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ISO 9001 vs API Spec Q1 for the Oil and Gas Industry

Written by: Michael Rapaport

ISO 9001 vs API Spec Q1 for the Oil and Gas Industry

Quality management standards occasionally undergo fundamental shifts in the oil and gas industry. In order to reassess risk, changes, and opportunities to improve your business practices, understanding the complex nuances of these changes is critical to streamlining your processes.

While the latest updates to the hallmark standard API Specification Q1 9th Edition illustrate these changing requirements in quality management, it’s also essential to understand how ISO 9001 fits into your quality agenda. Let’s break down the differences in each of these standards.

What is API Spec Q1?

The American Petroleum Institute (API) developed API Spec Q1 9th Edition specifically for manufacturing companies that provide products or services to the oil and gas industry. It’s one of the most prestigious company-based certifications that your organization can obtain to demonstrate its commitment to a sound quality management system. Furthermore, it allows your organization to meet the global demands of an increasingly competitive environment.

API Q1 vs ISO 9001:2015

Although the API published its latest version of API Spec Q1 in June 2013, it’s useful to revisit this standard to understand not only its difference from ISO 9001 but also its value in the oil and gas industry for both newcomers and those already in compliance.

For starters, ISO 9001:2015 is the basis for most (if not all) of the industry-specific quality management standards. It’s a flexible international standard that outlines the framework and guiding principles for quality management. Achieving ISO certification allows manufacturers to improve the quality of products or services while simultaneously lowering the cost of quality.

On the other hand, API Spec Q1 9th Edition structurally deviates from the standard ISO 9001 series, but the results of a compliant quality management system are still the same. API Spec Q1 builds upon the classic structure of the ISO 9001 series by addressing risk and other QMS elements, but takes a different approach to quality management by bringing risk assessment and risk management into the fold.

Additionally, there are some other key differences between ISO 9001 and API Q1, including:

  • Formalizing employee competency and training
  • Reinforcing risk assessment and risk management throughout the standard
  • Contingency planning
  • Controlling the supply chain
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Validation of designs
  • Change management

In total, the new version of API Spec Q1 includes five new sections and more than 85 new clauses. An excellent example of the types of changes you can expect is in section five of API Spec Q1 that adds formal contingency planning to the quality management puzzle. Indeed, your company already has such contingency procedures, but the difference is that API Spec Q1 mandates including these procedures to gain Q1 certification.

In short, the ISO 9001 series takes a process-focused approach, while API Spec Q1 9th Edition takes a collaborative process-and-risk-management approach to quality management.

Integrating Risk Management

The most critical change to API Spec Q1 is the added risk assessment and risk management to the quality management system requirements. In the ISO 9001 series, there is less emphasis on formally documenting risk, where API Spec Q1 integrates risk assessment and risk management throughout the standard.

This change may not pose many problems for your company if you already include risk assessments in your quality management processes. However, for companies that have focused less on risk management, API Spec Q1 9th Edition is a noteworthy shift away from ISO 9001.

API Spec Q1 vs Q2

Separate from API Spec Q1, API Q2 certification can help organizations maintain advanced industrial practices, including improving product reliability, minimizing risk, and improved communication with suppliers. Because the two standards overlap in their functions, it can raise confusion as to where they fundamentally differ.

While API Q1 focuses on risks related to quality, safety, consistency, and delivery, API Q2 aims at mitigating risks associated with services and service-related products. This means that departments involved in designing, inspecting, testing, and preventative maintenance are the key stakeholders that could benefit from Q2 certification. Although there are very few global companies that have obtained Q2 certification, it is quickly becoming one of the most vital requirements for oil and gas companies.

Why Should You Go Beyond ISO 9001?

API develops many standards for the oil and natural gas manufacturing industry in the U.S. In fact, the API is the only such trade association in the U.S., which is why certification to API Spec Q1 and API Spec Q2 is so important for businesses.

Not only can certification reduce cost and improve operational efficiency, but it could also provide opportunities to access new markets, increase market share and sales, and boost customer satisfaction. In addition, certification can enable your company to develop a quality manual. Having a quality manual is not only a requirement under API Spec Q1, but is essential for reassuring your customers of your quality management system competence and streamlining QMS requirements cross-functionally throughout your organization.

Without formalized risk assessments in your quality planning, your company will not meet the minimum standards to gain API certification. Your task as a quality management professional becomes more difficult as quality standards change over the years. Updates to the API Spec Q1 9th Edition represent a fundamental change from the process-based approach to quality to a more risk-management-based method of managing quality in the oil and natural gas industry.

Want to find common ground between quality management and risk management? Learn how IQS enterprise quality management software can integrate risk management into your quality management system.

Enterprise Quality Management Challenges in Oil and Gas_IQS