Quality management certification can help manufacturing companies put systems and controls in place to ensure fewer defects and more profitable business. Companies that approach the certification process with the end benefit in mind are usually the ones that succeed.
Certification programs set standards of quality that teach companies an effective quality management system. Each industry has formal, codified quality standards for manufacturers and businesses to follow. These standards have evolved over time and reflect the various aspects of industry. Once a business implements the quality standards, it can then become certified, showing its customers that its practices and products conform to a higher level of quality.
The International Organization for Standardization is one of manufacturing’s most important standards. ISO is the world’s largest organization for certifying companies that perform at a higher level of quality. There is probably no more important marketing tool than ISO certification for a company looking to expand its customer base, particularly in international markets. ISO describes the importance of its certification as follows: “For consumers, conformity of products and services to international standards provides assurance about their quality, safety, and reliability.”
Certification, as defined by ISO, refers to the issuing of a written certificate by an independent organization that has audited a company’s management system and verified the system conforms to the requirements specified in the standard. The auditing body then records the certification in its client register, making the business both certified and registered. This means the quality management of a company has met the standards set by the international community. ISO certification is recognized and holds a lot of weight throughout the world.
Organizations, such as Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and Metropolitan Education and Training Centers, provide programs that teach businesses about quality management. They help companies implement the standard and prepare for the registration process to become certified.
Certification does not equal quality management. Manufacturing businesses that become certified don’t always continue the certification practices needed to increase their quality. It’s a day-to-day challenge that has to be part of a long-term plan. Short-term thinking that leads back to business-as-usual is a problem and counterproductive in terms of quality management.
Tucker Kennedy, vice president of marketing at IMEC, has encountered companies that see certification as a “check the box” activity intended to satisfy customers but not to improve business operations. In this case, it’s a ploy to market the company as certified, when the real purpose should be to improve the overall quality of the business.
One particular challenge with quality management is to put an organization together that responds to problems quickly. This is important because quality problems can impact deliveries and customer satisfaction. Another important practice is buying higher-quality materials from suppliers. This leads to better quality throughout the supply chain, all the way to the end product.
Kennedy says in manufacturing the emphasis should be on rigorous quality management that includes defect reduction, process capability and control, and other tools to ensure manufacturers deliver impeccable quality in a consistent and timely manner. The idea is to put systems and controls in place to ensure a zero-defect culture, which leads to lower costs from waste, higher profits, improved safety, and better customer satisfaction.