Canadian Plastics

Sustaining Quality

The task of getting ISO or QS-9000 certified is a daunting prospect for some companies. After all, who needs more red tape bureaucracy and employees balking at being trained for yet another procedure?...

July 1, 1999   By Julia Kuzeljevich



The task of getting ISO or QS-9000 certified is a daunting prospect for some companies. After all, who needs more red tape bureaucracy and employees balking at being trained for yet another procedure?

Whatever the industry, certification is now a necessary process, and it’s no longer a matter of whether or not to go that route. More pertinent is maintaining the momentum that a well-defined quality program can introduce in quality management.

Some levels of accreditation afford a certain flexibility in establishing guidelines. This can sometimes be a disadvantage when it means designing procedures to satisfy international guidelines as well as company requirements.

First and foremost, introducing quality programs must be a process accepted from the top level down to employees, and must be comfortably sustainable well after the final audits are given.

The commitment required of management and employees before the quality programs are even implemented is half the battle.

“Certification is a big deal,” says Jim Norfolk, a consultant with Saint John, New Brunswick-based Quality Management International Ltd. “Management has to say to staff, ‘This has to happen’.”

“Once the decision is made to go ahead, it’s a question of devoting about one year to the project. You have to evaluate your resources, the quality systems pertinent to your business, how to enforce those systems, and how to pay for inspection equipment and training.”

Part of the perceived fear of quality programs, and one that can negatively affect their implementation, is that they are something prefabricated that will be imposed from above by someone who doesn’t take into account how the company works.

In fact, apart from certain specifics, such as those making it a legal requirement to certify, most quality programs will be tailor-made.

“A prepackaged program doesn’t work,” says Norfolk. “You have to first understand ‘quality’ and ‘standards’ and how they impact your business. ISO doesn’t tell you how to do your business–it never has, and never will,” he says. The success of the chosen program depends a lot on senior management committing to seeing it through. “Top management has to live with their decisions,” says Norfolk.

Max Boyachek, quality manager at Lamko Tool and Mold Inc. in London, Ont., agrees. He has taken Lamko through a series of accreditation steps, beginning in 1996.

“The whole thing does not work unless management is supportive,” he says. Once the commitment to change is there, the process becomes easier.

“I had a flying start, ’cause they wanted it (accreditation), and

the customers demanded it,”

says Boyachek.

For Tristar Plastics, a custom injection molder in Scarborough, Ontario, the process of their initial ISO accreditation was one which president Bala Nagothu describes as “driven from the ground up,” as opposed to being an idea introduced from outside.

At Tristar Plastics the decision to go for ISO 9002 accreditation, the model for quality assurance in production, installation, and servicing, first took into account employee perspectives and concerns rather than making a top-down decision.

“When we made the decision as a group we evaluated whether it would improve the value of the employees’ work,” says Nagothu. “It was not like two or three people at the top level, or the idea of ramming it down peoples’ throats.”

As was Tristar Plastics’ experience, when a quality program is decided upon and has the acceptance of the employees, keeping the momentum going is not a problem.

“We perceived a value in implementing it,” says Nagothu. “Once the employees saw this value, irrespective of the customers, it was a challenge they wanted to accomplish themselves, and they have a tendency to keep up with it.”

Tristar Plastics had a quality system in place which was basic in relation to ISO, so the entire company decided to implement ISO 9002. Eighty employees were divided into job areas and formed teams with team leaders, who represented each group’s concerns and decisions, with some outside consultation. These groups worked on developing their own documentation.

“They took ownership of each of the elements,” says Nagothu. At Lamko Tool and Die, the issue of keeping up quality has proved increasingly important as they have been through many accreditation processes.

STRIVING FOR MORE

Lamko, which is heavily involved in the automotive industry, received accreditation for ISO 9001 in November 1996, (model for quality assurance in design, development, production, installation and servicing), Ford-mandated Quality Operations System, ( a continuous improvement program) in September 1998, QS-9000, including the TE supplement, (for suppliers of tooling equipment and related products) in December of 1998, and the most recent, mandated by Ford for all its suppliers, the Q1 endorsement, another automotive-specific supplier quality endorsement. Lamko is one of the first Q1 accredited companies in the moldmaking business.

In terms of maintaining the momentum of implementing a quality system, once the ball is rolling, things get simpler.

“Programs build like a pyramid, one on top of the other,” says Boyachek.

“People have a sense of how to do it once they’ve been through the first program, although the ingredients may be somewhat different. Momentum follows fairly easily.”

If acceptance of the quality program is there, and momentum continues, should a company strive for further accreditation?

Tristar Plastics’ auditors suggested they should. “Because momentum was coming from the ground up, they suggested we go for ISO 9001,” says Tristar president Nagothu.

Tristar Plastics will be moving towards ISO 9001, aiming for pre-assessment in May/June of 2000, and will also be going for QS-9000, hoping for a final audit of this accreditation in June 2000.

“They set their own targets,” says Nagothu of his employees. Their acceptance of the quality programs also ensures a certain degree of loyalty.

“We have a personal attachment and we feel confident the program will survive,” says Nagothu.

Also, the fact that accredited companies must continue to be audited to maintain accreditation means that most, if not all, elements of the quality system will be maintained.

Quality programs demand consistency and the documentation of processes, all of which must be traceable to international standards. Whatever processes you do implement, stick to the system you’ve developed, and this will help keep momentum.

“The key expression is, ‘say what you do, and do what you say,'” says Lamko’s Boyachek.

“Since the ISO principles have been out there since 1987, now it’s a question of ‘just do it,'” says Jim Norfolk, of Quality Management International. “Commit, educate and practice your own rules,” he says.

Another factor which can negatively affect momentum is whether or not the company has a dedicated staff member in charge of quality.

“It’s common in smaller companies for the quality person to be wearing more than one hat,” says Norfolk. “For these companies, eventually it will show.” CPL


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