Bringing quality home

Registration to latest ISO standard has continued to evolve over the years

Every Thanksgiving, most Canadians have some sort of family tradition that involves sitting down, sharing memories and expressing gratitude for the blessings they have experienced in the last 12 months.

Jim Moran picks up the phone and makes a call—to Dave Scarlett.

Back in 1992, when Moran was experiencing a significant downturn in his training business, had received a call from Scarlett, a business owner he’d connected with earlier.

His friend had a question: had Moran ever “heard about this ISO stuff?”

Scarlett, who is now a business development manager at Davis Controls in Sarnia, had paid thousands of dollars to someone from North Bay as a first step in becoming registered to a standard established by the International Standards Organisation—commonly shortened to ISO. And would this be something Moran would be interested in pursuing?

Moran admits it was “the right call at the right time” and spent the next five years or so writing manuals for companies that were faced with an “ultimatum” from many of their customers: “If you want to do business with us, get ISO certified.”

By 1998, Moran was training auditors in addition to the writing of ISO documentation that was required in order for suppliers at various levels of a supply chain (notably the tens of thousands of suppliers to automotive manufacturers whose quality performance had previously been overseen by the manufacturers themselves).

What Moran and others had caught was a wave of change that was sweeping through not just the automotive industry but dozens of other sectors, the key reason being that having a customer adhere to a recognizable standard for performance would shift responsibility to the supplier.

“Up to that time, automakers were spending tens of millions of dollars monitoring their suppliers, auditing their performance and taking whatever corrective action that would ensure the end product—those cars and trucks they were building—was as defect-free as possible,” notes Moran.

Anyone who remembers the quality of vehicles “back in the day” will attest that there were systemic problems with that sort of quality control methodology, which was the reason for ISO being embraced in the first place.

Moran, a native of Leamington, had first earned a bachelor’s degree from Western University (then the University of Western Ontario) followed by a master’s degree in curriculum design from Central Michigan University.

He then went to work for Lambton College, where he taught business subjects (everything but accounting as Moran tells it), eventually launching his own training business in 1987.

What he found after hearing about ISO from Dave Scarlett was that the ISO methodology was a great model for any business to improve their procedures and not just those who were being forced to do so by their customers.

“The idea that the ISO system being adopted would flag problems that would occur—the ‘non-conformance’ items—then contain those problems using a predictable methodology that everyone involved could understand and rely on was really quite amazing,” said Moran.

Even better was the continuous improvement that followed the registration process.

With numerous updates to the ISO 9001 registration—the standard that applies to most companies, although there are others related to health and safety, environment and numerous other sectors—the parent organization (the International Standards Organisation) has largely embraced feedback and implemented changes that reflect technology and standards that have become commonplace.

Today, ISO 9001 is at the 2015 level (expressed as ISO 9001:2015) and as of September 15 (at 12:01 a.m.) every previous certificate expired.

That has meant a flurry of registration updates, sometimes using the skills of people like Moran, who has walked past clients and new ones through the steps required to be current.

But Moran is also taking an approach with his company—Simplify ISO (—that recognizes a common problem that hasn’t fundamentally changed in decades.

He quotes two studies—one done in 1996, another in 2016—that highlighted the common trouble spots for registrars.

Those trouble spots were document control, not closing out incidents of non-conformance (“problems”), and not completing audits in an effective way.

“The interesting thing is that those problems still haven’t been solved,” notes Moran.

He might have said “until now.”

What Moran and his group of partners have created is a custom system that is being offered by subscription, with document management at its heart.

“One of the problems faced by companies who are registered is actually finding documents, which can become a huge time waster,” he notes.

That realization lead to Simplify ISO to incorporate a search feature in the system.

There is also a form builder, making it even more useful, according to Moran.

The system integrates with mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) as well as desktop and laptops.

Moran says the offering has passed numerous independent security checks from companies that have the resources to do a “deep dive” into the platform, one of those being Teknion, a 35-year-old furniture maker with a global presence and Canadian roots.

Now based in London, Ont., Moran and his family are back as close to Sarnia-Lambton as they have been in years, having first moved to Guelph, where they spent 10 years—from 1994 to 2004.

Moran then moved to Kanata, an Ottawa suburb, largely to focus on the 65% of his business that was located there, including numerous federal government departments and suppliers to the government who were required to be ISO certified.

With a family that was growing—Jim and his wife, Bonnie Jackson, have three adult children—London beckoned, and the Moran family has been a short drive down the road for a little more than two years.

As technology continues to advance, Moran sees the system he has brought to market being an expression of how easy it has become to work with little concern over physical distance, something that those who previously had to spend much of their time travelling to clients for auditing ISO compliance have come to appreciate.

“The system actually has given auditors they ability to shorten their time at a client’s facility because they’re able to review documentation more effectively,” he said.

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