Tuesday, 28 October 2014

QUALITY CONTROL

Tick lists ... the curse of the modern age?

I don't know about you or your business, but I am sure you spend a lot of time on the constant need to verify everything over and over again to a seemingly endless variety of industry sectors, safety authorities and quality organisations ... and keep doing it every year!

And, no year seems to be as short as the twelve months between ISO audits. By the time you have analysed the auditor's report, debated the corrective actions, revised the paperwork and made the necessary adjustments, there may be time to do a couple of paying jobs between the internal quality audits, procedural reviews and document updates ... then it's time for the next annual audit.

OK, so I'm exaggerating a little ...

Nevertheless, it is true to say that maintaining a meaningful quality control system requires a lot of work. We have a small admin team at the A&E UK office, with regional responsibility for Enviropeel & Alocit sales and manufacture, imports and exports as well as logistics for a projects department which, although it is usually based in the UK, travels extensively locally as well as internationally ... usually with quite a lot of equipment, all of which has to be checked and certified.

In order to work in many industries, offshore for example, it has become mandatory in Europe to be ISO certified, so all A&E paperwork, policies and systems have to comply with our ISO audited quality system. Obviously, in order to function properly, any office has to be well organised, but a comprehensive auditing system like ISO creates a considerable administrative overhead, as the need for oversight means every action has to be recorded and filed. Together with the obligation to review and improve systems on a regular basis, it's a full time job, just keeping up with the paperwork.

Above: an artist's impression of the A&E quality management file retrieval system

And it's not just ISO ...

As well as ISO, other industry sectors require additional auditing. For the UK project team and their work in the electricity generating and transmission industry, this means Achilles

Achilles works internationally, across a wide range of industry sectors: Automotive, Construction, Oil & Gas, Transport and Utilities, providing validation of supplier management systems in key areas such as Corporate Social Responsibility / Sustainability, Health & Safety, Environment, Carbon Emissions, Factory Assessment, Quality, Business continuity and Human Resources. For A&E, the relevant sector is Achilles UVDB, the largest sector within Achilles, representing Utilities, Airports and Ports. UVDB measures suppliers against the above-mentioned criteria and then awards them a percentage score to indicate how well they are doing. Buyers can then assess individual suppliers and make choices about who they will use. At its most basic, a supplier's presence on the database gives confidence that it has the necessary capabilities to meet a customer's needs. In the UK, 6,700 suppliers are listed on the UVDB data base and UVDB auditors inspect every supplier, every year. 

For A&E in 2014, customers viewing the A&E profile will see that we did rather well. Quality manager Cathy Frost, ably assisted by Danni Scott, oversaw an improvement on 2013 with well above average results, a tribute to the hard work of both admin and projects personnel.

   MANAGEMENT SYSTEM EVALUATION
   82.5% Health and Safety Management
   86.3% Environmental Management
   100%  Quality Management

   WORK SITE EVALUATION
   90.9% Site Health and Safety Management
   93%    Site Environmental Management
   100%  Site Management

So, having described the pain, we come to the gain ... what does all this mean for A&E and its customers? 

Well, it certainly doesn't mean we never make mistakes. What it does mean, however, is that mistakes rarely happen and, if they do, we rectify the problem, modify the system so that errors are less likely to happen and continue to provide the best possible service in a less than perfect world. So customers are assured that we have the products and systems that can reliably and cost-effectively solve their problems.

Otherwise, what would be the point?

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