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  Manufacturing Insights   |   July, 2010
Why ISO 9001 is Still Relevant for Industrial Automation
by Thomas R. Cutler
 

When a standard becomes as ingrained in the business community as ISO 9001 has during the last two decades, it is important to take stock of its impact and importance. Otherwise, businesses would be striving for certification to the standard for all the wrong reasons. Instead of trying to implement the best possible quality management systems and processes, they would simply be trying for the certificate. Instead of working towards continual improvement, businesses would lose interest and enthusiasm the moment the certificate was in hand.

Second, certification to ISO 9001 delivers value and not just financially, though that is an important factor, particularly for those firms involved in industrial automation. As technology evolves, factories are becoming smaller and production more localized. To ensure dependable quality demands repeatable processes that can be both consistent and flexible. ISO 9001 encourages changes that affect bottom line performance and by extension improves the operation of an entire organization.

Third, ISO 9001 is universally recognized, valuable and established, and in some industries, certification to the standard is a condition for any tender or contract bid. For companies in these industries, many involving industrial automation, the standard is more than just relevant, it is required to conduct business.

Fourth, ISO 9001 is the first step to a wide range of standards, from ISO 14001 for environmental management to OHSAS 18001 for occupational health and safety, and beyond. It can become the foundation of an organization’s drive to be more efficient and effective, and open the door to constant improvement at all levels of the business.

In these days of economic uncertainty, every business wants to create a more efficient and cost effective operation, improve customer relations and corporate reputation, and maintain a healthy bottom line.

Successful small business professionals understand that to grow their business, they must provide a quality product and outstanding customer service. Many of these small businesses are deeply involved in various aspects of industrial automation and have used certification to ISO 9001 to meet goals, enhance competitiveness, and expand their market share. The independent verification of the commitment to continually improving quality and customer satisfaction provides the differentiation needed to drive sales and increase profit margins.

Still some industrial executives may question the relevance and cost-justification of ISO 9001. The latest update to the standard – ISO 9001:2008 quality management systems, looks at requirements and is the result of such questioning. The changes made to the standard were limited, but the review process was rigorous following very positive feedback to the 2001 edition.

BSI (www.BSIAmerica.com) is helping many small businesses pursue ISO 9001 certification as a way to grow their business and distinguish themselves from other industrial providers. The decision to become ISO 9001 certified is often driven by the need to be more competitive in markets where increasingly there are demands for proof of a viable quality management system.

Developing Best Practices

Employed as a "Best Practices" model, ISO 9001 utilizes the philosophy of the "Plan-Do-Check-Act" continuous improvement cycle to achieve requirements. This process approach centers around eight quality management principles used by management as a guide toward improving performance and identifying the main elements needed in a good quality system:

1. Customer Focus
2. Leadership
3. Involvement of People
4. Process Approach
5. Systems Approach to Management
6. Continuous improvement
7. Factual Approach to Decision-Making
8. Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationship


Building Stable Processes

Developing the processes and procedures for ISO 9001 certification ensures reliable product quality, simplifies supplier evaluation, and enhances customer satisfaction. Additionally, third-party certification increases eligibility for contracts requiring ISO 9001. Several BSI industrial clients have suggested that certification shows potential clients and customers alike that a serious management system is in place and that there is a sharp focus on providing quality services and products to customers.

Robert Whitcher is a Product Manager for BSI.. He has over thirty four years of experience working to increase quality in a variety of industries through the improvement of business processes, development of standards, and oversight of certification procedures. According to Whitcher, “Many of our clients report significant improvements in customer satisfaction as well as service delivery after certification to ISO 9001. An increase in profitability has also been confirmed. In independent studies conducted in the U.S. and Europe, it has been demonstrated that the average profitability of organizations certified to ISO 9001 is higher than the average for non-certified customers. This is true for businesses of all sizes.”

Few certification organizations offer a comprehensive solution for small business including training, assessment and certification services. With the highest number of full-time auditors of any certification body, and skilled instructors from a variety of industries, BSI provides a continuity of service that saves time and money. BSI also offers scalable solutions that can increase the performance of a single division or the entire enterprise, depending on the needs of the organization.

Martin Zwilling is Entrepreneur in Residence at Arizona State University and Thunderbird School of Global Management as well as CEO and Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc., a leading consultancy that helps new companies attract investors. He believes that the best way to establish and maintain an ISO 9001 quality management system is to automate it as much as possible. He recommends, “Start with a simple document management system. The keystone of all ISO 9001 standards is a documented quality management system, which consists of an interlocked set of documented objectives for a company, documented processes and training to achieve these objectives, and documented results that show acceptable delivery and continuous improvement.”

Zwilling insists, “The importance of ISO 9001 registration is increasing as we move to a more global economy. For new companies, and companies outside the United States, ISO 9001 registration has become a condition of entry into the world market, as well as a clear competitive differentiator.”


Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc, (www.trcutlerinc.com). Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium of three thousand five hundred journalists and editors writing about trends in manufacturing. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 300 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is also the developer of lean technology C.E.O (Continuous Experiential Optimization). Cutler can be contacted at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com. See More Details.

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