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Can ISO 9001 be used for machine shops?

How would a machine shop benefit from a Quality Management System based on ISO 9001:2015? Would it make sense to pursue formal certification after that? Would the benefits outweigh the costs and could enough savings be found to satisfy a cost-benefit analysis of your business? This article explains how to best use ISO 9001 for machine shops.

Why and how ISO 9001 principles can help

The ISO 9001:2015 standard was established to help organizations of any size implement a standardized QMS (Quality Management System) across any business or service sector. Despite this, many consultants and QMS managers can attest to the belief that the standard can be especially effective in some manufacturing sector businesses, where establishing lean processes and eliminating waste can bring significant and measurable results. Previously we looked at Plan-Do-Check-Act in the ISO 9001 Standard and this type of methodical cycle can also be central to driving continual improvement through the QMS performance and manufacturing output of a machine shop. Given that, let’s see what clauses of the standard – and activities we can undertake to meet them – can help justify the implementation of an ISO 9001:2015 type QMS in a machine shop.

Aligning your processes to ISO 9001 clauses

So, what specifically should we concentrate on in terms of the standard? Let us look more closely:

Clause 4: Context of the organization: Section 4.4 deals with the QMS and the associated processes. This gives your machine shop the chance to define its internal processes – preferably with input from employees, operatives and other stakeholders – to ensure they are as efficient and lean as possible. This standardization will play an important part in the future. There can be no improvement without the starting point of standardized processes.

Clause 6: Planning: Clause 6 includes actions to address risks and opportunities, and this can be a key section for your machine shop. Have you considered a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threat) analysis? This can be a standard procedure for businesses in many sectors to identify areas where a competitive advantage can be gained. Assessment of risk and opportunity can also be particularly effective for a machine shop to identify areas to improve and this can be done using a traditional “probability versus seriousness of impact” matrix. The article How to address risks and opportunities in ISO 9001:2015 can provide guidance on this.

Clause 7: Support: This clause contains several key aspects, such as competence, awareness and documented information. Have you equipped your employees with the correct competence, knowledge and training to perform well? If your machine shop processes are supported with documentation, is it clear, concise and easily translatable to ensure your employees can produce a consistent output from the process with no variation? The knowledge and data collected from your processes can also allow you to tailor a training program that can improve your business. The article How to measure training effectiveness according to ISO 9001 can help you with this issue.

Clause 8: Operation: This is a large clause and includes critical items such as operational planning and control, plus determining requirements for products and services as well as their control. In most machine shops, two issues generally tend to be the biggest cause of cost: waste material due to inaccurate planning, or “rework” time caused by repeating jobs due to similar root causes. More often than not, both of these issues can occur at the same time. This is where accurate operational planning for using the correct skilled employees and accuracy in determining product requirements can be the keys to eliminating waste and ensuring “first-time” pass.

Clause 9: Performance evaluation: Evaluating results of your QMS is one of the key foundations of determining corrective action or initiatives for improvement. There are many ways this evaluation could be done in a machine shop, but a good method is measuring material waste and “rework time” spent, and attaching a cost to it. You can then involve your internal team and decide on improvement actions; is there a training gap causing errors and rework to be required? Is there a “knowledge and awareness” gap in terms of understanding and delivering against customer requirements? Does your resource match your planned output? In a previous article named How to measure the cost of quality in line with ISO 9001 principles we looked at how to monetize and improve process non-conformances, and this can be an effective way to reduce money and save cost in your machine shop.

Can ISO 9001 be used for machine shops?

Using your ISO 9001 QMS to improve your machine shop results

Standardizing processes, measuring waste and ensuring that you act to improve is just one of the staple methods to save money and justify the establishment of a 9001:2015 compliant QMS. Improving product or service and quality is also a great benefit. Extra business brought in by reputational enhancement and the ability to qualify for tenders with 9001 as a requirement should also strengthen the case. Previously we looked at How much does ISO 9001 implementation cost? and in your machine shop, only your organization can truly assess whether implementing and certifying against ISO 9001:2015 will be financially justifiable. In summary, the adoption of ISO 9001:2015 should allow your organization to build a more reliable level of service with your customers than competitors who do not comply to the standard, and this should provide a competitive advantage. Whatever your decision, adopting these key clauses to help your business standardize and improve can be a rewarding tactic for the management of any modern-day machine shop.

Download this free white paper How can ISO 9001 help your business grow? to learn more about how ISO 9001 can benefit your machine shop.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.