ISO 9000: not just a foreign fad.
Just over one-fifth of U.S. plastics processors are now certified as complying with the ISO 9000 international quality standards or with the comparable QS 9000 standards of the U.S. automotive industry. That is one conclusion of a PLASTICS TECHNOLOGY reader survey on the popularity of ISO/QS 9000 among processors. The survey also showed that the proportion of ISO registrants may increase to 44% by the year 2000.
You may think 44% sounds like a lot, but some processors who have already achieved certification find it difficult to believe that they are still in a minority. It has been a full decade since ISO 9000 was launched in 1988 by the International Standards Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Since that time, numerous end-user firms and governmental agencies in Europe, North America, and elsewhere have adopted those standards as a basis for qualifying plastics parts suppliers. For example, Detroit's Big Three car makers started requiring QS 9000 certification (which incorporates ISO 9000 standards) last year for their Tier 1 and 2 suppliers. Since 1995, the U.S. Dept. of Defense also has required its suppliers to have ISO 9000-certified quality systems. And the FDA is making ISO 9000 part of its "Good Manufacturing Practices" guidelines.
To learn how many domestic processing firms have been affected by this trend, PLASTICS TECHNOLOGY conducted a telephone survey in November of 300 U.S. processing plants selected at random by computer. (The final total was 314 usable responses.)
The sample represents only about 1% of domestic processing plants. Although selected at random, the respondents were somewhat more heavily weighted toward injection molding and less toward other processes than is representative of the true universe of U.S. plastics plants. Most notably under-represented were compounding plants, which have been leaders in obtaining ISO 9000 registration.
As shown in Fig. 1, 25% of both injection and blow molders are currently registered for ISO or QS 9000, but extrusion processors are significantly higher at 33%. The highest proportion was reported by compression/transfer molders, presumably because their business is heavily concentrated in the automotive sphere.
WHY THEY DID IT
What were the reasons that the respondents sought (or are presently seeking) ISO/QS 9000 certification? "It's the new fad. Everyone's doing it," was the reply of one Midwestern injection molder. Most respondents had more practical reasons, as shown in Fig. 2. Because ISO 9000 originated in Europe, nearly half the respondents cited certification as a necessary ticket of admission to overseas markets. But an even higher proportion said it is preferred or required by domestic customers, especially in the medical and automotive industries. (By far the largest share of the sample claimed this as the most important reason.) The number two reason that respondents seek certification is that they think it would help improve their product quality. As noted below, their expectations are indeed justified.
Among those respondents who have no intention of seeking certification, the main reasons given are the cost, the belief that it is not important for a small company, and the lack of impetus to get certified from their customers (including internal "customers," in the case of captive plants).
THEY HAD OUTSIDE HELP
Figure 3 shows that two-thirds of respondents used an outside consultant to help them prepare for ISO/QS 9000 certification. (And 92% of those processors found that hiring a consultant was helpful.) Approximately half the respondents used a variety of other training resources as well.
WHAT'S THE VALUE?
Perhaps the most significant chart is Fig. 4, which reports the benefits accruing from ISO/QS 9000. More than half those who achieved certification said that their internal quality procedures have improved at least partly as a result. This was by far the most common benefit cited as most important. What's more, one-third of the sample said their overall plant efficiency and/or productivity has improved at least partly as a result of ISO/QS 9000 certification.
Those are not the only bottom-line payoffs from quality certification. Nearly half the respondents feel it helps them retain business that they might otherwise have lost to competitors if they didn't get certified. And almost one-quarter believe certification helped them gain additional business.
Only 4% of the sample see no benefit from ISO/QS 9000 certification.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 1998|
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