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Obtaining quality system certification: The galesburg castings way: This article describes a small foundry's path to ISO certification and details steps for other firms to follow to implement their own quality system.

Small foundries continually are searching for ways to compete on the same playing field as large foundries. Obtaining a quality system certification is an easy and financially smart move to provide the needed boost.

The ISO 9000 quality system is set by the International Organization for Standardization and contains universal standards for a quality assurance system that ensures uniform specifications and products. With some outside technical assistance, internal training and a serious commitment from executive management, a small foundry can establish and implement a quality system in their operation.

This article focuses on how 45-employee Galesburg Castings, Inc., Galesburg, Illinois, decided to pursue an ISO 9002/QS 9000 quality system and obtained it in seven months at 45% below normal cost.

Initial Investigative Process

Galesburg Castings is a jobbing shop that pours ductile iron castings via green sand molding. It casts 3600 tons/yr for its agriculture, railroad and valve industry customers.

In 1999, Galesburg Castings faced a choice: obtain a quality system certification or lose additional business opportunities with customers. Its customers had begun requiring certification because the process documentation ensured that employees followed proper procedures, producing quality castings to the correct specifications.

Galesburg Castings educated itself about quality systems before making a decision. It set up liaisons with nearby foundries that had already achieved ISO 9002 status and discussed the advantages of achieving a quality standard. From improving customer satisfaction to decreasing scrap, these foundries' systems showed owed promise that encouraged Galesburg Castings to explore certification further.

Next, Galesburg Castings studied its customers requiring quality certification. Would adapting to a quality standard increase business for the foundry? Customers push for ISO certification to ensure that the products they receive meet quality and timeliness requirements so that they, in turn, can meet quality and timeliness requirements for OEMs, shortening the production cycle.

Galesburg Castings also needed to investigate its current quality system. Did the current system meet any of the requirements of the ISO 9002/QS 9000 standards? The foundry determined that its existing system met some of the new requirements, such as documentation and inspection techniques, saving it from starting from scratch.

After reviewing these elements, Galesburg Castings made the commitment to obtain ISO 9002/QS 9000 certification. From conversations with other ISO-certified foundries, Galesburg Castings knew that the results and benefits of certification would depend on the effort and care it put into the development process. With the right design, a quality system would enable Galesburg Castings to remain competitive with larger foundries. It would enhance the quality of the product, improve on-time delivery and increase communication levels both within the foundry and between the foundry and its customers. The foundry set out to learn about the certification process.

First Steps

Galesburg Castings sent a management representative to an auditor/ lead auditor class to learn how to interpret the standard and what to look for within the standard, and to understand how to bring new requirements into its existing quality system. Seeking financial assistance, the foundry approached the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which sponsors the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a program that helps small and medium-sized businesses (under 500 employees) tap into the expertise of manufacturing and business specialists.

Galesburg Castings contacted the IIlinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), a local affiliate of the NIST/MEP, for assistance with interviewing and selecting a consultant to help guide the development of the quality system.

Quality System Development

The foundry's next step involved de eloping a new quality manual to meet the ISO 9002/QS 9000 standard. Galesburg tings management representative was responsible for development, implementation and maintenance of the quality system.

Using objective input from weekly meetings with the consultant and employees, the management representative composed a 35-pg quality manual that defined the foundry's approach to implementing a quality system. The manual also detailed the responsibilities within the quality system, such as the ability to identify and record problems, initiate solutions and verify the implementation of solutions. With sign-off from the president of the company, the task of writing the next three levels oft e quality system (defining work within the foundry) began. Writing and implementing foundry procedures, work instructions and quality records as a difficult task. The items not only needed to meet the requirements of the quality standard and fit within the scheme of the business, but they also ha to be written so all employees could understand them. To avoid problems, every week the management representative an consultant met with executive management and employees for training on one or two procedures and the associated wor k instructions and records. Input from these meetings assisted understand in of how the levels of the quality system ere working and how well they were being comprehended.

