Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 5, Number 6
Dec 1992

ISO Quality Standards in the World of Papermaking

Our knowledge of what quality is and how to achieve it is much better now than it was even 20 or 30 years ago. We now know that setting up inspection stations, or even appointing a quality control officer, will not by itself assure that quality goals are met. Quality involves every aspect of the company, and requires it to examine the needs of the customer (including "customers" that are other parts of the same company) continually and closely because this is the spur that leads to excellence

National and international quality programs, including seals, standards and awards, have sprung up in recent years to monitor and reward quality in companies All of them are voluntary, rather than required by legislation or regulation. We can expect to see more of them in the future, because they look like winners: even the companies that are going to the expense and taking the time to qualify are often enchanted by the way that the program increases profits, efficiency and flexibility. In time, dare we hope that they will be implemented in institutions and government agencies as well?

One of the most comprehensive and widely accepted is the ISO 9000 series of five quality standards, first published in 1987. They cover product design, manufacturing, inspection, testing, service, and other functions of suppliers, and may later cover safety as well. They are constantly being improved and made more broadly applicable. American companies, especially those that plan to export to Europe, will have to meet one of the standards in that series, if they want to compete on an equal basis with European companies, because the customers are demanding it.

This country is behind Europe in adopting the ISO 9000 series, but demand is growing here too. The big three auto makers, for example, agreed in March to use the ISO 9000 series as a foundation for a single combined quality system, an unprecedented move. The standards are now used in large and small companies, not only in the U.S. and Europe, but in over 55 countries around the world.

So far, in this country, the fine paper mills have not been rushing to achieve certification under ISO 9000, but they have been pressuring their suppliers to do so. A few pulp mills and mills making board and technical papers have been certified, and Beckett Paper in Hamilton, Ohio (a fine paper manufacturer in the International Paper family) is working toward certification. Eastman Kodak was certified under ISO 9002 for its "black and white sensitized paper for photographic and other purposes," which it makes for itself.

At the TAPPI Process and Product Quality Division conference last October, on the theme of quality, there were papers on a number of quality systems and programs, including the Malcolm Baldrige Award, ASTM standards and the Collaborative Reference Program (for accuracy of lab tests), but most of the papers were on the ISO 9000 standards. Some of the comments made at a "how-to" round table discussion were the following:

First get the CEO on your side and generating enthusiasm in everyone else.

BSI [British Standards Institute] publishes a buyers' guide with names of suppliers implementing ISO 9000 standards.

ISO 9000 is a nice cash generator--it makes processes work smoother.

[Comment from the audience:] If you have a quality system you're continually making changes in your product. [Panel member:] You don't always have to notify the customer of changes; you may be sure it's better now. But if you don't know you're not going to cause a problem, it is best to notify them.

We were surprised to see that our inventory went down to half of what it had been. We had no more problems with delivery.

The customer would ask, as usual, about our quality system. All we had to do was say 'We qualified for ISO 9000 " and they would immediately would go on to the next topic.

[Coverage of mill safety] is implicit in the statement that you will be meeting all legal requirements.

Auditors [agents of the registrar; they guide the company or mill through the process] will point out to you if they see you're not providing a suitable [safe] work environment.

The most common reasons for failure are that the documentation doesn't meet requirements; you may be documenting the wrong thing, or you may not be doing what the documentation says. Your guidelines may be obsolete. Corrective actions and internal audits tend to be weak.

Question: Do you see any change in audits from your customers? Answer: As time went on, we spent less time talking with them about calibration and more about how we could satisfy their needs better.

Labs can be certified too.

Only 16 of 35 registrars in the U.S. are accredited. Only go to accredited registrars. Ask for a copy of their accreditation.

Make sure the certification company builds an audit team that's appropriate to your organization.

The standard doesn't require your subcontractors to qualify. You have to decide what you want from them.

Internal audits push conformance to the company or department manual to 90%--not the 50% you get when you just introduce a manual.

We set up a quality council and asked for the best people for the job, not the character who has all the free time. Management was on our side. It worked real well.

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