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by Amy Zuckerman

When Chuck Weygand first joined Donaldson Co. Inc. as the Minneapolis firm's U.S. quality systems manager in 1988, it was almost impossible to walk through a Donaldson plant without encountering some type of audit.

In those years, Donaldson, a global manufacturer of filtration systems such as mufflers and air cleaners for trucks and heavy equipment vehicles, was running what Weygand describes as "the Audit of the Month Club to meet the requirements of 50 customers a year in 10 [U.S.] locations."

Do the math and it quickly becomes clear why Weygand and Donaldson officials chose ISO 9000 as a means of "eliminating redundant audits." Once they embarked on the ISO 9000 process using BSI Management Systems as their registrar, however, Donaldson was able to cut audits to two a year in all locations, or to less than half of the previous audit load.

Nine years and numerous audits later, many Donaldson plants have earned registration to either ISO 9000 or the QS-9000 automotive variant mandated by the Big Three automakers. Today, Weygand is preparing plants to become registered to ISO/TS 16949, the international standard replacing QS-9000. Donaldson plans to work closely with BSI to ease the transition.

Donaldson overcame various challenges in nearly a decade of meeting ISO 9000-based quality management requirements at multiple sites. Weygand believes both the earlier ISO 9000 and QS-9000 efforts paved the way to the more process-oriented approach that ISO/TS 16949 supports.

As a tier-one automotive supplier, Donaldson has long maintained two core divisions in the United States, the Industrial/Commercial Group and the Engine Systems/Parts Group. The business units are headquartered in Minneapolis, where sales, engineering, research and development, and corporate administration are carried out. Currently, 18 plants in the United States and Mexico serve these two divisions, along with 21 other global sites. "At the time we started ISO 9000, the engine business was organized into market business units: transportation (e.g., truck, bus and light vehicle), off-road (e.g., construction, agriculture and mining) and aftermarket," recalls Weygand. "Each of these units had its own sales and engineering organizations. ISO 9000 and QS-9000 caused Donaldson to define the systems these groups use, including product complexity, which led to more consistency across businesses. The ISO 9000 and QS-9000 processes forced us to define the ownership of various systems."

Of Donaldson's 18 North American plants, 13 are now registered to QS-9000, two are ISO 9000-registered, and a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico, is just beginning its ISO 9000 registration process. Nearly all overseas Donaldson plants--at least 17 locations on four continents--are also ISO 9000-registered.

Facing "typical" registration challenges

The challenges of meeting ISO 9000 and QS-9000 registration requirements for multiple sites were "pretty typical," according to Weygand. "We had to write procedures, of course, and it's always a challenge not to go overboard and write thousands of pages."

He also found that involving management in the process was critical. "Just understanding their role, which is now a requirement of specific pieces of ISO 9001 and QS-9000, was problematic because our matrix system didn't match the ISO 9000 or QS-9000 chart," he explains. "Each business unit, whether off-road, transportation or the defense group, had its own engineering and sales people, which meant several different functions all doing things in a slightly different fashion. It was hard for us, for example, to find someone with the title of 'design control' when you have four or five managers with the same responsibility. Then it's difficult to get them all to function in a consistent manner," which the standard requires.

To address these concerns, Donaldson management formed a leadership team, a group of director-level and upper management people. Guided by Engine Business Senior Vice President Nick Priadka and Operations Senior Vice President Lowell Schwab, the team was assigned the responsibility of translating the ISO 9000/QS-9000 systems to cover all company functions. "Management didn't change the overall matrix system but found a way to communicate and work within it," says Weygand.

No sooner had Donaldson plants earned ISO 9000 registration when some had to begin tackling the specific requirements of QS-9000. Registration to QS-9000 was eventually completed in 1997. The main challenge of that process was advanced product quality planning, which Weygand says forced Donaldson into defining the planning process across several functions such as sales, engineering and manufacturing. "Until then, we'd done a fair share of throwing it over the wall: Sales would finish with a customer, send the order onto engineering and then hand it to manufacturing and say, 'Build it,'" he recalls. "QS-9000 forced us to talk collectively and do so in a more structured fashion."

Never underestimate communication issues inherent in a corporation, especially one as far-flung as Donaldson. "In a sense, various departments spoke different languages," notes Weygand. "QS-9000 has a lot to do with defining roles--who's supposed to do what and do it consistently. It forced us to define what we do with our many customers and then do that consistently."

Eventually, the leadership team developed an internal system based on the APQP requirements customized to the issues facing the corporation. There's since been a decrease in product introduction problems, which has resulted in faster time to market.

Although other companies have struggled with the customer satisfaction elements of QS-9000, Weygand says that it wasn't much of a problem because Donaldson had some well-defined customer satisfaction processes already in place. For example, sales and customer service personnel meet quarterly to discuss customer needs and concerns. Follow-up communication is emphasized so customers' demands--whether for on-time delivery or product specifics--are met.

