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Geoff Bilau


Small Business Lands Big Contracts Following ISO 9001 Certification

Angeles Precision Engineering was losing major contracts because they weren't ISO 9001 registered.

Published: Thursday, August 13, 2009 - 04:00

Mario Angeles was stuck. His family-operated machine shop, Angeles Precision Engineering LLC, was busy enough with work farmed out to it by larger shops, but Angeles had been repeatedly rebuffed in his attempts to secure a long-term contract on his own; especially one from the “Big Four” aerospace firms.

“We used to meet people from the four big ones—Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon—and ask them what we could do to earn their business,” Angeles says. “The first question they would ask is ‘Are you ISO 9001 certified?’ ” When Angeles told them he was not, he understood the uphill battle he was fighting.

“They would say, ‘If I have 100 shops I give work to and they’re all certified, why should I take work from them to give you?” he says. “ ‘What assurance can you give me that you’ll deliver higher quality work than the others?’ ” Angeles quickly discovered his word alone wasn’t worth much to the “Big Four.”

But what a difference ISO 9001 certification has made. Now registered, the Ontario, California-based machine shop is hard at work on a 37,500-part contract with the United States Navy and knocking on the Big Four’s doors with renewed determination and confidence. Armed with their ISO 9001 quality management system certificate, Angeles Precision Engineering is a whole new business.

Mario Angeles Jr. calibrates a computerized router that will shape the parts being machined by Angeles Precision Engineering LLC in Ontario, California.


“This is the difference between then and now,” Angeles says. “Now, if we try to speak with them, they listen to us.”

Angeles’ story is becoming increasingly more common throughout American industry. More and more small companies are beginning to reap the benefits of ISO 9001 implementation and certification by enlisting the help of a registered certification body like IAPMO R&T Registration Services.

“Big and small companies alike understand that ISO 9001 has evolved a great deal since its inception back in 1987,” says Shirley Dewi, senior manager of IAPMO R&T Registration Services. “It’s very much geared toward business growth and customer satisfaction these days instead of just being singularly focused on quality control. Now it offers that aspect and so much more.”

Implementing an ISO 9001 system provides a tested and approved framework for a systematic approach to managing an organization’s processes, ensuring customer expectations are consistently met or exceeded. By illustrating strict adherence to a quality management protocol through registration, businesses communicate to their current and prospective clients a commitment to efficiency, best practices and the highest standards for work as compared to their industry peers.

David Angeles inserts tiny screws into the machine parts Angeles Precision Engineering LLC is producing for the United States Navy.

For Angeles Precision Engineering it meant leveling the playing field and opening doors that had previously been closed. Last June, with the prospects of landing a big contract diminishing with each rejection and the economic downturn causing larger machine shops to hold onto their own work rather than farming it out to smaller shops, Angeles knew something needed to be done.

“I told my son we have to do something different so we can get the work by ourselves, not just hope that the other guys will give it to us,” Angeles says. A friend recommended he contact an accredited certification body and obtain the ISO 9001 certificate the Big Four expected of his shop. A search of the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) web site guided Angeles to IAPMO R&T Registration Services. He submitted his application on June 25, 2008; the two stages of audits were completed and his certificate issued on Oct. 31, 2008.

What Angeles discovered is that his shop was already performing work to ISO 9001 standards, but the lack of a certificate proving it hindered his ability to market his services to clients. He has similarly noticed his shop is operating even more smoothly because the protocols have focused their work toward the most efficient means.

Shortly after the issue of his certificate, Angeles received e-mail from the U.S. Navy seeking a quotation for machined parts needed by the Naval Undersea Warfare Engineering Station (NUWES) in Keyport, Washington—better known as “Torpedo Town U.S.A.” The job was for 1,500 each of 25 different parts used in the production of torpedoes—exactly the kind of big contract Angeles Precision Engineering had repeatedly failed to land.

Combining the lessons learned from their unsuccessful bids and the added leverage of their ISO 9001 certification, Angeles submitted a bid and waited… and waited. After some nerve-racking days, during which Mario Jr. often reassured his father they would indeed get the job, Angeles received an e-mail affirming his son’s confidence; the Navy accepted their bid.

“This is our first big, big order,” Angeles says. “They said we did our homework. Now, it’s like we are just starting again, but with a whole new mindset.”

Last month, Angeles received a disc with 80 drawings from Northrop Grumman; one of the Big Four is asking him for a quotation.

“I think that’s because of the ISO 9001 certification,” Angeles says.

If Angeles Precision Engineering gets the job, it would move them one step closer to becoming the shop Angeles envisioned when he launched the business as a side project in 1999 and began working at it full time four years ago. Angeles wants to be the big shop handing down excess work to smaller shops.

“That’s the best thing that could happen to any business, farming out work,” he says. “We are just going to do everything we can to make our customers happy. And they will be happy.”

Find out more about Angeles Precision Engineering LLC at www.angelesprecision.com. For questions about ISO 9001 registration and/or other quality management systems, visit www.isoiapmort.org.


About The Author

Geoff Bilau’s picture

Geoff Bilau

Geoff Bilau is senior writer of marketing and communications for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and co-editor of the association’s 51-year-old industry trade magazine, Official. Prior to joining IAPMO in 2007, Bilau served in myriad capacities as a newspaper journalist at the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Area Newspaper Group among others, earning awards as a sportswriter, copy editor, and page designer of front pages and features sections.