Cal. Guide
Six Sigma



Two companies provide examples for managing
the transition to ISO 9000's latest revision.

by Rosalind McLymont and Amy Zuckerman


Around the world, companies large and small, well-known and lesser-known, are making the transition to ISO 9001:2000. Organizations have until December 2003 to make the switch, but most experts are urging them to start the process as soon as possible. Not only is this necessary to meet the transition deadline, but there are some real business benefits to be derived from implementing the new standard sooner rather than later.

 Many organizations, however, are reportedly struggling to move from the 20 original ISO 9000:1994 elements to a process-oriented standard in which criteria aren't as strictly defined. Fortunately, models exist that show how the transition can be eased: Adopt a process approach from the outset and try to move thinking away from the old 20-clause approach as quickly as possible.

 The new standard--which emphasizes continuous improvement, communication and customer satisfaction--lends itself to a thorough assessment of quality processes. Bill Hoellrich, vice president of operations for BSI Inc., the U.S. operation of the British Standards Institution, believes the new standard should prove far more useful to companies of all sizes than did the earlier standard. The 1994 standard focused more on consistency and measurement and less on process.

  "Look at your business from a process perspective," advises Hoellrich. "Develop an understanding of your business flow. Map this as a simple process, if necessary. This is often a very hard thing to do, but it will make the rest of the transition and re-development of the quality system so much easier.

 "Once the processes have been mapped, it's much easier to see where the procedures come in, and the mapping from the old standard to the new standard all starts to fit into place. Now you can start to address the new elements of the standard.

 "There are many companies out there that will find this transition relatively easy, as they already use a process approach to their business or already have the processes to meet the additional requirements of the standard."

 Few, if any, will have to start from scratch. "No one is asking anyone to reinvent the wheel," notes Hoellrich. "Companies won't have to re-earn an entire certificate. There may be some additional work, but it will pay big dividends in the benefits and continual improvement that it brings to the organization."

 To help all types of companies that operate ISO 9000:1994 quality systems make the transition to ISO 9001:2000, Quality Digest approached Silberline Manufacturing Co. Inc., with locations in Decatur, Indiana, and Lansford and Tamaqua, Pennsylvania; and Central Industrial Supply in Houston, Texas, to provide tips and advice on making the change. Both companies have been working hard with their registrar, BSI Inc., to make the change.


How to Make a Smooth Transition

For companies still mulling the transition to ISO 9001:2000,

Silberline's Joseph S. Balascik suggests starting the following processes now:

  Make the transition as soon as possible to start realizing the benefits.

  Make sure the management team is committed and gives full support.

  Get as many people in the company involved as you possibly can.

  Develop a cross-functional steering committee.

  Perform a gap analysis, preferably using a third party.

  Make sure the new standard and the new requirements are understood.

The Silberline Manufacturing approach

 Silberline Manufacturing is aiming for full transition to ISO 9001:2000 at its U.S. facilities this year, just three years after registering to ISO 9001:1994. The company is a global manufacturer and supplier of aluminum pigment and special effect products for applications in coatings, inks, general industrial and plastics industries.

 Two locations in Tamaqua--corporate headquarters and a research and development technical facility--and the Decatur manufacturing facility have already completed transition audits conducted by BSI. The remaining U.S. manufacturing facility, in Lansford, is scheduled for review in September.

 "Our management team was committed to continual review and improvement of the system even before the ISO 9001:2000 draft revisions were published," says Silberline Senior Quality System Manager and ISO Management Representative Joseph S. Balascik. "The new requirements didn't scare us because right after our initial registration in 1998, we continued to enhance our quality management system. We had strong management commitment and involvement. We felt we went beyond creation of a minimal system in preparation for our registration to ISO 9001:1994. Even though the transition was a big change, it was not extremely difficult for us.

 "We educated ourselves on the changes. When we saw what they were about--by studying the requirements in the international draft standard--we believed the changes were an improvement and more user-friendly. We also liked the strong commitment to customer focus and the emphasis on measurable quality objectives and management-by-facts."