During a 5-month period, 24 procedures and approximately 30 work instructions and records were implemented into the business. The foundry was a le to continue using its laboratory documents, sampling procedures and operator instructions. Because many of the work instructions and records were carried over from the previous quality system, implementation was fairly simple.

With quality system documents in place, Galesburg Castings next needed to meet internal audit requirements of the ISO 9002/QS 9000 standard. Internal audits allow the foundry to continuously study the system, pinpointing and eliminating problems and searching for ongoing improvements. The internal audit team was created by selecting four employees from the shop floor and three from top management. With the consultant, the team underwent training on the techniques and methods of auditing, the reasoning behind audits and how the results of audits affected the quality system. When Galesburg Castings felt the internal audit program was meeting ISO 9002/QS 9000 requirements, the company was ready to select a registrar. In interviewing registrars, the foundry looked at reputation, foundry experience, qualifications, cost and the availability of follow-up surveillance audit programs. The registrar body would send auditors to Galesburg Castings to examine its readiness for certification and eventually issue the quali ty system certificate.

Once Galesburg Castings found the registrar that met its needs, the registrar and IMEC signed a contract. Again, because of the relationship with IMEC, the cost of the registrar was reduced by 27%.

Certification and Further Training

The registration audit occurred less than seven months after the quality sys. tem documentation creation began. During the audit, Galesburg Castings had only eight minor, nonconformance items (partial non-fulfillment of specified requirements) and fixed those within two weeks after the audit. It received the official certificate 45 days later.

Galesburg Castings determined that the nonconformance items should have been identified during an internal audit. The foundry used a local community college that offered a Workforce Preparation Grant program (sponsored by the Illinois Community College Board) to provide training in safety, environmental and quality issues, and soft skills like customer service, leadership and teamwork. This alleviated the nonconformance issues. The Workforce Preparation Grant program paid for 50% of the total cost of the re-training program.

The Cost Factor

While obtaining ISO 9002/QS 9000 certification, Galesburg Castings incurred a total cost of $29,867. After cost reductions from the consultant and registrar, plus grants from both IMEC and the Illinois Community College Board, Galesburg Castings' share of the cost was $13,642.50.

Survival as a small or medium-sized foundry is hard enough without any added costs beyond casting production. Finding the right partnerships with organizations to secure grants and discounts helps lower this cost. The investment of adding a quality system certification will pay for itself through improved quality and timeliness and a potentially larger customer base.

This article was adapted from a paper (01-148) presented at the 2001 AFS Casting Congress.

RELATED ARTICLE: Disentangling Quality System standards

You've heard of ISO 9000. You've heard of ISO 14000. Sometimes it's ISO 9001 and other times it's ISO 9002. What distinguishes these standards from each other?

* ISO 9000:2000 is a new series of standards consisting of eight principles that looks at certification from a process approach, involving numerous departments and detailing steps to requirements.

* ISO 9000 is a series of general quality management and quality assurance standards described from an element approach that sets requirements by function. It includes:

* ISO 9001, a quality assurance model for design/development, production, installation and servicing;

* ISO 9002, a quality assurance model for production, installation and servicing (without the design/development aspects);

* ISO 9003, a quality assurance model for final inspections and testing.

* ISO 14000 is structured much like the ISO 9000 documents, but has no formal relationship with them. The standard is entitled Environmental Management Systems Specification and ensures that environmental policy is carried out by the organization.

* QS 9000 is a set of quality system requirements adopted by members of the automotive industry. It includes the ISO 9000 standards plus other specific automotive requirements.

Ten Steps to ISO Certification

ISO 9000 is more than just a standard. Its requirements provide a framework for a management system that can help a foundry achieve consistency in product quality. Through the use of the continuous improvement techniques contained within the standard, a foundry also can make improvements in its profitability and generate increased customer confidence in its products. The following steps outline a method to achieve ISO 9000 in small organizations:

* Secure to management commitment.

