When Don Smith began working as sales manager for Precision Products, Inc. in Tunnel Hill, Ga., the company primarily made high precision extrusion parts for the carpet industry. With the downturn in the economy, it was essential to diversify Precision’s customer base.
“As we started diversifying outside of the carpet industry into industries such as automotive, medical, industrial textiles, aerospace and power generation, it became obvious that we were going to have to separate ourselves from the average mom and pop machine shop,” he recalled. “Although most customers don’t demand that machine shops be ISO 9001 certified, it seemed to me that our shop was so close already with all of our process standards, procedures and organization.”
ISO 9001 is an international quality management system that certifies the application of formalized business processes. The standard takes a systematic approach to managing the organization’s processes and ensuring a consistent product that meets customer expectations. Because limited resources and lack of time are often the major challenges to implementing ISO, Smith sought assistance from Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) and a former colleague, Craig Cochran.
Cochran, a quality specialist with EI2, first began working with Rich Graham, director of operations, at Precision Products in January of 2009. He conducted a gap audit to identify areas of improvement, and helped the team develop an implementation plan. He trained the staff at Precision in quality issues and internal auditing, helped them meet project milestones and reviewed all company documentation.
“After Craig’s initial visit, we started building our database of procedures and our quality manual,” Graham said. “Craig came six or eight times over the next 10 months, each time identifying a new set of weaknesses. Late in the fall, he conducted a pre-assessment audit and had a few minor findings but said we could pass then.”
In December 2009, Precision Products received its ISO 9001 certification, 11 months after starting the entire process. In her report, the auditor noted that all of the company’s 35 employees were knowledgeable about the quality initiative and that the shop was one of the cleanest she had ever seen. The certification is especially important to Precision Products in this difficult economy.
“Having ISO has not only instilled some discipline and procedures into our plant to ensure that what we make is the same every time, but it also raises our awareness with a customer that this place is for real. ISO isn’t just a quality tool, it’s a marketing tool,” Smith noted. “What we’re really selling to our customers is machine uptime, innovation and service. They’re now getting all of those things and a quality part made in an ISO shop.”
Since 2008, Precision Products has added numerous new customers and has increased sales by 30 percent. According to Smith, the ISO certification gets Precision’s foot in the door with multinational, billion dollar companies. The company is also planning to add employees and expand the facility space in the near future.
“ISO certification was like training for a marathon; it was tough and a long way, but we were very prepared with Georgia Tech’s assistance,” said Graham. “With Craig’s preparation, there was nothing left for the auditors to find. It went very smoothly for us.”
David Davis founded Precision Products, Inc. 17 years ago to make high precision extrusion parts for the carpet industry. Today, the family-owned business makes original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts for industries as varied as textile, food and beverage, automotive, medical, aerospace, military and power generation, in addition to reverse engineering parts.
“Precision Parts worked hard to develop a concise, streamlined management system that would match their no-nonsense way of doing business. They achieved this by first determining their biggest risks, and then building controls around the management of these risks,” Cochran said. “Where there were no risks, the company relies on the experience and skills of their machinists.”
About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.
Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA
Writer: Nancy Fullbright