Once metrics were streamlined, the company began putting processes and procedures in place to meet goals related to those four areas. Staff training was key. Executive management in the company’s Arlington Heights, Ill., corporate office and every employee in Monessen from sales staff and customer service to truck drivers and warehouse workers received training. “I think that is really key,” says Hairhoger. “Get your key stakeholders around a table and give them a general overview, then go department by department or person by person and explain their role to them – because everybody plays a role.”

Composites One also instituted “opportunities for improvement” (OFIs), which encourage employees to ask, “What are we doing today that can be more effective in taking care of our customers?” One identified OFI was damaged stock drums. The company conducted a root cause analysis to determine why an unacceptably high number of drums were being dented or otherwise damaged. The analysis revealed that most damage occurred because transportation carriers were moving drums with forklifts rather than drum handlers. To fix this, the company’s sales and logistics teams arranged for stock drums to be transported on pallets, which has reduced damage. This is what ISO 9001 certification is all about, emphasizes Hairhoger – continual improvement to better serve customers.

“Improvements don’t have to be big leaps and gains,” he says. “I think a lot of companies that go into ISO think that right off the bat they are going to find a million dollars of business or savings somewhere out there that they didn’t know about. There are small, incremental gains, but each one of those are building blocks toward driving your company ahead and continuing to improve.”

Composites One also formalized incidence reporting. Previously, if someone in the warehouse made a shipping error, the distribution center manager might ask what happened and tell the employee not to do it again. “There was no follow-up, no root cause investigation, no how did it happen,” says Hairhoger. “There are 20 different reasons that could have caused it, so we were just putting a Band-Aid® on things.”

When errors occur today, the manager and employees conduct a root cause investigation, establish a corrective action plan and review it in 60 to 90 days. Hairhoger notes that the incident reporting system has engaged both management and employees, while enabling the sales team to provide better answers to customers when things go awry.