Provide top management with an overview of ISO 9000, the propose implementation steps and a tentative schedule. Registrars can be an excellent resource for providing this overview because they are most familiar with potential benefits, steps to registration and associated costs. Management commitment is crucial because it provides the necessary resources for implementation and the incentive for compliance by other employees.

* Establish and educate a steering committee.

Ask the management to appoint a steering committee, a cross-functional team of middle and top managers that will have the authority to implement the process and take responsibility for its maintenance. This team will advise the management representative (the person most knowledgeable about the quality management system and responsible for implementing it) during the design and implementation process. Train the steering committee on documentation and implementation requirements of the standard using an outside source.

* Evaluate and select a registrar.

The registrar will be a long-term partner with the business and should be foundry qualified. The wrong registrar increases the chance of failing or being short-serviced. When choosing a registrar, consider its record, reputation, SIC code and QS 9000 qualifications as well as availability, and customer service skills.

* Define responsibilities.

The steering committee should develop responsibilities for employees. Establishing a structure diagram defines who has responsibility for each level of the quality management system. (See the For More Information section of for a sample diagram.)

* Establish the system structure and write procedures.

Documents can be divided into three categories. The typical quality system document hierarchy places quality manuals at the top, followed by documented quality system procedures and then other quality documents. The quality manual describes the quality system in accordance with the stated quality policy and objectives and the applicable standard. The documented quality procedures describe the activities of individual functional units needed to implement the quality system elements. Other quality documents include work instructions, forms and reports that detail the work being done. (See the For More Information section of for sample documents.)

* Educate all employees on ISO 9000/QS 9000.

All of the employees within the organization should be familiar with ISO 9000 and why the company is pursuing registration. Using steering committee members to present the information to employees implies that the project has top management support and makes it stronger.

* Use functional management teams for documentation.

Functional managers have the responsibility for documenting the process and ensuring conformance to the standard. Holding weekly meetings helps to track progress and plan for the coming week's objectives. One of the most effective methods of documenting the functional areas is to let employees most familiar with the process write the procedure. Other employees and managers can review it to ensure correctness. The employee's signature on the procedure acknowledges that it is correct and serves as a training record, while the manager's review and approval maintains document control.

* Establish a corrective action program.

Both ISO 9000 and QS 9000 require structured corrective action processes to ensure that causes of nonconformance are investigated and eliminated. The plan should include a method for documenting the nonconformance and the investigation and resolution of the issues requiring correction.

* Train internal audit teams and verify compliance.

An internal audit system helps to ensure that documentation and implementation activities meet the requirements of the standard and demonstrate the effectiveness of the quality management system. The internal audit system should be designed to audit compliance to the standard and the procedures and work instructions within the system. The company should train about 10% of the company's workforce as auditors. Training should be done by experienced auditors or training consultants.

* Initiate the certification audit.

Before the certification audit, at least one full, internal audit cycle should be completed. This includes the internal audit, corrective actions, any documentation revisions, training in the revised procedures, implementation of the changes and management review of the internal audit. This can take anywhere from one to six months. Once the internal audit cycle is completed, registrars will proceed with the certification audit. This begins with the registrar pre-auditing the documentation.

After reviewing the manual, the audit team will perform an in-depth, on-site audit. This includes reviewing records and talking to employees. If all elements in the quality system have been addressed, registration will be recommended. If issues are identified that require corrective action, the foundry will be given a period of time to make corrections. Once the corrective actions have been accepted, the audit is reviewed and approved by a panel and the certificate of registration is issued.

--Terrance C. Wilson, Hickman, Williams & Co., Livonia, Michigan
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Comment:Obtaining quality system certification: The galesburg castings way: This article describes a small foundry's path to ISO certification and details steps for other firms to follow to implement their own quality system.
Author:Fox, Nick
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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