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How we got ISO 9001 accreditation

David Anderson is systems administrator at Island Steel, a family-run steel-processing company based in Newport, south Wales. The business, formed in 1994 and employing some 50 people, is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001-certified. David was responsible for overseeing the implementation of both standards.

In 2000, when the company had been in business for around five years, we decided we could benefit from ISO 9001 (quality assurance) accreditation.

A lot of our customers come from the automotive industry. For obvious reasons, customers within this sector are often very picky about the steel they use. For this reason, all of the steel we use also complies with relevant British Standards.

Quote�We decided it was better to bring a consultant in.�End Quote

When a business establishes a quality management system that complies with ISO 9001, the business has an audit trail that shows where a part came from and where it went. This makes the part traceable should anything go wrong.

When we bought ISO 9001 we considered implementing the whole thing ourselves, but in the end we decided that as a small company it would be better to bring in a consultant to work alongside us.

Get to grips

When the hard copy of both standards arrived I was put in charge of reading through them and establishing what we needed to do. Our managing director also took the information home for a weekend to get to grips with it. I think it's important for a few people in the business to know what the standard is about - right down to the finest detail.

Although the consultant helped with the implementation of both standards, we didn't make the mistake some firms do - which is to sit back and let them do all the work. We had to put some effort in.

Quote�It's important for a few people in the business to know what the standard is about - right down to the finest detail.�End Quote

When I was reading through each standard, I bought a few books to help me to understand them. I also looked on the Internet for additional information. With ISO 14001 (environmental management), I found that there was lots of information available. The Environment Agency, for example, has good information on its website, while BSI was very helpful too.

Once I knew what I had to do, I set about writing quality-management policies and procedures for my company. I was given a framework to follow by our consultant, but all of the information that went into it was about Island Steel - which made it specific to our needs.

I know some companies rush into complying with a standard, only to lose their certification the next time they are audited. This is because they do not understand the standard and its requirements because they have allowed the consultant to do everything. I would recommend using a consultant though. Often they are able to spot things you can't see.

What next?

Is your company, like Island Steel, based in Wales? Business Eye can help your business free of charge and put you in touch with support from private, public and voluntary sectors.

David Anderson was speaking to Vicki Taylor.

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