May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25
By Mara Bollettieri
Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada—Commercial resilient flooring manufacturer American Biltrite recently received perfect scores on two International Standards Organization (ISO) certifications—ISO 5001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment).
According to Jean-Pierre Benoit, general manager and vice president, the supplier achieved the benchmark level in both categories. This means the company can serve as a role model for other organizations on how to run a business, he noted. ISO measured management, internal audits, corrective actions, continuous improvement, operational controls and resources.
“Every three to four years, ISO keeps improving those standards,” Benoit said. “And for you to be measured against that, you need to be audited to compare your management process against the standard. So, let’s say you have a complaint system on quality—they will see how it works. How do you measure your quality for each of the products, and what are the criteria? Are those criteria really representing what the customer needs? How do you measure that?”
Jean-Claude Mercier, senior vice president of operations and R&D, explained ISO is challenging in that it does not come with a set of pre-established criteria. Rather, a company must come up with its own system and prove how it manages quality and environment both efficiently and successfully on its own. The best way to prove this, Mercier noted, is through the feedback of customers, a business’ toughest critic.
“Every six months, we ask customers about which criteria they think is important,” Benoit added. “If your own criteria came from your own organization, that’s certainly not the way to do it. ISO says everything starts with the customer, and then you work your way back, and you need the system [you’ve created for your company] to be able to work.”
Diane Desrochers, American Biltrite’s ISO certification manager, gave some examples of corrective actions—one of the categories in which the company demonstrated excellence. For instance, if the company has an issue with a plank or floor tile, a sales rep will initiate a claims analysis and check the inventory. “Everything [will be put] on hold and nothing is shipped to the customer,” she explained. “We have quality control analysis, which is done internally, and we try to find out what happened. If the material is good, then the material is released. If not, we have to test all material stocked.”
Another example of corrective actions is if the team finds something wrong, such as customers complaining continuously about the same problem. In this case, American Biltrite will write out a description of the issue and conduct an analysis to determine the underlying cause, which will then result in that department’s managers taking action to fix the problem.
“Those people need to give answers telling us what happened, why it happened and how we will resolve the problem now and for the future,” Desrochers said. “So, we do have risk analysis. This way, we won’t have the same problem a second time. We start with the problem, and at the end we know how to not only resolve it but eliminate it in the future.”
American Biltrite was approved for ISO 9001, which measures quality, back in 1996. According to Mercier, the company was one of the first suppliers in Canada—within the first 5% or less—and one of the first in the U.S., to earn this important certification.
The company then earned ISO 14000, which measures environmental standards, in 2011. American Biltrite then earned the joint certification for both quality and environment standards this year.