An ISO or QS certificate seems to be the goal of many companies. But a successful registration process should deliver more than a certificate. It should help the supply chain make real and lasting improvements in how the company runs its business.
These standards were developed to improve quality and productivity to compete globally. They focus on eliminating waste in processes, including the waste of work-in-progress and finished goods inventories, which are the earmark of mass production. Lean ISO/QS 9000 production requires the ability to integrate vision, culture, and strategy to serve the customer with quality, low cost, and on-time delivery.
The concept is not just a set of procedures, but includes a performance metrics report card (i.e. customer complaints). Although most companies boast of their relationships with employees, the reality on the factory floor may be quite different.
I visited a Tier 1 supplier to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to audit a plastic injection molder's components held in containment. This molding operation was certified by a third-party registrar. Upon visiting the molding facilities, it was quite evident that the company did not meet the QS 9000 requirements, yet it had that certificate for more than five years. I found waste company-wide, employee morale extremely low, poor working conditions, and little management support.
This $12 million-per-year company later closed its doors, without any warnings, in October 2004 and left 150 employees, some with 17 years of service, out on the street.
In January, I experienced another plastics processing company manufacturing components and assemblies for medical clients under a Class 100,000 clean room. The plant had 12 occupational safety violations, and six major nonconformances to ISO 9001:2000. I observed food and clutter at work cells. And yet it was third-party registered.
Do not get caught in this trap, with wasted money spent. This is a common problem for a lot of processors, especially small molders with annual sales of $5 million to $13 million. Many of these companies do not have the proper metrics to measure their accounting, customer service, device assembly, and human resources capabilities — because they're not dealing with registrars that specialize in plastics.
How well is your quality system performing?
Yasenchak, who is based in Ocala, Fla., offers training and certification services to plastics processors. He is scheduled to lead a panel discussion on ISO standards June 23, 2006, at NPE in Chicago.