The Road to ISO 9001
2/26/2015 | Written by Terry Tidwell
Quality Industries has never been a stranger to quality programs. We’ve won awards for part quality and consistently deliver millions of parts to spec. We’ve regularly participated in compliance programs for key customers. But market and customer demands along with our own ambition to take the business in additional productive directions drove the recent decision to make the ISO 9001 certification a priority. We are proud to announce that in 2014 we successfully completed our ISO 9001:2008 registration in both our La Vergne, TN and Denton, TX facilities.
The nine month process began with a thorough gap analysis. Those who have been through this process know that for some businesses the leap is significant. One of the very positive takeaways from the gap study was understanding that we already had a large number of process in place. A business with the size and complexity of Quality Industries can only run efficiently using well-developed systems and processes. We also noticed right away that we needed to be at a different level in terms of standardization and documentation of our processes. This became our mission, one that we knew would be accompanied by productive advantages.
Many of our most important processes were primarily located inside the heads of some of our long-term employees and key teams. Since process identification, development and documentation are at the core of ISO 9001 certification, bringing these processes to the level of visibility required by the certification began delivering important business results almost immediately.
Achieving our certification was accomplished without intrusive changes to major aspects of how we do business. Still, a period for fine tuning was necessary. We made improvements, but were also able to provide new levels of visibility to daily activities, giving the company a heightened sense of performance and unity, much of it around positive systems and processes which were already taking place in the business.
Business visibility and performance
The ISO 9001 registration process really became an opportunity for the entire organization to be on the same page. With our internal KPI’s identified and documented, everybody in the company understands what we do. We’re continuing daily to enhance our standardization. Communication has improved dramatically on every level of the organization as well as between levels. They really feed off each other. The continuous improvement system and detailed documentation simplify the process.
It’s been extremely well received by our workforce.
- The team sees it as an advantage, a chance to contribute, and an opportunity to improve their own departments.
- Executive management knows more about the integrity of the shop floor on a day to day basis.
- The shop floor is tuned in to broader business initiatives while they push ahead with project detail.
- The back office is better connected to everything.
The whole organization wins. This attitude is not only important for the initial registration, but will be critical to maintaining our certification over time.
Living by the ISO 9001 continuous improvement processes adds horsepower to Quality’s ability to hire and train in this current business and manufacturing climate. Hiring new people in this environment is challenging for many companies. The pool of professionals with experience in our type of operations has changed significantly over the last three decades. We’re fortunate to be in two locations (TN and TX) where the workforce pool is better than others, but we still have to adapt our own training and the ability to bring new personnel along in our operations.
This is perhaps one of the areas where the ISO 9001 process helps us most. There is a training aspect that follows logically from having this kind of a system in place. Our team members don’t need to only rely on the knowledge being communicated among them on the shop floor. If you’re new, you have the ability to learn as much as you can about specific jobs and operations. The process documentation is there for everyone.
We already used the ILUO tracking as a training format. It’s a way track where are operators are in terms of set-up skill sets, and their progress in different departments and on different machines. Having this process integrated with our continuous improvement efforts gives us the ability to quickly bring operators along and allows us much better visibility as to where their progress is on each operation. This leads to better scheduling, and better decisions from our supervisors.
Benefits for potential customers
While our existing customers already appreciate the standards by which we operate, having the ISO 9001 certification brings a new dimension in terms of developing business relationships. When a customer partners with us, there are now implicit expectations in place, based on this system of continuous improvement. It will also allow some companies to consider working with us for the first time since many have requirements mandating them to do business only with ISO 9001 certified companies. We feel there are companies out there who have been waiting to work with us on this basis and we look forward to establishing and growing those relationships.
It’s about the future
At QI we are excited about where our business is headed. Completing the ISO 9001 registration is an important first step, but maintaining the certification and the way we do it is what will set us apart going forward. Once again, this makes sense for Quality Industries.
ISO 9001 is the industry standard for continuous improvement. We’ve always been about continuous improvement, so it’s a great fit.