ISO Certification, is it worth it?
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    Lightbulb ISO Certification, is it worth it?

    Our company is looking to get ISO certified this year. I'm part of 3 management personnel and we'd like to take the company to the next level by becoming ISO certified. We are a small family owned company with 13 total employees.

    If you are certified, did you see substantial growth in work? Or is it just a "label" to make the business look good? I've run into companies that are ISO certified that fail customer audits based on the ISO standard. We've passed all of our customer audits, which is why we question whether becoming certified is worth the expense.

    Suggestions?

    Industry: Machining components for O&G, Mining, Natural Gas, Electrical Plants

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    Unless your existing/prospective customers require ISO 9001 certification as a mandatory check-off item in vendor qualification, you probably will not see any particular impact on growth. In some industries (e.g., aerospace) this is more likely than others.

    ISO 9001 is all about process. Documenting your processes, and following your processes. ISO does not mandate any particular process, only that you write them down and consistently follow what you've written down. If you think your operations are already pretty consistent, you've got most of the internal benefit from ISO 9001 already, without any of the expense. And 3rd party certification is a non-trivial recurring cost.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spinelli View Post
    We are a small family owned company with 13 total employees.

    Industry: Machining components for O&G, Mining, Natural Gas, Electrical Plants
    13 people in a machining company is pretty big nowadays. With cnc, that's a lot of parts out the door in a month.
    With your market sector i am amazed that you get work without ISO.
    For me, it opened a lot of doors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by barbter View Post
    13 people in a machining company is pretty big nowadays. With cnc, that's a lot of parts out the door in a month.
    With your market sector i am amazed that you get work without ISO.
    For me, it opened a lot of doors.
    We got accredited in 2011. It was critical for us.

    From what I read on here, I am not sure it carries the same weight in the US.

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    We do follow the ISO standard internally and have all of our processes documented. We've been told by auditors to just go ahead and get certified since we have been able to pass all of our audits with very few and minor finds. I'm going to be presenting the pros and cons to my bosses (the owners) next week. So thank you for your input.

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    Quote Originally Posted by barbter View Post
    13 people in a machining company is pretty big nowadays. With cnc, that's a lot of parts out the door in a month.
    With your market sector i am amazed that you get work without ISO.
    For me, it opened a lot of doors.

    We do push out large volume out the door every month. Out of the 13 employees only 5 are machinists, so we're still fairly small for shop standards in our area. We are considered ISO compliant and have been audited by all of our major customers, and passed those audits. However, we are aware that being able to provide an ISO cert carries a lot of weight, so hopefully I'm able to get the approval to move on getting certified.

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    Quote Originally Posted by spinelli View Post
    Our company is looking to get ISO certified this year. I'm part of 3 management personnel and we'd like to take the company to the next level by becoming ISO certified. We are a small family owned company with 13 total employees.

    If you are certified, did you see substantial growth in work? Or is it just a "label" to make the business look good? I've run into companies that are ISO certified that fail customer audits based on the ISO standard. We've passed all of our customer audits, which is why we question whether becoming certified is worth the expense.

    Suggestions?

    Industry: Machining components for O&G, Mining, Natural Gas, Electrical Plants
    It's very simple. The only question you need to ask yourself is "Will it bring in enough extra orders to cover what it'll cost?".

    In my experience the most negative thing about ISO and certification is that it tends to take away initiative. Changing things (Corrective Action), even for the better, can be a hassle.

    It has always surprised me but even with a certificate you'll still be audited by your customers. Heaven only knows why but that doesn't change.

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    There are two possible areas it would add value, internal and external. External is obvious, how does your target market value it? Internal would I think more depend on whether its project type work (one of's) or volume steady manufacturing. I suppose the answer one of those BSG's quadrant things, one axis highly valued by customer/not valued by customer and the other low volume project work/high volume production. Probably needs a third axis, one guy or 500 employees....the larger the organization, the more process and procedures need to be formalized. ISO is just a discipline to help bring that about

    High value to customers and high volume production is go for it, not valued and project work is a don't. The other two are your call

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mcgyver View Post
    There are two possible ares it would add value, internal and external. External is obvious, how does your target market value it? Internal would I think more depend on whether its project type work (one of's) or volume steady manufacturing. I suppose the answer one of those BSG's quadrant things, one axis highly valued by customer/not valued by customer and the other low volume project work/high volume production. Probably needs a third axis, one guy or 500 employees....the larger the organization, the more process and procedures need to be formalized. ISO is just a discipline to help bring that about

    High value to customers and high volume production is go for it, not valued and project work is a don't. The other two are your call
    The only thing is, the question isn't "should we adopt the ISO process standard?" It is "Should we jump through the hoops to get certified when we already follow the standard and our customers have verified this?"

