During November of every year, we here at STC start feeling a little festive. An excitement fills the air, and workers throughout the plant await the arrival of a special visitor.
Yes, that’s right. It’s time for a visit from our independent auditor to verify that our quality processes continue to meet ISO standards.
Since 1999, STC has been certified every three years to ISO standards. Each May and November we welcome our auditor back for a surveillance visit to ensure that the various aspects of our manufacturing process are being performed properly. This year marks the second straight year that we’ve met the updated ISO 9001:2008 standard.
I recently visited with Angie Calkin, who serves as Vice President of Operations, to ask her about the importance of meeting ISO standards.
Q: STC, Inc. has met ISO 9001 standards since 1999 and has been recertified every three years since then. Why is this done?
A: We have some customers who either require it or would want to do their own process audits at the plant if we weren’t certified. But it’s more than that. We have other customers who don’t require that we meet ISO standards but still benefit because we do.
Q: How so?
A: When we implemented our quality system, we saw a steady decrease in both customer concerns and customer returns, and that applied to all of our customers because the same process is followed for every product and in every phase of manufacturing.
“Before we start full production on an order, we test two or three units to make sure they meet exact customer specifications. After a unit passes pre-testing, we can produce the full order. That way, we don’t complete production on an order then find out we missed a slight detail.”
Q: Have the quality processes helped make STC more efficient?
A: The ISO standards are intended to improve overall quality rather than reducing manufacturing time, but we do spend less time correcting production errors so we can factor in that aspect of it.
Q: Are there other benefits?
A: In cases where we submit our products for consideration on large projects, the customer will have a list of standards we must meet before we can be considered. For the most part, we can show the customer that we already meet their requirements—and have for many years—because their requirements are already part of our ISO quality processes.
Next, I spoke with Brad Cross, president of STC, Inc., to get his thoughts on the whole quality process.
Q: Having recently completed another ISO recertification, what are your thoughts about the importance of this event?
A: The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s a real tribute to the diligent work of our Quality Manager Angie Calkin and the rest of the staff who have taken our quality processes very seriously. They’ve recognized the importance of our quality procedures and the resulting benefits to our customers.
Q: What types of customer benefits have you noticed?
A: One big improvement that we made while implementing this process was pre-testing. Before we start full production on an order, we test two or three units to make sure they meet exact customer specifications. After a unit passes pre-testing, we can produce the full order. That way, we don’t complete production on an order then find out we missed a slight detail.
Q: Is this testing done for both electrical and mechanical specs?
A: Yes. Of course, we also perform 100 percent testing on all of our parts after production is complete—and pre-testing really helps decrease the number of errors we find at that point. A huge part of our quality improvement is the longevity and experience of our staff. If you’ve got people like Randy Kaufman [Senior Test Technician at STC], who knows exactly what to expect with each part, they’re going to recognize when something isn’t quite right, and they make sure the issue is corrected before we ship them out.