of product.

In the lower-middle of the range are providers of “hybrid” services that merge the generic “canned” documentation approach with some hands-on (on-site) training and some coaching.  In general, these approaches do not differ much from the “canned” products.  The resulting QMS or EMS is typically compliance oriented and of limited (if any) business value, but the results are generally better and faster than with a purely “canned” product.  Customers also feel a bit better about the outcome because they received some hand-holding.

On the upper-middle of the range are actual consultants that work directly with companies to implement ISO 9001, TS 16949, AS9100, TL 9000, ISO 13485, or ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 in a way that is specific to your company.  The objective and expertise of these consultants is to achieve registration by developing a custom system that meets the minimum requirements of the applicable standard(s).  Using ISO 9001, TS 16949, AS9100, TL 9000, or ISO 13485 as a platform for a high performance business operating system and the application of advanced techniques (e.g. process identification, process mapping, process measurement & monitoring, problem solving & root cause analysis, Lean, Six Sigma, etc.) are typically NOT the objective or part of the service/price.  Furthermore, the approach is usually in the form of a coaching and mentoring relationship.

On the upper range of the scale are management system consultants that help companies engineer or re-engineer a business management system that achieves ISO 9001, TS 16949, AS9100, TL 9000, or ISO 13485 registration as a byproduct.  These consultants are fewer in number and offer both coaching and turn-key support options.  Their skill sets and experience typically extends beyond ISO 9001, TS 16949, AS9100, TL 9000, ISO 13485, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 to include advanced techniques (e.g. process identification, process mapping, process measurement & monitoring, problem solving & root cause analysis, Lean, Six Sigma, etc.).  Furthermore, their service deliverables typically include the seamless integration of advanced methods and rapid deployment & implementation techniques.

The latter two categories most closely describe the range of service and capabilities that my firm and I provide.

I hope this information helps some of my readers to navigate the often confusing market place of QMS and EMS solution providers.

Kirill Liberman, President

8 Responses to “Cost of Consulting & Certification”

  1. mike h says:

    You get what you pay for. Learned that the hard way at my last company.


  2. Dave says:

    Some companies see ISO certification as an expense. If you purchase the cheap alternatives like “ISO in a can” that is all your ISO system will be: an expense. ISO certification is an investment in your company. A properly designed ISO system will more than pay for itself not only financially, but with your customers’ satisfaction as well. Partnering with Pinnacle is a wise investment.

  3. Kirill Liberman says:

    I have to agree, Mike. I have seen some pretty bad scenarios.

    A significant amount of our current business is with companies that have had ISO 9001, TS 16949, AS9100, TL 9000, ISO 13485, or ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 registration for some time. What most of these clients have in common is that they originally approached QMS implementation and certification from a compliance perspective, as one would with some regulatory requirements. Consequently, the QMS was treated as overhead. This then lead some to seek the cheapest and fastest approach. Years later they discover that they wasted their resources and missed out on the potential benefits of a well engineered QMS.

    Kirill Liberman

  4. Kirill Liberman says:


    Thanks for the timely comment and welcome to the Organizational Excellence Blog. You make a great point with the expense analogy.

    I cannot agree more with your endorsement of Pinnacle 🙂

    Kirill Liberman

  5. Valentina Phelka says:

    I enjoy your writing style genuinely enjoying this website .

  6. Kairi Gainsborough says:

    I didn’t realize that these types of certifications could add so much value to a company. I can see how a machine shop would benefit from learning rapid deployment and implementation techniques. If the cost of certification can make your company more reputable with clients, it seems like it is bound to pay out in the end.

  7. Dawn P says:

    My husband and I own a single operation, honing machine shop and want to get As 9100 certification but the quotes have been outrageous compared to our budget.
    We only have ourselves and our 1 son working for us, with the high cost of living in California, the increases on our lease payment, tooling, gas tax etc we can’t afford 5K for a consultant to spend a couple hours assessing our business.
    Could you please give me some guidance on where to start and what our options may be? A lot of what these registrars charge you for seems ridiculously frivolous and unnecessary to pay.

    thank you

  8. Kirill Liberman says:

    Hello Dawn,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any good news for you. Certification to AS9100 and all ISO 9001 based standards is not intended for businesses like yours. Unfortunately, aerospace industry customers don’t really understand the impact of implementing AS9100 and obtaining certification on small businesses like yours.

    The best thing I can suggest to find some canned documentation package that you buy cheaply and modify yourself. Then try to find the cheapest registrar you can. The only other alternative is to get your customers to waive the certification requirement.

    I hope this helps.

    Kirill Liberman

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