 Led by Balascik and his supervisor, Richard P. Orsulak, Silberline's quality assurance department took charge of implementing and administering the requirements of ISO 9001:2000. A designated internal audit coordinator, Sheila Setcavage, ensures that the internal auditing system is both efficient and effective.

 A key strategy is to draw as many employees as possible into the internal auditing process to facilitate fitting the standard into current practice. "We give other Silberline employees the opportunity to join our auditing team," Balascik says. "These people volunteer to become internal auditors, and we provide training to give them the necessary auditing skills. It's their responsibility to perform audits as an aside to their normal jobs, and they're great at completing their assigned audits.

 "Our focus is to get people thinking with a process approach and understanding the interaction of these processes in our system--stressing the plan-do-check-act cycle." Particular attention has been paid to the company's customer satisfaction and communication processes.

 "We looked at our current system and identified all the ways we focus on our customers and documented these in a matrix," Balascik continues. "We found that we were really good at measuring customer dissatisfaction, and also had an opportunity to improve our ability to measure customer satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction."


Measuring customer satisfaction

 To measure customer satisfaction, the team studies market-share and customer-retention data, as well as direct customer feedback. Sales and marketing representatives in the field constantly communicate with customers and issue reports that both identify customer requirements and recommend "action items" to meet those requirements.

 The company's customer service manager is looking at other ways to measure customer satisfaction, including surveys. But with return rates reportedly in the 7-percent range, management is somewhat skeptical of surveys, even though Balascik believes that they can add value if constructed and disseminated properly.

 Silberline also examined its internal communication system and subsequently changed the format of the annual year-end management review of the company's entire QMS. Prior to the change, Balascik and Orsulak alone presented the year-end report to senior managers.

 "We thought this was less effective because we couldn't always answer in-depth questions posed by the senior managers," Balascik says. "Last year, we brought in eight different people from separate departments to give 10-minute reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of their own systems. This really improves the communication process and adds to the efficiency of our reporting system. After all, these people are the subject-matter experts in their areas," he says.

 While no changes were needed in product realization processes, the company found it immensely helpful to lay out the entire production process in a flowchart. Until then, this process had been described in text form and used as a general reference. The flowchart is now part of the QMS and explains the entire realization process.

 Rewriting the company's quality assurance manual was the most frustrating part of the transition to ISO 9001:2000. Initially, the company tried to apply ISO 9001:1994's 20-element model to the new requirements by cross-referencing the two standards.

 "That was really confusing, so we threw out 20-element model and based the new manual on the ISO 9001:2000 process model," Balascik says. "We had to rewrite the entire manual word-by-word, line-by-line. We went through about 20 circulations and revisions, realigning all that information with records, procedures, while changing all the clause references. That was pretty frustrating. We knew we had to do it, and once done, it made us more effective, efficient and auditor-friendly."

 The revision, carried out by a steering committee, which assigned different areas of responsibility to various people, lasted from April 2000 to April 2001. Balascik and his team are now looking to use the ISO 9004:2000 standard for continuous system improvement.

 "We think there are a lot of recommendations and valuable tools in that standard," says Balascik. "Eventually we'll move beyond our current system and base our improvement heavily on those recommendations."


How to Rewrite Your  ISO 9000 Quality Manual

Rewriting the quality/ISO 9000 manual at Central Industrial Supply is an ongoing process, says Joe Silburn. But he considers it integral to the site's success and the success of their customers. Here's Silburn's perspective and advice for a nearly seamless transition or retooling of your ISO 9000 system:

  Begin with an overall set of process flows to give you the big picture.

  Make ISO 9000 a part and parcel of your business or it won't add value.

  Map the processes from the operators on up. It's simpler than trying to write everything down first.

  Develop a good ERP system. Without the ERP system, gathering data would be more difficult and integrity of the numbers would be questioned.

