ISO For The Small Business
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ISO has been around long enough that everyone is aware of what can be gained by implementation of this system, yet many businesses are still reluctant to adopt this practice into their operations. There are several reasons for this, probably the number one being that it is deemed to be too costly and time consuming when compared to the perceived gains for smaller businesses to readily commit to this rigorous and detailed approach to improvement.
Designing and adopting this standard can appear intimidating when you look at all that is involved. As a small company you may feel that your limited staff and resources are not fully equipped to handle this myriad of documentation, standardization, auditing, and most of all, training that is required to create and maintain a successful ISO system. As daunting as the process may seem, with a little planning it can be much easier than you might think.
It is true that approaching ISO as a large organization normally will is quite overwhelming for a smaller company; however, you can approach this endeavor from at totally different perspective and still be successful. The usual route to ISO is to enroll in some form of structured process by registering in a class or seminar through a local college or private service. Since this approach typically follows a somewhat predetermined time frame, keeping pace can put a considerable burden on your limited resources.
ATTACK THE PROBLEM ON YOUR OWN TERMS
Purchase the standard and review it to get a thorough understanding of what is required. Outline where you are currently with your operational procedures. Compare where you are to where you need to be and outline the necessary actions that need to be addressed to meet the requirements of the standard. You can now develop a plan to address each the tasks that fits within your budget and progresses at a pace that does not overtax your workforce.
Make a commitment to methodically work toward implementation on your own. You can enroll in the accreditation programs or work through your underwriter down the road, after you have implemented all or most of the system. This approach leaves room to adapt and to achieve your goal while still remaining capable of handling your day to day manufacturing issues. The downside is that you must remain committed. It is easy to get sidetracked or buried in your daily problem solving and let your completion of ISO to go by the wayside.
BREAK THE PROCESS DOWN
Like any other large and seemingly involved problem, break it down into smaller more manageable tasks. Choose a familiar task to work on that fits into your current experience and capability. Break it down further by limiting the chosen task to a specific area of your organization. Pick one shift, one department, perhaps one work cell that you are comfortable with.
By limiting your area of implementation you increase your odds for success for several reasons. First, you will only be affecting a small portion of your facility which means expense and disruptions will be minimized. If you make mistakes their impact will not be as detrimental. You will be able to visualize not only what needs to be done, but how well you are progressing. You will be able to debug your system on the fly without having to remove the controls, etc. to keep your normal production on schedule.
Secondly, you will be able to determine exactly what is required to implement the change. Do you have the necessary data on hand? What supporting processes or documentation will be required? Is your staff capable of handling all the duties? Will additional investigation, personnel or training be required? You will be able to spread out the expenses over a longer period and allow the necessary time to train your staff.
Furthermore, as you finish a task you will gain a clearer understanding of what will be required to implement this same task into other areas. This will allow you to budget your costs and time much more accurately in the future. As you complete the required documentation and procedures you will have valuable templates that can be easily adjusted for use in other areas or for different processes.
And lastly, once your system has been debugged and implemented in one area it will be much easier to implement it in another. The entire process will also be more readily accepted by your workforce as you progress because having taken the time to get it right the first time, you will have made it easier to understand and comply in the rest of your operation.
LEARN AS YOU GO
As you progress through the standard and the different areas of your organization you be gaining the experience and confidence needed to be successful. Your technical writing skills will improve. Your team building skills will improve. Your mentoring abilities will improve. Your staff will have a deeper and broader understanding of your processes and capabilities down to the fine details. All these will improve your operations and your bottom line. Before you know it, you will be running a much more efficient, capable and reliable business.
As your processes improve so will your competitiveness in the market and you can take advantage of your new found experience to streamline your operations. You will be able to sell, estimate, produce and deliver to more accurate numbers. You will be capable of predicting trouble, discovering problems, solving issues and adapting to your needs more quickly than you could before. When the time comes to increase personnel you will have a clearer picture of the skills the potential employees need to bring with them to your company.
GET ONLY THE HELP YOU REALLY NEED
As an issue comes to light you canít readily handle, do the research or hire the help you need at that time. Attend the seminars, take the classes or hire a consultant to provide the needed help or direction. Another great source of help in this area is your insurance provider or the underwriter you propose to use when the time comes for certification. You can greatly reduce your training costs by getting the assistance as it is actually needed. Rather than pay for a broad range of advice and direction, some of which you will undoubtedly already possess, get the specific help you actually need and only as the need arises.
DECIDE IF CERTIFICATION IS RIGHT FOR YOU
As you progress through the implementation of the ISO system your understanding of what is required to achieve success will grow. Those tasks which at first seemed complicated and beyond comprehension will become clearer and attainable and suddenly you will be at a point where the system is in place and working. Now is the time to determine if you want to take that last step and actually become ISO certified.
Becoming certified offers some advantages. Certification is a way to celebrate your new found success. The inherent requirements of certification lend themselves to keeping the system in place and functioning properly. It also tells your current and prospective customers, as well as your competition, that you are a world class organization. Certification opens the door to markets that were previously closed to you. Still, certification may not be for everyone. If your products or market access are not limited by being ISO then you may decide to delay or put off certification altogether.
Whether you opt for that piece of paper or not, you will still be able to reap the benefits the ISO system provides. By taking the time to implement the ISO system on your own terms you can significantly reduce the costs of doing so and outperform that section of your competition that found ISO unnecessary or too costly. At the end of the day, the fact is, you will have made enormous strides in your organizations potential, and even though it may have taken you a bit longer, it is still better late than never.
© by James Cavalluzzi: June 05, 2007
About the Author
Mr. Cavalluzzi is the founder and owner of CONSOLUTE, LLC engineering support and consulting services providing site search, industrial, manufacturing and design engineering support. His extensive background in engineering dates back over 30 years and includes the robotics, automotive, aerospace, metals and plastics industries.
Visit them at: Consolute, LLC Ė Engineering and Consulting Services
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-07-28 11:15:48 in Business Articles