Perhaps like you, I had long associated ISO-9001 with manufacturing companies. As a young engineer in the early 1990’s, I would notice large “ISO-9001 Certified” banners hanging from the rafters of our manufacturing clients, both those who produced end products as well as those in the supply chain. ISO seemed to be focused on inspection and documentation; the testing of a final product to ensure they met specifications and processes documented in binders that filled bookcases along the wall of the quality department.
Working for a consulting engineering & control system integration firm, I didn’t see how ISO was a match for service companies. I was wrong! The old way of thinking that ISO certification is primarily for manufacturing companies is no longer valid. The most recent standard includes several changes that are very relevant for every type of organization, including service companies. The 2015 edition uses the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle across the organization and focuses on performance, ensuring customers receive high quality products AND services.
We were fortunate to learn from the experiences of others in our industry who are ISO certified. ISO certification brings great value to professional service companies. Hallam-ICS is now ISO-9001 certified and our clients are receiving the benefits of improved technical deliverables and customer service.
Our journey to ISO Certification began a little over a year ago, when Hallam-ICS invited a guest speaker from a prominent Architecture & Engineering (A/E) firm in Boston to our quarterly Board of Directors meeting to share her thoughts on Quality Management Systems (QMS). Her firm was ahead of their time, becoming one of the first A/E firms in New England to become ISO-9001 certified in the mid-1990’s. She described how ISO-9001 helped them to develop a quality system that resulted in a culture of continual improvement that is focused on customer satisfaction and design excellence.
Our Board quickly, and unanimously, agreed that Hallam-ICS should pursue ISO-9001 certification. Earlier in the year, our Chairman had presented three key priorities for us to focus on in the coming three years; leadership development & succession planning, knowledge sharing, and organizational structure. ISO-9001 would help us in each of these areas. We established an aggressive goal to become certified within a year.
Our first step was to purchase the ISO-9001:2015 standard. After reading through the standard, we hired Ledge Inc to help guide us through the process of making our quality management system consistent with ISO. As we reviewed the standard, we found that a key principle of ISO-9001:2015 is to have a strong customer focus built into your business and processes. This really appealed to us as it is consistent with feedback from our clients and our long-held philosophy and that our business is 50% technical and 50% relationship.
We chose to pursue ISO Certification by individual service line rather than by our geographic office location. This made the most sense as the processes for each service line need to be consistent across all of our office locations. Arc Flash and Electrical Safety was chosen to be the first service line to become certified, followed by Engineering & Commissioning, and Control System Integration.
We then engaged senior management and technical leadership teams for multi-day work sessions led by Ledge to develop the framework for our QMS and to begin developing the critical documents including the Quality Manual, Business Context Document (BCD), Global Failure Mode & Effects Analysis (FMEA), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Work Instructions, Forms, and Logs.
Once developed, the QMS was published and all staff were trained on relevant documents and the system and procedures were followed for the balance of the year. We then completed three audits; an Internal Audit, a Stage 1 and a Stage 2 (certification) audit. Hallam-ICS successfully completed the Stage 2 audit and we are now proud to be ISO 9001 Certified!
We have already noticed improvements in our operations. While we have always had a thirst for learning and improvement, ISO has provided us with a structure to document and track our progress. As a multi-office firm (over 100 employees in 6 locations), our QMS also helps to ensure consistency in our services and deliverables to customers across the country. Like many things in life, we learn from the experiences of others. We were fortunate to learn about the impact ISO had on the A/E firm that presented at our Board meeting. We now understand firsthand how ISO can improve all aspects of a service company.
About the Author
Keith is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a BSEE and an MBA. He has been with Hallam-ICS since 1988 as an electrical engineer, manager of integration services, CFO, and CEO. He focuses the company on understanding and meeting the needs of each individual client while at the same time delivering the highest possible level of technical expertise.
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Hallam-ICS is an engineering and automation company that designs MEP systems for facilities and plants, engineers control and automation solutions, and ensures safety and regulatory compliance through arc flash studies, commissioning, and validation. Our offices are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and North Carolina and our projects take us world-wide.