"Before ERP, our customer service people had a lot of running around to do to help customers," notes Silburn. "It was a bit chaotic, but now, all the information they need and we need is at our fingertips. And that information is there, constantly being updated. It helps us retool our ISO 9000 system on an ongoing basis. That also means not having to press to get ready for an audit."

The Central Industrial Supply approach

 Change has a way of coming all at once, but those who are process and quality-oriented seem to have less difficulty with dealing with many changes simultaneously. Central Industrial Supply's Houston assembly and distribution site is a good example of how a process orientation, as well as a participative approach, facilitates organizational adaptability. CIS manufactures metal brackets and parts that support computer hardware.

 Joe Silburn, CIS Houston plant manager, notes that the company's process orientation and participative approach have made adapting to numerous changes and challenges a much smoother experience than many would expect, although not without problems.

 He reports that one year ago, while CIS Houston was retooling its ISO 9002 system to meet the 2000 revision, the company was simultaneously reorganizing its assembly and distribution sites into customer business units and bringing in an enterprise resource planning system for the first time. ERP is a means of automating business processes to promote integration between various company departments.

 As a result of the business unit reorganization, CIS Houston's primary customer became a leading telecommunications hardware manufacturer. CIS then attracted a major information technology server manufacturer to the Houston site as well. Silburn notes that, as if these changes weren't enough of a challenge, the quality manager in charge became seriously ill during the ISO 9001:2000 audit standard and was out of work for an extended period.

 Despite all of these impediments and trials, Silburn describes the changeover to the new ISO 9001:2000 process as fairly seamless. He says this is a testament to how well-prepared and organized the site is on an ongoing basis. CIS Houston received notice that it was registered to ISO 9001:2000 on April 20 this year.

 The company's approach to reworking the ISO 9001:2000 system was similar to their first registration effort in 1998:

1. The site is organized around process flows that begin with sales and design engineers working with customers on product specifications that give everyone a picture of what has to happen when and where people and processes fit to deliver the required product to customers on time. In short, Silburn notes, the company writes the procedures from the process flows.

2. When a new process is needed or introduced, front-line assembly people are involved in determining how they are going to accomplish the customer's desired end result. That process is then tweaked until it is in control. Then, frontline people for each process map and re-map their existing processes on an ongoing basis--due to internal improvements and reaction to customer input--so everyone can continue to "see" the system instead of mapping or force-fitting the processes to ISO 9001:2000's requirements.


 With the reorganization into customer business units and retooling to meet the new ISO 9001:2000 requirements, all departments began to meet monthly and weekly to discuss a red, yellow, green-light report, which included output (with real numbers), generated by the ERP system. The report is similar to a dashboard look at the operations. It contains goals derived from the business plan, weekly production schedules, the last week's or month's performance to goals, quality indicators, safety indicators and customer satisfaction indicators.

 Talking about these issues and resolving problems at the tables shows how everyone fits into the process. Corrective action plans, for example, are written during the meeting and are reviewed at the beginning of the next meeting. When they began talking about customer satisfaction issues together based on real numbers from the ERP system, "A lot of people's eyes were opened to where and how they contributed to customer satisfaction," Silburn says. "It helped them understand how important their role was."


About the authors

 Rosalind McLymont is a partner in the international business development strategy firm McLymont, Kunda & Co. She is a former managing editor of The Journal of Commerce, an Economist Group publication, and has appeared frequently on CNNfn as a commentator on global trade. Based in New York, she has been writing on global business issues for more than 15 years for U.S. and international publications.

 Amy Zuckerman is a well-known author, columnist and consultant specializing in the mechanics of international trade, including electronic commerce, supply chain management, international standards and global communication. She maintains an international market research and information packaging business in Amherst, Massachusetts--A-Z International Associates--and writes regularly on both the geopolitical trends and how-tos of standardization for publications including The New York Times, Business 2.0, Journal of Commerce, World Trade and many others. She is the author of four business books, and her writings have appeared in print in more than 70 publications worldwide. She is often hired as a consultant to industry in the field of strategic standardization management. She is also founding principal of both the Technology Communication Group and Global Knowledge Productions.

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