Making the Move toward ISO 9000 Registration
By LISA A. COLEMAN
Total Quality Management (TQM) is nothing new. In fact, it`s hard to find a company that doesn`t apply TQM systems. However, more and more companies are pushing their in-place quality systems a step further and registering for ISO 9000 certification. Many cleanroom suppliers are capitalizing on this trend to meet customer demands and to compete in potential markets. Currently, there are 4,700 companies registered to ISO 9000 in the United States, according to The ISO 9000 Registered Company Directory published by CEEM Information Services (Fairfax, VA), and of that number, over 60 percent are clearly major users of contamination control equipment–in the electronic and electrical equipment, chemicals, industrial and computer machinery, and measuring, analyzing and controlling equipment industries.
ISO 9000 is an internationally recognized family of specifications for quality assurance and receiving certification to one of its five levels implies that a company`s systems–from delivering product to accepting a purchase order–are consistent. The most comprehensive level is ISO 9001 covering design and document control as well as other aspects of manufacturing and distribution. The standard requires an initial audit by a third-party accredited auditor, and once a company is registered, follow-up audits are completed twice a year at minimum.
The main reason cleanroom suppliers are seeking ISO 9000 registration is to satisfy their customers. “Our customers had definitely expressed a desire that we pursue registration,” says Parag Desai, corporate quality assurance manager at FSI International (Minneapolis, MN). FSI, a manufacturer of surface conditioning equipment for silicon wafer processing, received its registration in October 1994, says Desai. “We viewed ISO as an effort towards achieving world class quality,” says Desai.
Camcar Textron`s Decorah Operations (Decorah, IA) has also recently received its ISO 9001 registration. “IBM and Hewlett Packard weren`t demanding it, but they were asking about it [registration],” says Ralph Milligan, division manager at Camcar Textron. “When they moved offshore into Europe and the Pacific Rim we needed to get registration to compete with suppliers over there.”
For semiconductor-fab suppliers, customer requirements and specifications are not well defined and ISO 9000 has offered them an opportunity to define procedures. “We establish new technologies for the world, so our challenge is how do we use the ISO procedures to fit our specific situation?” asks Desai. ISO 9000 is also a passport for companies that want to sell their products in Europe. Basic Measuring Instruments (BMI–Santa Clara, CA) received registration in late October 1994 for that very reason. “Our international customers were asking for it,” says Jennifer McVeigh, BMI marketing specialist. “We want to show our customers that what we say in our specs is what we deliver and that`s exactly what the ISO 9000 registration ensures.” After 1995, any company that wants to sell electronic products in Europe will require ISO 9000 registration.
ISO also assures that all of a company`s employees at the registration site will be thoroughly familiar with the quality efforts. “It lets employees have a specific approach to their jobs. We wanted to get as many people involved as possible so that we would have our own system and we would be able to perpetuate it,” says Linda Ritter, quality engineer, at Rodel (Newark, DE). Rodel provides high-precision, surface finishing products for the semiconductor industry. Rodel received registration to ISO 9001 in the fall of 1994 and was granted registration to ISO 9002 in December 1993.
Prior to receiving ISO registration, Rodel was using Motorola`s Quality Systems Review (QSR). The QSR is a survey that Motorola uses to audit its suppliers. Although Rodel`s customers didn`t ask for ISO certification, Rodel had been anticipating a move in the ISO 9000 direction and after working with the QSR, it decided to pursue ISO registration. “We wanted to be the first in our industry to do it,” says Ritter.
Another company that had a quality system in place prior to moving toward ISO registration is Praxair (Danbury, CT). Praxair received its ISO 9002 registration in September 1994. The registration covers 54 bulk-gas operating sites, 12 customer service centers, distribution facilities including its North American Logistics Center, plant operations center and two pipeline control centers and more than 250 on-site air separation plants. Praxair began getting ready for ISO registration in late 1992 and spent about two years working for compliance by performing internal audits.
Praxair`s decision to go after ISO registration was due to customers who were requiring the quality standard. This is Praxair`s third ISO registration. About three years ago, Praxair`s rare gases plant received certification to ISO and then its helium operations followed suit. “Those two operations areas were transporting overseas and were driven by the global market,” says Greg Corson, national quality assurance manager for operations at Praxair.
Corson recommends that companies interesting in pursuing ISO registration should educate themselves with the accreditation process of the registrar. “You should have an upfront understanding of what your scope is and what you`re trying to registrar and how your business operates before you select your register,” says Corson.
ISO Registration is becoming a trend not only among cleanroom suppliers but also with several other industries. ISO has become a building block for quality systems. “I believe that ISO isn`t something extra. It`s really what you should be doing for a quality system,” says Rodel`s Ritter. n
Registration for the ISO 9000 quality standard has shown steady growth for the past two years. This trend has also captured cleanroom
suppliers, who are also working towards registration.