ISO Quality Management System Series: Part 1
Evaero’s quality management system (QMS) is registered to ISO (9001:2008) and AS (AS9100C) standards for the precision CNC machining and assembly of aerospace parts. Over the years, I have been asked repeatedly if a QMS is beneficial to our company and in turn, to our customers. The short answer is regardless of the business you are in (e.g., health, produce, pest control, software, education, construction, etc.), if you’re interested in improving your business, a quality management system can help.
When I started at Evaero in 2001, we were an ISO/AS company in name only. We had gone through the registration process at the request of a customer and, although compliant, management viewed it as a cost burden and a non-value-added pile of crap.
In light of the lack of managerial support, that our quality manager was able to eek out any value at all was more a testament to his ability than our company. Should you as a quality manager find yourself in a similar situation I’d recommend regular exercise and/or a well stocked liquor cabinet.
In 2001, and for several years after, as a result of a downturn in our business we didn’t pay much attention to our QMS. Basically, we just did whatever we could to hold things together. Having barely survived that period, I remember the exact moment when we in fact started paying attention. After the end of a recertification audit our new auditor expressed some “off the record” comments that went something like this:
Congratulations on passing the audit but if you really want to get value out of this you need to start thinking about it as something you want to do rather than something you have to do. Although you’re compliant, it’s my assumption the system you have was probably set-up because of a customer request. Although it will take time to get the benefits, I’d strongly encourage you to rethink your position and approach.
The auditor’s point was that it’s Evaero’s QMS and as such it’s up to Evaero to decide whether and how we’re going to get value out of it. After getting the message, we spent time earnestly crafting our system to help us continually improve our processes, products and people. Although there are many stories to share about the work done and the people who helped us along the way, what I wanted to leave you with today are the following data:
Along the y axis you have Evaero data representing internal dollars lost due to mistakes; along the x axis you have time measured in years. Without getting bogged down in details, what this graph shows is that after eight years of work, mistakes were costing the company half as much.
So, when someone asks if I really think a QMS has helped our company and in turn our customers I show them the graph above. Because I refuse to sweat labor as a way to take cost out of what we do, reducing the amount of mistakes we make is one of the ways we’ve been able to stay competitive without moving our business to say, Mexico. Although it requires taking the long road, suffice it to say, our QMS has been instrumental in helping us in this regard.
Now before your quality professionals get too happy, given that as an engineer it’s my duty to keep that from happening, I want you to consider the fact that improvement results have in fact started leveling off. Perhaps this is a sign someone else needs to take over my job, but in my next post I’m going to talk about errors in a way I hope may suggest further paths to improvement.
Speaking of sweat, I am reminded of one of my favorite bands from my younger days. Before sharing, I need to to disclose that when I was looking for a video link of the band the following advertisement kept following me around. Not sure what that says about me or the band.
In any case, before Danny Elfman started writing movie scores/soundtracks for the likes of Tim Burton, Gus Van Sant, and Ang Lee he was in a band called Oingo Boingo. I’ve seen them in concert many times and they were absolutely fantastic. I never understood why – other than in LA – they didn’t receive more attention. With that I’ll leave you with the country version (I am in Tucson, Arizona after all) of their song “Sweat”.
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Having said that, I am interested to hear from you. Good, bad, or otherwise, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m the only person who will read your email and, as time allows, I’ll do my best, at a minimum, to personally acknowledge receipt.