When considering whether or not to get ISO certified companies are asking what’s in it for us. It’s easy to see that benefits can be gained from improving processes and documenting quality measures, but will we ever get our money back, ideally with interest? The financial investment and time commitment to get certified is considerable. Unless one of your largest customers or a potentially significant new account requires certification is there a good financial reason to do it?
Some customers do require suppliers to be ISO Certified as a condition of doing business. While we have not found that to be the case very often, we are benefitting in other ways that are beginning to pay off.
ASPI committed to ISO in 2010 because we believed that the process would enhance our manufacturing capability and demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement, but we weren’t confident that it would pay off financially. After more than a little frustration, a huge investment of time, and in spite of a few required corrections, in 2011 we passed our initial audit. By the time of our subsequent surveillance audit in 2012 we were gaining familiarity, comfort, and actually learning to apply the processes we put in place. As a result we achieved a perfect score.
What We Learned and How We Are Using it for Profit
Things to do:
- Before you begin the ISO certification learn everything you can about the process. Read everything available and talk with companies that are certified.
- Get to know your registrar’s team, auditor, and/or consider getting a coach to assist with the process. In spite of the investment a coach can head off problems you may not recognize and save time and money in the long run.
- Talk with your staff and define objectives and the benefits you seek to obtain. Make sure they are fully onboard. If you try to push it through without a complete buy in you will waste a lot of time and experience unnecessary added frustration.
- Connect the ISO policies and practices with specific benefits for people, products and customers so that you have some way to measure your progress in each area, make it relevant to employees and customers.
- Time savings and recognition: When completing required written vendor assessments many companies allow you skip dozens of questions that have to be answered if you are not ISO certified. They obviously feel confident that you have met their requirements knowing you are in conformance with the ISO policy manual.
- Added levels of confidence: At a recent trade show we found familiarity with the ISO terminology a valuable tool in making important points regarding QC, manufacturing processes, and documentation, especially with larger companies who have all been through ISO or similar programs. It paid off again while on a plant tour at another important customer’s manufacturing facility. For those familiar with the ISO process it is an additional level of rapport, an insider manufacturing language. There is no doubt that you will be better equipped to explain your business and your processes with greater clarity and confidence, resulting in more sales. Be sure to keep your sales staff involved in the development, combined with improved manufacturing it can a yield significant ROI.
- Compelling site visits and client process audits: Recently we were subjected to a comprehensive all day audit by a premier company’s team. We utilized all of the ISO policies and documentation to demonstrate our processes. From the organizational chart with roles and responsibilities, process flow charts, work instructions, hiring and training, quality control, corrective actions, all of the way through calibration, final inspection, and historical logs. We passed with flying colors.
We have always produced quality products; however, without having gone through the ISO certification process we would not have been able to demonstrate and verifiy it as we did. The result is a stronger relationship and higher level of confidence in us that means doubling our business with this client. Although the customer does not require ISO certification in this instance it will be a significant ROI.
In closing, whether you are required to obtain ISO certification or not it can be a good investment, but remember to begin with the end in mind. Share your experience with ISO or with other certifications or ask any questions you may have about the process and benefits.