QUALITY SHOULD BE YOUR FIRST CHOICE
European users of ISO 9000 since the early eighties reported increased productivity and savings in overtime payments, administrative costs, and unnecessary procedures. These users have also reported cost of certification recovery in less than two years.
In America where ISO 9000 has become a need only in the early nineties is still too early to tell how firms are finding the situation.
The major benefit expected by everyone is an improved level of quality and consistency of it. ISO 9000 provides consumers with a high level of assurance that the raw materials or processed materials they purchase form their suppliers are of high and consistent quality.
European firms are reporting productivity improvements of the following magnitude, 89% greater operational efficiency, 47% increased profitability, 76% improvements in marketing, 26% increased export sales.
Theoretically speaking, operational, procedural, and control changes necessary in a firm wanting to be ISO 9000 certified must produce improved productivity and quality.
ISO 9000 imposes discipline in the management and operation of the firm with the consequent results in productivity. Waste produced due to lack of management and execution of value-added work is overcome by employees training, standardized operating procedures, quality control processes, operations control and other management-directed activities brought up by ISO 9000 standards.
How ready firms are for ISO 9000 certification its highly dependable on procedures, processes and controls firms have already in place.
Some firms may have to do a major structural change of their operations and retraining of their employees while some of them may be almost ready to become certified.
ISO 9000 ELEMENTS
ISO 9000 elements can be enumerated as follows:
- Management responsibility
- Quality systems principles
- Material control and traceability
- Inspection and test status
- Product inspection and testing
- Measuring and test equipment
- Control of nonconforming products
- Handling, storage and delivery
- Document control
- Quality records
- Use of statistical methods
- Internal audit
- Quality in marketing
- Process control
- Control of production
- Corrective action
- Purchaser-supplier products
- Quality in research and development
- After-sales servicing
- Cost considerations
- Product safety and reliability
THE ROAD MAP TO CERTIFICATION
The following steps may be considered as a road map to obtaining ISO 9000 certification :
Determine which one of the ISO 9000 conformance standards best fits the general description of your business.
Set up a coordinating council representing all functions within the organization and assign responsibility and authority to drive the project.
Set up your documentation hierarchy in pyramid form so that it cascades from one level to the next, meeting all traceability and control requirements. For example:
- Level one: quality manual
- Level two: procedures
- Level three: work instructions
- Level four: records
The quality manual is a policy document and should describe the basis of your system with regard to all the elements defined by the appropriate standard.
Procedures should describe the what, when , where, and who of the system.
The work instructions should be machine, task, and product specific and should be written by those who know how to perform the tasks.
The quality manual, procedures, and work instructions should be controlled documents that are numbered and kept up to date.
Certification as ISO 9000 includes among others:
- Assignment of management responsibility
- Development of detailed operation descriptions
- Preparation of quality control procedures, documented in a manual
- Vendor relation procedures
- Product identification and testing
- Storage handling procedures
- Packing procedures
- Shipping procedures
- Training procedures
- Quality record-keeping procedures
After preparatory steps for ISO 9000 quality systems certification, the firms operations are evaluated by a registrar who is a third, independent, party certified by a national accreditation board.
Once a company is certified, it must undergo periodic audits by independent registrars on periodical basis. So certification is not a one-go function, the company must maintain the standards and be able to demonstrate so at all times.