    If I were you, I'd be leaning no at the moment, unless you have some prospective customers whom you've dealt with but can't get bids or orders from because of the non-certified status of your ISO-compliant system. I am also at a relatively small family business, but we got certified years ago (due to automotive industry). First it was a suggestion, then it was "points off" on your supplier evaluation, then it became a straight-up requirement. It's up to you to determine when in that progression it becomes worthwhile to take the plunge. If all of your customers are still in the "suggestion" stage, you might wait a little longer, or try to make yourself look good by jumping right in. Only you know your customer base well enough to determine if it will help or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BoxcarPete View Post
    The only thing is, the question isn't "should we adopt the ISO process standard?" It is "Should we jump through the hoops to get certified when we already follow the standard and our customers have verified this?"

    If I were you, I'd be leaning no at the moment, unless you have some prospective customers whom you've dealt with but can't get bids or orders from because of the non-certified status of your ISO-compliant system. I am also at a relatively small family business, but we got certified years ago (due to automotive industry). First it was a suggestion, then it was "points off" on your supplier evaluation, then it became a straight-up requirement. It's up to you to determine when in that progression it becomes worthwhile to take the plunge. If all of your customers are still in the "suggestion" stage, you might wait a little longer, or try to make yourself look good by jumping right in. Only you know your customer base well enough to determine if it will help or not.
    That's exactly why we're even questioning it. Our current customers don't require us to be certified and most we've been doing business with for a decade or more. The owners are investing in upgrading machines and the facility, and say if the customer doesn't require us to, why do it? They figure the customer will be more satisfied with more capacity/better quality vs a certificate saying we do what we already do.

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    If you don't do it that doesn't stop you working towards it and then when you do need it you will be ready.

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    I vote "no" for two reasons:

    1. Sounds like your business is doing well enough without it unless there's proven growth available if you go the cert route (that you want), and none that can be obtained without it. If you're compliant, then getting cerfified in the future (if it becomes absolutely necessary) shouldn't be an issue.

    2. If there's anything easily fixable that should be done to help small businesses, it's the elimination of QMS as a requirement to doing business (which exists within certain industries and/or customers). While the current model had good intentions, there's almost no correlation between making good parts and having a QMS (whether certified or just compliant). The current model just makes jobs for consultants. A much better model would be a self-implemented/certified and more universal standard that would be easily "verified" by interaction with your customers and suppliers (i.e. it would be obvious if you were cheating). But that would eliminate income for all those in the certification industry. The current system is just a burned to current businesses and obstacle to new ones.

    The Dude

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    Also, there are some companies (and I worked for one, MAJOR electronics supplier, not Foxconn, but close ) and we had a clause or what have you that allowed us to do business with companies that were "working towards ISO certification". You might consider pursuing that route before actually spending the money to do it...

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    Most answers to "Is it worth it" have addresses "whats the benefit", but really to answer the question also needs to ask "whats the cost". If it was a nickel, its a no brainer, but its not and the costs can be substantial (I have little experience with it, just heard lots of whining)

    I would think costs could vary widely, nature of business and processes, size of business and so on. And there's third party costs as well as time of management and staff. There is the ongoing time to support more paperwork/admin and recurring 3rd party costs. Anyone have some ideas on the cost for a small business like this to implement and maintain it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mcgyver View Post
    Most answers to "Is it worth it" have addresses "whats the benefit", but really to answer the question also needs to ask "whats the cost". If it was a nickel, its a no brainer, but its not and the costs can be substantial (I have little experience with it, just heard lots of whining)

    I would think costs could vary widely, nature of business and processes, size of business and so on. And there's third party costs as well as time of management and staff. There is the ongoing time to support more paperwork/admin and recurring 3rd party costs. Anyone have some ideas on the cost for a small business like this to implement and maintain it?
    I have had years of experience with it. The "up front" cost is easy to find out. Just ask 1 or 2 of those that certify to give a price.

    What is as good as never mentioned is how much it all costs "behind the scene".

    1. The time and effort used to become certified.
    2. The time and cost used after certification to stay certified.
    3. Time often wasted by following procedures that weren't thought out as well as they should have been when written.

    Perhaps the most ludicrous of all is that the companies that audit you will continue to do so after certification. Only this time they'll have all your procedures to lift every stone.

    My advice? Avoid if you can as it won't make what you do better, just a bit more troublesome. A company I knew well here became certified because their biggest customer "insisted". A few years later went bankrupt. Cost 150 their job and very much to their surprise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon B. Clarke View Post
    ......
    My advice? Avoid if you can as it won't make what you do better, just a bit more troublesome. A company I knew well here became certified because their biggest customer "insisted". A few years later went bankrupt. Cost 150 their job and very much to their surprise.
    Was this bankruptcy due to the cost of becoming and staying certified or something else?
    This cost, while substantial to a 5 man shop will not sink a 150 man shop.
    Bob

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarbideBob View Post
    Was this bankruptcy due to the cost of becoming and staying certified or something else?
    This cost, while substantial to a 5 man shop will not sink a 150 man shop.
    Bob
    Good question. It was probably a mixture of several things. Their main customers were in the wind turbine industry and that is a major industry in Denmark.

    Sometimes things go well in that industry and at times slow down so it'll be a question of how much is put aside for the "slow" times.