Gliding into ISO/TS 16949

The work of involving upper management, documenting procedures, developing communication channels between departments, defining standardized processes across market groups and emphasizing continuous improvement--a major facet of both QS-9000 and ISO 9000:2000--has supported an easy transition to ISO/TS 16949 for the company's U.S. engine sector. This group, which is responsible for approximately 50 percent of Donaldson sales, has been the first to work on becoming registered to the new standard. A final audit is expected in late May.

Officially rolled out about a year ago, ISO/TS 16949:2002 is fully aligned with ISO 9001:2000. Besides the focus on continuous improvement--the hallmark of both ISO 9001:2000 and QS-9000--the new standard also emphasizes defect prevention and reduction of variation and waste in the supply chain, and spells out automotive sector-specific requirements for its suppliers in:

Employee competence

Awareness and training

Design and development

Production and service provision

Control of monitoring and measuring devices

Measurement, analysis and improvement

Donaldson will eventually register most of its plants to the new standard, notes Weygand. A major reason is that ISO/TS 16949 has become the standard of choice for the Big Three automakers, which are requiring suppliers to earn registration as soon as possible. "DaimlerChrysler will no longer accept QS-9000 after 2004, and Ford and GM after 2006," he says. "Some of our truck customers also require the new standard."

There are other practical reasons to switch as well. The 1994 version of ISO 9000 is set to expire in about a year, and QS-9000 won't be updated to include the year 2000 ISO 9000 revisions. "By switching to ISO/TS 16949, Donaldson doesn't have to carry dual registrations or update the old ISO 9000 or QS-9000 registrations," he explains.

As Weygand and his quality team dove into the ISO/TS 16949 process, they learned once again how much their ISO 9000 and QS-9000 experiences have set the stage for the new standard. They've found the ISO 9001:2000 process a strong steppingstone to the international automotive standard.

After reviewing the new standard and assessing the gaps between the company's current quality system and the requirements of ISO/TS 16949, Weygand says they've mainly focused on creating a system for process design control. Under ISO 9000 and QS-9000, they looked at product design control, which defines the input and output of the product itself. Process design control takes a step back and examines the manufacturing process that produces the product, he explains.

Like its antecedents, ISO/TS 16949 registration is a very people-oriented experience. "It's not just looking at the product and figuring out how to design and manufacture filters," he observes. "It's about communication. To go from ISO to QS to TS, you have to look at how your people interact, and you have to remove barriers so they can interact earlier and better. Sometimes it's frustrating to deal with the structure this imposes, but we realize it's good for us."

ISO/TS 16949's beneficial challenges

ISO/TS 16949 presented Donaldson with a number of challenges. The following are examples that, once overcome, proved particularly beneficial:

Widening customer communication. ISO/TS 16949 forces Donaldson into clear specification communication. "For example, much of the emphasis on QS-9000 was with the Big Three automakers and a few of the truck manufacturers," explains Weygand. "ISO/TS 16949 is causing us to broaden and define specification communication with all customers."

Improving product performance. "We have systems in place to define the groups that must review and sign off on customer statements of requirements for product performance," explains Weygand. "In one case, it caused a full-team review of a temperature-specific material requirement, which in the past might have only involved engineering."

Involving sales and manufacturing. The standard also helps sales to ask better questions, and all routes to market are involved, not just the OEMs. Including process design control has led to earlier involvement by manufacturing operations and other departments such as plant engineering and purchasing.

Refining the project approval process. Project approval has been refined beyond QS-9000 to include a multipart procedure and checklist and to speed allocation of resources. This is especially helpful on more complex programs that might involve new technologies or new applications of existing technologies. All new programs are reviewed by a project approval committee, which has helped departments allocate their resources based on program complexity. Donaldson is designing a Web-based application to allow departments access to timelines and other project-specific information.

Supplier requirements. ISO/TS 16949 requires that Donaldson's 1,300 suppliers be ISO/TS 16949-compliant and ISO 9001:2000-registered. Recognizing that this might be difficult for some suppliers with small or limited resources, Donaldson has offered guidance to those that choose to earn registration to either standard. However, the company has made it clear that ISO 9000 registration is a condition of doing business and has stopped adding new suppliers that aren't registered or don't have detailed plans to be so.

Weygand's advice to others pursuing the ISO/TS 16949 path is to forgo outside consultants and develop a homegrown approach to registration. Unless a company actually does the hard work of developing processes and procedures and making its own assessments, it won't reap the benefits of the work or take ownership of the process.

And though he can quote the hard costs of auditing, he's never tallied the soft costs such as internal quality management meetings. "We decided early on that this was something we had to do," he remarks. "We've since reorganized into product-oriented groups, and these defined systems--along with the customer focus of ISO/TS 16949--have allowed us to maintain our consistency regardless of the customer or the market."

About the author

Amy Zuckerman is an expert in standards, technology and global trends. She's the author of eight books and numerous articles relating to standards, technology and global trade. Letters to the editor regarding this article can be sent to letters@qualitydigest.com.