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The quality dilemma.

It was back in the early 1980s when the seeds of the quality revolution were being planted. The phone rang and it was a foundry owner who told me that one of his biggest customers was putting pressure on him to come up with a quality manual that spelled out his foundry's process and product control procedures. He wanted to know if I could help him put it together or recommend someone who could. Basically, he was looking for a writer.

When I asked how big of a document it was going to be, he replied sarcastically, "As big as they want it."

It was pretty clear that he wasn't taking this quality manual stuff too seriously. He wasn't the only one. More than a few quality control managers during that time talked quietly about their frustrations of going through the effort to develop quality and process control documents, knowing that it was almost entirely for show. They didn't believe their customers bothered reading them and they knew their own companies didn't follow the procedures. It was hard for them to champion the cause of quality when their customers and own companies only gave it lip service.

But somewhere along the line, the customer turned on the quality control manager, and high quality became as integral a link in the customer satisfaction chain as low price. Quality audits became as serious as financial audits, and opening the books meant you better have documented quality procedures to show the customer. The quality control manager had to begin sifting through the acronyms--SPC, TQM, Gage R&R and now ISO 9000. His job is no longer to control quality; his job is to guarantee it.

The latest dilemma involving the quality movement is deciding whether to participate in the ISO 9000 registration process. A panel discussion held last month at the Casting Industry Suppliers Assn. summer meeting was a clear indicator that there is no clear concensus within the U.S. metalcasting industry on the subject.

If you aren't already familiar with ISO 9000 Standards (see modern casting May, June, July, August and December 1992, as well as July, August, September 1993 or plan to attend the AFS Cast Medals Institute seminar on "Implementing ISO 9000" on Nov. 9-11), they provide the guidelines for setting up a formal, documented quality system. ISO 9000 does not set standards for individual products.

So where's the dilemma?

First and foremost, the process of preparing for an ISO 9000 audit and then undergoing the registration itself are not inexpensive. Some foundries have chosen to handle the preparatory phase themselves, while others have hired consultants to take them through the process. In either case, the outlay of resources is not insignificant.

On the other hand, where do you find a consultant who is qualified in ISO procedures, yet familiar enough with the metalcasting process to do the job needed to become registered? Which registrars are acceptable and what accrediting bodies will be mutually recognized by the various international accrediting organizations are still other questions yet to be answered.

Because the ISO 9000 guidelines are subject to review every five years, there is some fear they could change dramatically over the next few years. Where does that leave the company that is already registered?

At the same time, resentment is being expressed by others who feel their current quality systems far exceed the requirements of ISO 9000 but are being pressured by customers to participate. One example is Motorola, which has publicly expressed its disdain for the international standards. The company, which launched a major quality program in 1981, is nearing its goal of Six Sigma, which means between three and four defects for every one million units produced. The best American companies are in the Four Sigma range (or 340 defects per million). But because its customers want it, Motorola says it will participate in the ISO 9000 program.

On the other side of the debate, some foundries indicate their involvement is strictly for its "marketing value." They believe their involvement will help develop new customers while adding to their status with current customers. Others who have gone through the preparatory and preaudit phases have discovered that the benefits of thoroughly documenting and formalizing their process control and quality systems far outweigh the investment in time, effort and dollars.

Whether or not you participate in ISO 9000 is your choice. But when it comes to quality improvement, the marketplace is making the choice for you. As Paul Noakes, Motorola's vice president and director for external quality programs, said, "Quality improvement is mostly a matter of changing mindsets. It's more psychological than statistical. The biggest challenge in the U.S. today is getting corporate executives to realize the importance of quality."

ISO 9000 may provide the road map you need to set off in the direction of true quality management.
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:quality control management
Author:Kanicki, David P.
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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