We are very happy to be ISO certified, but we must admit that ISO is really unique. Auditors are hired to review your plant’s processes and to understand the ISO process itself so it can be implemented, properly. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, but these auditors most likely do not know your business. This is not to put them down, as they are good at what they do, but it is difficult to understand the complexity of an organization and your facility, when they are only there, in the big picture of your existence, a short period of time, to monitor it. No one manufacturer is the same and no one method works best for everyone.
The trick then, is to find an educator and then an auditor, in some cases they can be both, who is familiar with the real and true process of becoming an ISO manufacturer. We decided, in the beginning, 20 years ago, to be trained in proper ISO techniques and looked to a local university for one on one classroom training. This was held in out facility over a two-year period. Since then, we were only qualified for ISO, but did not have the actual certification due to how expensive the entire process is to be audited. Eventually we found grants available to help cover those costs and we highly recommend finding grants for your area. We finally found an auditor that we really liked after years of investigation. You have to trust your auditor. You’ll know when, he or she makes sense, to you, of the ISO Standards. When they explain and you are comfortable with the reasons and explanations of the ISO requirements in your own shop or plant, then it becomes much easer and so much less confusing..
Once we learned the ins-and-outs of ISO, we knew we had to keep every process taught like a string. We knew we had to keep very concise records and keep it all in order. Luckily we used computers for this, so it was much more eco-friendly than other companies that may use pen and paper. The idea here is to have accountability. You want to be able to show prospective customers that you not only have the certification, but that you are keeping up with it.
You need to perform self-audits to make sure you are keeping up with everything. But it is also important to perform external audits to see if you have been a good vendor. Customers, more than auditors, will really tell you if you’re living up to expectations. If your auditor is up to the correct challenge, he or she will put out to your customers, not all, lets say ten, a survey about your firm. Not by happenstance that they will hopefully return the survey, but the auditor will take the initiative to call them and do the survey over the phone. Then the auditor will grade you. If your standards are within the acceptable range of ISO requirements, you pass. Now you get recertified and continue with doing the best job of traceability you can, until next year when you get audited again.
In addition to being ISO certified, we are also ARM 9009:2013 certified. We were able to obtain this certification because we were already meeting all of the specifications of ISO. We can make components that can be used for military purposes and that allowed us to get government contracts. It is very important to build a repertoire of certifications to further grow your business.