ISO 9000 sets the bar for business

 - May 6, 2008, 5:30 AM

“ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, is simply going to be a requirement to do business in the future, especially in aviation,” Roger Sickler, president of Fort Worth, Texas-based RTS Services and RTS Rework, told AIN. “People are going to want to deal with accredited organizations and ISO is international in scope. It establishes procedures regardless of the size of the company, so in a way it levels the playing field.” In fact, ISO 9000 is already required to do business throughout much of Europe.

Sickler said RTS first started the procedure to remain competitive. “Once we got into ISO 9000 and saw what it does we became believers,” he said. “It turns out we really needed it to do business within our own company. I’m impressed with the whole procedure.” While Sickler found the change to be highly beneficial, he admitted that it is challenging. But once implemented, ISO 9000 could open up new sources of business and make the working environment for both employees and management much easier and more effective.

“Surveys have shown the payoff to the company more than warrants the cost to implement the program,” Mark Hartley, president of Bethany, Okla.-based The Hartley Group, told AIN. Hartley helps companies implement the standards. “We see increased profits, sales and market share, and reduced problems and ‘do-overs,’” he said.

The average payback for the company’s investment of time, outside support and registration fees is just over a year, according to Hartley. “After that the company is saving money, year-in and year-out.”

Achieving Consistency

According to Hartley, ISO 9000:2000 standards describe the fundamental tools and philosophies necessary for a company to consistently achieve customer and regulatory requirements. It also provides for continuous improvement, a benchmark comparison for existing customers and independent credibility to potential customers.

It is worth noting that the purpose of ISO is to establish a set of procedures that will ensure a consistent level of quality. It does not guarantee the highest possible quality, only consistency. Your quality-control program determines the actual level of quality.

ISO 9000 quality-management and quality-assurance standards began as an umbrella for several standards. ISO 9001 quality-system model provides quality assurance in design, development, production, installation and servicing, and ISO 9002 quality-system model provides quality assurance in production, installation and servicing. There is also an ISO 9003 quality-systems model for quality assurance in final inspection and test.

ISO 9001 standards were developed for businesses that have a product design and development component. ISO 9002 is for companies that do anything else except design work. The most current version is ISO 9000:2000, which encompasses both standards into a single document.

Companies that implemented either standard have until December 15 to update to the most recent revision. New applicants will use a single set of standards, and if they are not involved in a design function their certificate will stipulate a “design exclusion.”

Structure and Discipline

A major benefit of ISO 9000: 2000 is the structure and day-to-day discipline it provides an organization to achieve its goals and objectives. It accounts for the necessary facilities, training, equipment and human resources, and an integral component is the manual.

“One rule followed meticulously by ISO,” Sickler said, “is if you do it, it must be in the manual; and if it is in the manual, you must do it. Everything RTS does is reviewed and audited to ensure ISO quality, including incoming part inspections, certification of parts, reports generated regularly to monitor every aspect of our business, safety procedures and handling customer difficulties. The greatest benefit we received from certification is that both RTS Service and RTS Rework have a better trained and organized work group.”

RTS Services supplies turbine parts and components for Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell engines, and it provides a comprehensive engine-management program for operators of turbine-powered corporate and agricultural aircraft. RTS Rework, an affiliate of RTS Services, is an FAA-approved and JAA-accepted repair station that restores and repairs turbine engine and transmission parts, as well as components used in helicopters and airplanes.

Hartley explained the eight guiding principles of ISO 9000: customer focus; leadership; involvement of people; process approach; system approach to management; continual improvement; and beneficial supplier relationships.

The principle of customer focus states that the company should understand the current and future needs of its customers to meet customer requirements while striving to exceed their expectations. The leadership rudiment is about management establishing the direction of the company and developing a unity of purpose. It stresses creation of an environment where employees can be involved in the achievement of the company’s objectives.

Involvement of people is essential to allow employees to be involved and use their diverse abilities for the company’s benefit. The fundamental of process approach stresses that the company’s goals can be achieved more efficiently by managing its activities and resources as individual processes.

The system approach to management is based on the idea that a company is made up of many interrelated processes. Managing the processes as a system helps the company achieve its objectives more effectively and more efficiently.

A critical principle is the establishment of continual improvement as a permanent objective. Another key one is the factual approach to decision making in which management can improve its decision making with the analysis of appropriate data. Effective decisions require analysis of data and information, not just intuition or gut feel.

Since a company and its suppliers are interdependent, they are both better off if they develop a mutually beneficial relationship to enhance the ability of both to create value.

‘It’s Not Rocket Science’

Bob Bliobenes, president of QRX Inc. of The Colony, Texas, said, ISO 9000:2000 is a basic set of management principles. “It’s not rocket science,” he said. “It’s simply planning for success. You plan what you do, then you do what you plan.” He explained that the ISO standards apply to all types of organizations, regardless of their size or what they do. It can help both product- and service-oriented organizations achieve standards of quality that are recognized and respected throughout the world, Bliobenes added.

The first step to ISO certification is a gap analysis designed to show you exactly what you need to do to meet the new standards. Its name refers to identifying the gaps that exist between the standard and your organization’s current processes. At that point it becomes a matter of filling in the gaps.

When you believe you’ve met the standards, the next step is to carry out an internal audit. If that shows you are in compliance, then you can ask a registrar to audit the effectiveness of your quality-management system. A registrar has the authority to certify that your quality system meets the ISO requirements.

When you’re successful, the registrar will issue an official certificate. It is worth noting that you don’t have to register–ISO does not require formal registration, though it does carry a lot of weight when talking to potential customers.

Roy Scott, quality assurance manager for Engine Components Inc., said, “We chose to implement ISO because we’re a 50-year-old company and wanted to bring ourselves up to date with a single quality system that would bring everything together.”

With facilities in San Antonio and Troutdale, Ore., ECI has been an aftermarket supplier of aircraft piston-engine components for more than 54 years. With an emphasis on cylinders, which began with the U.S. Army Air Corps and Navy during World War II, the company now supplies new cylinders for Lycoming, Continental and Pratt & Whitney engines, as well as overhauled cylinders.

“ISO requires adopting a new company philosophy,” Scott said. “And, to be candid, we grossly underestimated the amount of time required.” He said there are some important considerations for anyone considering implementing ISO.

“First and foremost, you must have the support and cooperation of senior management,” Scott said. “And it is important to set aside time for implementation and training. It isn’t something someone can do as another responsibility stuck into a normal day. It’s also important to train employees on procedures as they’re approved–don’t wait until the very end and dump it all on them at once.”

According to Bliobenes, the biggest change from the previous edition is the requirement to document a quality policy to set key measurable goals and objectives for the organization that can be tracked across time.

“The importance of ensuring a continual improvement process throughout the organization is now stressed,” he said. “Making things better, faster and cheaper with a customer focus is critical. In the previous edition there was focus on doing things right, but not necessarily doing the right things. Now everything is tied to customer satisfaction. This is about questioning if what you do actually does what you’re supposed to be doing for the customer.”

Geneva-based ISO, a non-governmental organization established in 1947, is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies from some 100 countries. The mission of ISO is to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world, with a view to facilitating the international exchange of goods and services and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity.