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St. Marys Foundry achieves ISO 9002 certification.

This question-and-answer session reveals interesting insight on how this iron foundry earned quality's most valued trophy--ISO 9000.

The ISO 9000 series has been used more and more throughout Europe as the standard for quality system registration. Until recently, relatively few U.S. companies have pursued registration to these standards because there are no local requirements to do so.

Recently, St. Marys Foundry, a gray and ductile iron castings producer in St. Marys, Ohio, became the first foundry in Ohio to be ISO certified (and one of the first three foundries in the U.S.).

Serving customers throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan since its inception in 1984, St. Marys positioned itself to take on highly engineered castings with sophisticated metals. Typical jobbing and prototype castings, ranging from 100--600,000 lb, include machine tools, air and gas compressors, turbines, pumps, valves, engine blocks and special machinery parts.

Using the Meehanite process to manufacture castings, the foundry was awarded Meehanite's MAC 2000 certification for casting excellence in 1991. Just recently, it received ISO 9002 certifications from AT&T, a leading accreditation registrar for the International Standards Organization (ISO).

Companies that are ISO-certified must meet a set of 20 criteria--including contract review, purchasing standards, manufacturing, quality controls and records and corrective actions. North American foundries are realizing that if they intend to do business worldwide--and with European Economic Community (EEC) counries--an accepted international quality standard is one of the key issues.

In view of this, modern casting contributor William Troland recently spoke with Larry Dine, chairman and CEO of St. Marys Foundry, Inc., to determine why this employee-owned company decided to seek ISO certification.

MODERN CASTING: Did meeting international standards require a considerable number of adjustments?

DINE: Yes. ISO standards and procedures in manufacturing require documentation every step of the way--from raw materials to finished castings. In the past, if there was a problem, patching things over from one problem to the next was a way of life, but now our quality manual is fully documented. Of course, one advantage was that we had most quality controls in place. But now, we have a fully documented quality system that is well planned and thought out.

MODERN CASTING: Since ISO 9002 focuses on process control, how did you approach its implementation?

DINE: The quality initiative has to start at the top. We had to recognize that there was need for change and then embark on an all-out drive to meet ISO standards. Quality is everyone's responsibility at St. Marys, from the CEO to secretaries. We started by creating an internal audit system to assure quality conformance.

MODERN CASTING: How did you sell the idea that quality is everyone's problem?

DINE: This was not a difficult task--customers will not accept poor quality. Management's commitment to educate and train everyone at the foundry started the processes for a good quality program. We've always believed quality is everyone's responsibility, so it has been more a matter of reinforcing that position.

For instance, we've always accepted the fact that any member of our group could insist that production be stopped if they were unhappy with any aspect of quality. This came about to some extent because we are an employee-owned company, so not only do a large number of our group metaphorically "own" the process, but they also literally do so as well. When we reformed the company in 1984, everyone was an owner, so as the company expanded and employment grew, we tried to promote this attitude with everyone as they came on board.

Our biggest problem has been to maintain our focus and we've tried various options throughout the last nine years. It's the old saying, "You know that the struggle to get there is often easier than maintaining the level of performance."

Look at professional athletics, for instance. How often does a football team win the Super Bowl two seasons in a row? So, in some ways, presenting a new challenge is very helpful.

To use our football metaphor, it's a good idea to move the goal posts and, in our case, try to narrow the posts. This is why the ISO 9000 program was helpful. It will keep our focus on the management of the quality systems, and the MAC 2000 program helps to keep us focused on continuous improvement and technology development.

MODERN CASTING: Did you meet a lot of resistance? Did employees feel they were being asked to do too much? Frustrated by paperwork?

DINE: In the beginning, yes, they were all problems. But once everyone realized that we were committed to this program, and with the proper training, everything fell into place. Remember, too, that paperwork is time consuming to start with, but once the procedures are formulated and written, then the paperwork not only becomes less, but, the procedures it governs become routine.

MODERN CASTING: How many of the manufacturing procedures had actually been written out as required by ISO? Did your employees know their jobs? Were they able to describe it and document it exactly?

