Customer accountability and continuous improvement are two major areas addressed in the latest round of revisions to the International Standards Organization 9000 quality management system. Scheduled to be available in the fourth quarter, the 2000 revisions update the 1994 edition of standards and emphasize the need to make documentation easier. They also include the concept of permissible exclusions as a way to cope with varied organizations and activities. "What changes are necessary are unique to every organization -- it's impossible to quantify," said Patricia Kopp, standards administrator for the American Society for Quality in Milwaukee. The group is managing the US committee that is involved in the revision process. The standards organization is streamlining the family of 27 guidelines to form four primary standards. For most companies, the effort to comply with the revisions will be incorporated into annual audits. Those that don't meet the new rules will lose certification. For Coherent Inc., Auburn Group in Auburn, Calif., the revisions will likely involve design control. "It's not so much new product implementation, but new concepts, new designs, from the concept of customer input and market research," said Ray Eller, quality manager. The category of continuous improvement may also require some upgrades, but "we're basically ready. We just have to turn on the switch," Eller said. He expects the division, which has been registered since 1994, to meet all revisions by later this year. For Edmund Industrial Optics of Barrington, N.J., the revisions come hard on the heels of certification -- expected next month. Management representative Jay Budd said the company had already planned on semiannual audits, and that will make meeting the revisions easier. Budd expects the changes will address service, which Edmund calls tech support, and continuous improvement, a measure of performance. "We're hoping to please [our] customers, have a lot of return sales," he said. Much like the original undertaking to meet quality standards, the revisions are a business investment, said Joseph Menaker, president of International Scientific Products of Irvington, N.Y. "It was a very big project for us and took us a couple of years, but it helped us improve our operations significantly," Menaker said of certification. He expects that his company will meet the revised standard. The company certified its US headquarters and two production offices, in Russia and Latvia, in 1998. More information on the standards revisions can be found online at www.iso.org.uk.