On March 20, 2015, Vulcan Aluminum Mill completed the last major hurdle to becoming ISO certified. This was stage II of a two stage audit process conducted by an internationally recognized registrar. However, the journey actually started almost a year ago. This article is meant to describe the purpose of the ISO system as well as to explain why a company may choose to adopt it.
What is ISO? What is a QMS?
We’ll start with an explanation of ISO 9001:2008. To put it briefly, “say what you do and do what you say.” ISO is a quality management system (QMS) based on a continuous improvement process with 6 required procedures.
- Control of Documents
- Control of Records
- Internal Audit
- Control of Nonconforming Product
- Corrective action
- Preventive action
Quality has always been a top priority, but we did not have the most efficient method in place for documentation and control. Thus, we began to systematically improve our approach to delivering a quality product efficiently and in a timely manner. In our case, the Mill was able to lean on our sister plant, Vulcan Metal Stampings, to help us transition to ISO9001:2008. Vulcan Metal Stampings started their ISO journey back in 2003 and was able to share their expertise, which really gave the Mill the momentum and information we needed. Because of this, during 6 total days of auditing, the Mill and multiple staff members were able to show evidence of effectiveness for all 6 of the required procedures. All employees interviewed by our outside auditor were complemented on their professionalism and job knowledge.
Why would a company pursue an ISO 9001:2008 certification?
The second part of this article is to give an explanation of why it was so important for the Mill to adopt ISO 9001:2008 as our QMS. While there are numerous other recognized QMS’s available in industry today, ISO 9001:2008 is an internationally recognized QMS that opens the door for Vulcan Aluminum Mill to do business directly with a whole new level of businesses, primarily automotive. That is certainly one of the driving forces behind pursuing this certification.
Another driving force is the fact that it mandates a controlled approach to improving results in most of the key facets of business. Vulcan Aluminum Mill discusses quality, documentation, customer satisfaction, non-conformances, etc. on a daily basis. Whenever an issue arises that can’t be fixed with a conversation, or when a change to our process or product is required, an action item/corrective action is assigned and monitored until it’s closed.
One other benefit is that the QMS helps create and maintain a culture of open dialogue where problems can become opportunities. This is because as each problem is solved, several things are happening, such as, the customer is getting a better product, our operations are becoming more efficient, more profit is generated, lines of communication are paved and surprises become less common.
Although a huge accomplishment, completing the ISO 9001:2008 Certification Process isn’t the conclusion to our journey. Rather, it simply set the stage for where we’re going in the years ahead.
“A certificate does not make you certified. Attitude, performance, commitment to self and team — these and a certificate make you certified.” ~Author Unknown
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