DINE: Because we had already documented our processes through other quality programs, converting it to the ISO format wasn't a major problem. Our people in each department wrote their own processes and this is most important to make this program work. We want our people to feel that they "own" their own processes.

MODERN CASTING: How long have you been working on meeting ISO standards?

DINE: We received the MAC 2000 award in September 1991, and within a month after that we started working towards the ISO certification. We were then audited for ISO in January, as a consequence of which we received our certification.

MODERN CASTING: How do you ensure that quality processes remain consistent--not just a passing fad?

DINE: We developed a very aggressive internal auditing system, which is an absolute necessity. Further to this, it is our belief that we must try to improve--not just stand still. We feel that as long as we can keep focused on improving that we can maintain our standards and, hopefully, actually improve as well. As long as we actively keep looking for better ways and better products, the net result must be to improve, and we will avoid any sense of complacency.

MODERN CASTING: It may be too early, but have you seen "bottom line" results as yet, or improvements, in how the company operates?

DINE: We certainly have in scrap reduction--both in plant rejects and customer returns. Also, with consistently good materials and a well-trained work force, we have improved our productivity considerably.

ISO 9001 Certification: Was It Worth It?

In December 1992, Georgia Iron Works (GIW) in Grovetown, Georgia, became the first slurry pump manufacturer--as well as the first white-iron foundry--to earn ISO 9001 certification in the U.S.

ISO 9001 ranks highest among the four ISO 9000 series designations for quality assurance. ISO 9001 certification documents world-class quality standards in design, development, production and installation, as well as service.

"You hear talk about ISO 9001 certification every day," said Billy Thompson, GIW vice president of logistics and quality assurance. "You hear how it disrupts production, interferes with sales and escalates costs. What you may not hear is what it does within the ranks."

For GIW, the goal of ISO 9001 certification became the stimulus for individual pride in the team. "Every individual focused on details that would assure ISO conformance," Thompson said. "Rather than dwell on inherent obstacles, the team sought solutions."

In doing so, the workers have seen procedures documented, equipment improved and housekeeping prioritized. Generally, he said, ISO 9001 compliance improved the overall work environment.

The foundry earned its ISO 9001 certification from Lloyd's Registrars. But not before extensive quality systems were perfected through the process reviews that spanned two years.

Not Without Problems

Thompson said ISO certification requires that you apply for assessment by an ISO-approved firm. He said this collective body reviews your quality systems manual and quality-intensive audits are conducted for verification with surveillance audits performed every six months after certification.

ISO certification can take three or four years for conformance. "We earned ISO 9001 designation in 18 months. The standards test every system at every level," Thompson said. "We ran into complications in design control, process control, document control, purchasing and corrective action."

In preparation for quality conformance, GIW ran into procedural conflicts. "We started with one set of procedures for both plants," he said. "We realized, however, that all procedures had to be modified to accommodate the differences in production facilities and product lines produced at each location." These concerns were addressed with a central location where procedures manuals were typed, distributed and controlled.

Every measuring instrument required calibration. "We found that none of our test measuring equipment was routinely calibrated with proper documentation," Thompson said. "We were taking a lot of measurements but truly didn't realize what we were measuring."

The result: GIW inventoried equipment, hired independent agencies to assist with calibrations, and purchased new equipment, while making the quality control department responsible for the total calibration program. In addition, a new computerized system was developed to track calibration information for all measuring devices.

There was even frustration with internal communications. Not every level knew what was required for ISO certification. "The first progress reviews lacked cohesion," Thompson stated. "But six months before the final review, management geared up to support the effort by implementing total quality management principles throughout the company."

Extends Beyond the Plant

GIW's ongoing, four-year TQM effort represents a major commitment to quality in time and resources. Every employee is enrolled in a formal, on-the-job TQM training course that centers on quality, team building and leadership.

Was the effort worth it?

"No doubt about it," Thompson said. "With ISO certification, GIW has become the first ISO 9001 certified slurry pump manufacturer and white-iron foundry in America. For customers, that means on-time delivery, quality products and continuous improvements. For us, it means an edge on competitors. Whatever that takes, it's worth it."
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related article; St. Marys Foundry Inc.
Author:Troland, William W.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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