Volume 34, Number 11,  November 1999


ISO 9000

Quality Assurance: Not Just Another Program

by Larry Vonada

wpe14.jpg (20909 bytes)Imagine that as an owner, manager, or leader in your company you have called your people together and told them they will no longer go about doing “business as usual.” Instead of simply building the customary “widget” they will now be held accountable to plan the means by which the quality of the widget will be defined. They will document these plans into operating procedures, monitor the effects and modify the procedures with the goal of improving the ultimate end quality of the widget. You will find that the initial response you receive may not always be a positive one.

A Daunting Challenge
Mike Hazzard, quality administrator at ACI Distribution’s mirror production facility at Tualatin, OR, posed this challenge to the plant’s employees. When Hazzard presented the ISO 9000 philosophy, comments ranged from, “But we have always done things this way,” to, “This is obviously a way to increase our paperwork tenfold.” Comments and objections aside, a valid question arose which was, “Why are we doing this?” Part of the answer was that all of our primary glass suppliers were ISO certified, indicating both a trend in the glass industry and with major manufacturers. We believe ISO certification will soon be mandatory in order to conduct business with many of our customers, therefore, we chose to meet this need in advance. Additionally ISO 9000 provides an excellent opportunity to build quality assurance throughout the entire production process versus quality control at just a few workstations.
In January of 1998, ISO 9000 was introduced to all production employees. The term “ISO” originates from the Greek word “isos” which means “equal.” Thus ISO portrays the mission of the International Organization for Standardization to facilitate the creation and voluntary adoption of worldwide industrial and manufacturing standards which are consistently equal from site to site despite differences in product characteristics. As such, ISO 9000 is a formal analysis of what constitutes a quality-oriented company.

The Breakthrough was “Mr. Glass”
As the teaching process proceeded from general to specific an interesting phenomenon surfaced. Veteran employees were intimidated by the content of certain ISO elements. “Management responsibility,” “process control,” and “corrective and preventive action” were some topics that caused more than a little discomfort. People are generally resistant to change and feel new procedures could be an indictment against existing methods or the individuals ability to perform. The program was six months old before defensiveness and, sometimes, heated confrontations were replaced by discussion and real implementation of ISO 9000. The breakthrough? The introduction of none other than “Mr. Glass!” Instead of the ISO elements being fodder for verbal jousting matches, the travels of a sketched character titled “Mr. Glass” allowed the developing ISO elements to interact with the product from start to finish. People began to optimally manage their areas of responsibility assuring that “Mr. Glass” traveled through the elements to emerge transformed as the highest quality “Mr. Mirror.” All the elements came into play and progress could now be shown as a gently upward sloping arc instead of the fluctuations of a sine wave gone awry.

Value Received
By establishing the ISO elements in strict written parameters throughout the entire production process immediate benefits were realized. New employees are now trained to perform the task properly according to unswerving guidelines. Veteran employees do the job correctly each time regardless of who is doing it. Written production and inspection methods ensure product quality and uniformity—“good enough” is no longer acceptable nor shipped. Should discrepancies occur, a tracking system of all products throughout the facility assigns accountability to someone or something. Ultimately customers may request corrective action on a substandard product and the issue is not closed until they express their satisfaction with the outcome.
The most pleasant surprise was that ISO 9000 was not the paperwork nightmare many envisioned. Initially extra forms were employed, however, these were to quantify and organize those procedures which were valid and in place.
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A Serendipitous Effect
An unexpected benefit realized was the building of self-esteem in the workforce. As the ISO elements were implemented people realized their particular tasks are extremely important and must be accomplished according to specification. This is crucial for the total working body to operate efficiently with consistent unimpeachable accuracy. Once these truths were internalized, product quality and morale increased.

The Finish Line
On June 14, 1999, ACI Distribution’s Tualatin production mirror facility was awarded an ISO 9000: 1994-9002 certificate after an intensive three-day examination by the Under-writers Laboratory. In joining a family of over 23,000 ISO certified companies nationwide, ACI Tualatin becomes one of only a few mirror production plants to earn such certification. All ACI Employees at Tualatin are proud to offer the assurances of this process as added value to its mirror products.   

Larry Vonada is branch manager for ACI Distribution’s Tualatin, OR, facility.


Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.