These are solid principles and indeed do form the foundation for a
robust quality management system.
ISO does not rank these principles,
leaving much of that as well as actual
processes employed to the individual
company. However, a successful ISO
deployment must touch on and account for each principle.
In practice, the most time-consuming
part of ISO certification is the documentation. Companies must have
documented proof that the principles
are recognized, acted upon, and managed. Many find that the most burdensome of these is documenting the
key processes and their interrelationships. It can be truly extensive if starting from scratch.
Understand that ISO requires not
only a lot of documentation, but also
a means of communicating to virtually the entire organization (as appropriate) what the documentation is
and what it requires. It also requires a
means of maintaining the documentation and putting it under formal
revision control. For example, people
must not only document a process
change, but also analyze how the
change affects other key processes.
This requirement is anything but
trivial. Still, for complex organizations
it’s difficult to imagine any other way
of maintaining control and avoiding
unintended negative consequences
of a change that appears innocuous.
So what does this mean for the
average fabricator? Happily, most
fabricators have a relatively simple
organizational structure and their key
processes are straightforward. This
helps a lot. Still, depending on a company’s current state, developing the
baseline documentation can take one
person almost half of his or her time
for three to four months. The management team can spend up to a quarter
of its time for one month reviewing
the documentation and developing
a maintenance system. And it takes
even more time to launch, communicate, and monitor that system. One
must also add in the cost of independent certification. It ain’t cheap.
ISO’s Real Value
Is it worth it? For companies looking to be significant suppliers to OEMs, I would say definitely yes. Most of the cost
generally is a one-time expense, and the benefits are actually significant, particularly as a way to engage people and
support improvement. ISO also gives the company and its
customers the knowledge that the company’s quality management practices follow best-practice principles.
But to get the most out of ISO, the principles themselves
must be practiced and continuously improved upon. Oth-
erwise, ISO becomes window dressing, a marketing tool
for which the return on investment comes solely from the
business won due to ISO certification. That’s fine. But the
real benefit of ISO comes from the internal improvement
potential based on its underlying principles. From my ex-
perience, the gain is greater than the pain.
Dick Kallage is principal of KDC & Associates Ltd., 522 S.
Northwest Highway, Suite UL- 8, Barrington, IL 60010, 847-
525-6109, www.kdcconsultants.com. Kallage serves on the
Management Advisory Council of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International® and helps lead FMA’s Lean-Fab Workshop & Tours, metal fabrication seminars dedicated to continuous improvement. For more information, visit
www.fmanet.org/training or call 888-394-4362.