No matter what your business is, you need a quality system in place that ensures consistent, always striving for perfect results. Rather than just trying to inspect each product when it is completed, the better solution is to build upfront quality controls and assurances into the system and products. The discipline will benefit your business and your customers. When quality is a guiding principle, everybody wins and nobody has to compromise.
Clark-Reliance has adopted the ISO 9001 system from the International Organization for Standardization, the worldwide “gold” standard for quality. Other systems can also be used very effectively. In our product manufacturing, for example, we also adhere to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ internationally recognized industrial and manufacturing codes and standards for public safety.
One of the benefits of ISO standards is they aim to harmonize various industry and national standards to facilitate interoperability among products worldwide. There are a number of ways quality management systems, such as ISO standards, can benefit a business.
What is a quality management system?
ISO 9001 is based on the principle that a company will deliver quality products and services on a continuous basis if employees follow process instructions carefully and accurately. The standards call for documenting all steps required for a successful operation and implementing automated checkpoints.
When any of the feedback mechanisms flag an error, employees find the cause of the deviation, and the process instructions may be tightened or the operator retrained, if necessary.
The system ties together every part of the organization and its procedures from the time an order is taken to the time the product is built and delivered. In addition to assuring product quality, this system also allows manufacturers and customers to track the origin of materials used in production.
Management needs to be on board
With ISO 9001, all layers of leadership within the organization must fully endorse quality management. Each year, leadership should integrate quality objectives into the annual corporate goals. Then, the team can examine how to achieve those targets and what staff and equipment should be committed to support implementation.
Importance of certification
To be aligned with a system such as ISO 9001, you first need to contact an accreditation agency, which will then put you in touch with an auditing firm. The auditors come on-site for a few days to evaluate the organization’s compliance with ISO 9001 quality principles. When auditors identify shortcomings, major problems must be addressed before certification is granted and minor ones receive a one-year grace period.
To maintain compliance, certification must be renewed every three years. Even if a business is not successful in its certification audit, simply going through the evaluation and reviewing the findings can help significantly improve business discipline and adherence to quality processes and procedures.
Research continues to show that businesses that adopt a quality system, such as ISO 9001, are able to grow sales faster and retain customers better than they could otherwise or have done previously.
Whatever quality system or standards you adopt, a formalized process is necessary for your company. The more procedures and metrics you have in place, the more likely you are to be successful. As an organization, you become more “teachable,” and eventually, the processes and procedures become naturally integrated into the fabric of the business. ●
Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate co-chairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation, and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.
Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.