SEBRING, Ohio—The calendered goods operation of Salem-Republic Rubber Co. has received ISO 9001:2015 certification for quality management systems.
It's a process company management said started a couple of years ago when certain calendered goods customers began telling the Sebring-based rubber products maker that it had to meet the standard if it wanted to win future business, and not lose any of its current business, according to James Grossi, vice president of engineering.
Its calendered goods are sold into such end markets as expansion joints; seals; diaphragms; automotive, aerospace and nuclear products; automotive power generation segments; catalytic converters in big power applications; and truck lining.
"We embarked on the journey and knew there would be a lot of changes," he said. "It was a complete overhaul of our current quality management system."
The standard provides a set of uniform requirements for a quality management system and is based on such principles as a strong customer focus, support of top management, the process approach and continuous improvement. As a manufacturing operation, Salem-Republic said receiving the certification gives it:
- The ability to work in industry segments that require or expect certification;
- A focus on customer satisfaction with performance objectives aligned to customer expectations; and
- Greater tractability and enhanced discipline within its manufacturing process.
Drew Ney, Salem-Republic president and CEO, said the rubber product maker—large diameter, custom-built hose is its top product line—always has had a quality program, but having the conciseness of ISO overlaid on its existing concepts is something that was needed and is taken seriously.
"It's a top-down process, where there is a buy-in at every level of the organization," he said. "That's part of their certification process. You have to get every member of the executive operation and management and the operator-level supervisors to participate to get certified.
"The consciousness was raised, and I think for the most part it was voluntary," he quipped.
Ney added the certification especially is necessary in an environment like Salem-Republic, where the firm is dealing with inventory that involves organic, age-sensitive materials, making inventory management a challenge. And not that customers weren't happy with the company's quality, but the certification then ties into their ISO process as well.
"There's a procedure, there's a methodology and there's a course of action for every possible contingency as it pertains to quality," he said. "When there are issues, when there is damage, when there's bad material, you have a methodology for addressing it."
Grossi said it definitely provided more structure throughout Salem-Republic's organization. While the old quality system would have "boots-on-the-ground-type documents," ISO is more procedural, documenting the process as management meets and discusses the operations as a management team. "We're going to spend more time doing paperwork, but at the same time that paperwork ensures we're dotting the I's and crossing the T's that we weren't in the past," he said.
Ney said the process of becoming ISO certified was too expensive 10-15 years ago when the firm first looked at it, but it has become more accessible as more companies have seen the need for it.
"The price point became reachable for us," he said. "It wasn't cheap. It's expensive because it involves a lot of time and an ongoing investment of resources. I consider it a value. I consider it not only necessary but desirable."
Another sales tool
James Dunchuck, Salem-Republic vice president of sales and marketing, said upon receiving the final certification this past summer, he visited a couple of customers immediately that were telling them ISO was important. "We are now perceived as meeting their requirements for their ISO interface with us," he said. "Most of our calendered customers are ISO certified. It's a sense of relief, but more a sense of acceptance of our process being compatible with their process, and the rest just flows from that."
It also gives them another tool to attract new business, according to Dunchuck.
"As sales folks, when you approach new customers or new opportunities, you try to see what's important to them," he said. "When the folks want to lead with quality being important, I can put that on the table. It won't be the exclusive tool we use because we want to go back toward working toward what's most important to the customer. But you can bet if they show that as being important, we certainly will be quick to respond with our certification."