    As I already mentioned only one customer "insisted" so it is open to discussion if the cost of certification was worth what that customer was worth. Again it's often that following procedures make things just a bit more expensive than they were so one thing with another adds up.

    Do customers pay more to a supplier just because they are certified? If so it's news to me.

    I can't give an exact account of what happened and why but certification didn't help. There aren't many customers or suppliers for the parts to these giant wind turbines.

    YouTube

    YouTube

    All information on the company I referred to, and I can't find much, is in Danish.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    I vote "no" for two reasons:

    1. Sounds like your business is doing well enough without it unless there's proven growth available if you go the cert route (that you want), and none that can be obtained without it. If you're compliant, then getting cerfified in the future (if it becomes absolutely necessary) shouldn't be an issue.

    2. If there's anything easily fixable that should be done to help small businesses, it's the elimination of QMS as a requirement to doing business (which exists within certain industries and/or customers). While the current model had good intentions, there's almost no correlation between making good parts and having a QMS (whether certified or just compliant). The current model just makes jobs for consultants. A much better model would be a self-implemented/certified and more universal standard that would be easily "verified" by interaction with your customers and suppliers (i.e. it would be obvious if you were cheating). But that would eliminate income for all those in the certification industry. The current system is just a burned to current businesses and obstacle to new ones.

    The Dude
    I can only talk for this side of the pond but ISO isn't going away and the longer you leave it, the less opportunities you will have.
    The vast majority of Tier 1 and 2 companies in the UK now want it as a mandate. And the vast majority of Aerospace manufacturers are flowing-down their supply chain to be AS compliant.
    You won't do business with them if you don't have it - simple as that.
    I was a 2 man shop and had to get it (late 2000's) because 2 of our major customers (Aerospace OEMS) both mandated it within a month of eachother.
    They had previously audited us and were more than happy with the system, and gave me 6 months to be "ISO ready" (manual fully compliant and ISO audit date booked).
    You have to remember, the VAST majority of QA managers are lazy fuks and don't want to get off their backsides to go do an audit.
    They want a bit of paper that says it's someone else's responsibility and just tick their audit supplier "box".

    An ISO auditor once told me that the best manual was a one page, then when you compromise it's a two page and so-on. The larger you make it, the more people won't read it.
    He also said you have to be specifically non-specific ie, (for example) if you sign job trackers, just say they are signed in ink.
    If you say black ink and someone signs with blue, it's an audit fail.

    Afterall, there is only 8 (?) mandates to comply with. You do not need 200 page bibles (I worked at a place once that had that) which underlines the auditors advice of keeping it small and therefore controllable.

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    Im kinda big beliver in some kinda written procedure for any multi person environment, makes things simpler to bring new people on board, clearer and stuff like solid change controls also really reduces fuck ups. Hence i suppose im in the work towards it management wise, weather its worth getting it officially is a different question and really depends on the opportunities it may bring. But haveing some solid process controls and such in place and any new ones your adding making them suitable or easily up-gradable as such to ISO down the road is probably a smart move.

    That said, going full blown on it bumps costs and with out a customer need to fill it just makes you less competitive do to higher costs. The spend may well get a far better return if spent on upgrading existing tooling or fixing some current bottle necks. Adding more management is generally only a cost, too much management and productivity and more so profit suffers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by barbter View Post
    I can only talk for this side of the pond but ISO isn't going away and the longer you leave it, the less opportunities you will have.
    The vast majority of Tier 1 and 2 companies in the UK now want it as a mandate. And the vast majority of Aerospace manufacturers are flowing-down their supply chain to be AS compliant.
    You won't do business with them if you don't have it - simple as that.
    I was a 2 man shop and had to get it (late 2000's) because 2 of our major customers (Aerospace OEMS) both mandated it within a month of eachother.
    They had previously audited us and were more than happy with the system, and gave me 6 months to be "ISO ready" (manual fully compliant and ISO audit date booked).
    You have to remember, the VAST majority of QA managers are lazy fuks and don't want to get off their backsides to go do an audit.
    They want a bit of paper that says it's someone else's responsibility and just tick their audit supplier "box".

    An ISO auditor once told me that the best manual was a one page, then when you compromise it's a two page and so-on. The larger you make it, the more people won't read it.
    He also said you have to be specifically non-specific ie, (for example) if you sign job trackers, just say they are signed in ink.
    If you say black ink and someone signs with blue, it's an audit fail.

    Afterall, there is only 8 (?) mandates to comply with. You do not need 200 page bibles (I worked at a place once that had that) which underlines the auditors advice of keeping it small and therefore controllable.

    We currently have a 32 page manual for our company. I educated myself about the ISO standard using the internet, asking other quality personnel from other organizations, and other shops our size. I've been told that our manual is too detailed. For now it works well for us due to our size, but as we grow we are advised to reduce the manual to max 10 pages. I'm going to take a class on the new standard (2015) to see what I can cut out. It's been a bit challenging since everything i've learned has been self taught, so I have to wait to find the right person that's willing to share knowledge.

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