Leads to Improved Product Quality, Increased
Employee Motivation, and Company Growth for O'Hare Spring
By John W. Schneider
Every company wants to improve the quality of its products, but
getting employees to support these efforts can sometimes be difficult. The
O’Hare Spring Co. Inc. received ISO 9002 certification with an incredible level of
employee participation. Not only has product quality improved, but also employees of
the Des Plaines, IL, manufacturer are more motivated and excited about their jobs.
O’Hare Spring is a
successful and growing company founded in 1964. The company moved to an upgraded
28,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in 1995. Though successful, O’Hare
had never received ISO Certification. This changed in late 1995 when Wes Gardocki,
quality assurance manager, received a letter from one of O’Hare’s largest
customers. The letter stated that all vendors must conform to QS-9000. This
began the process that led to ISO 9002 certification.
ISO 9002 is an internationally
recognized quality standard awarded to manufacturers and is the foundation for QS-9000
The owners of O’Hare
Spring, Bill and Jim Schneider, contacted Peter Mauch, a quality consultant with Peter
Mauch and Associates, located in La Grange, IL. Mauch and Associates has helped many
companies achieve ISO Certification.
"Peter Mauch made the
process really easy. We thought achieving ISO would be more difficult," says
After arriving at O’Hare
in the Spring of 1996, Mauch helped O’Hare employees and management rewrite the
company quality policy and establish departmental goals. The purpose was to ensure
that O’Hare pass an ISO certification audit. Goals included 100-percent
performance levels in the following areas:
On-time customer delivery
(no defective parts may reach a customer)
Approved documents (all
documents, work instructions and policies must be current)
Qualified vendors (each
vendor would now be required to complete a quality survey)
Correct purchase orders
Acceptable raw materials
Completion by due date of
corrective and preventive action
Of these, one of the most
important is 100-percent acceptable product. Says Gardocki, "Before [ISO 9002],
employees often did not think of the final product. ISO made employees realize each
product goes through a step-by-step process."
As departmental goals became
effective, employees wanted continuous updates on the progress of certification, according
to Gardocki. "Employees were also encouraged to ask questions and suggest ideas
throughout the process, so problems would be resolved and not put off. Once
employees saw their ideas being implemented, they began to provide more input."
Bill said that management
supported every employee idea presented during the process.
Employees began working in
teams to accomplish goals, says Jim. "The best accomplishment of going through
the certification process was that employees began working together to reach common
In addition to helping set
department goals, Mauch provides a series of workshops in Custom Quality Control Training
for its customers. Gardocki took several of these courses in areas such as gage
R&R studies, quality improvement, calibration programs, control of quality records,
post-production operations, and internal auditing. These courses helped Gardocki
train O’Hare employees in ISO procedures.
While the Schneiders realized
that it was crucial for employees to thoroughly understand the policies and forms required
for ISO to be implemented, they knew this was going to be a challenge. Many of the
O’Hare employees were immigrants with marginal English skills. Therefore,
Oakton Community College, which is located near the O’Hare facility, was contacted to
assist with this training. Oakton conducted an employee skills assessment to
determine which employees needed language and/or literacy instruction. The college
offered ESL (English as a Second Language) and literacy classes. Each class was held
at the O’Hare facility for those employees who needed to improve their English
The actual auditing process
began on February 4, 1997, with the first of two audits that would lead to ISO
certification. The audits were performed by Entela Inc., an RAB/RVA accredited
quality registrar located in Grand Rapids, MI. "The first audit was an
assessment that let O’Hare Spring know what areas needed improvement," says
Gardocki. It served as a "test" to prepare O’Hare for the upcoming
Employees and management were
asked questions that would possibly be on the actual certification audit. Only five minor
findings were observed during the assessment audit.
The actual certification audit
was on March 13, 1997. Auditors spent the entire day interviewing employees and
managers. Gardocki says employees were both "excited and nervous" after
having prepared months for this day.
After several hours had
passed, Jim gathered the employees together to announce that O’Hare Spring received
Employees clapped and
cheered. "It showed how much the employees worked as a team," says
To make sure that the
company's quality efforts and ISO compliance continue, surveillance audits will be
performed internally and by Entela.
Bill admits he was surprised
at how well the employees of O’Hare adjusted to the ISO certification.
"We have employees with over 30 years of experience in our industry," he
explains. "We thought they would never accept the changes. The adjustment
has been amazing, and the certification process has changed attitudes."
According to Gardocki, the
most challenging change was getting employees to think about the customer in every step of
the manufacturing process. Before ISO, many employees’ attitudes were,
"Make it and ship it," he says.
Roman Karpierz, a foreman at
O’Hare, says that quality is now a continuous process. He monitors production
every half-hour, which makes product nonconformance easier to find. Karpierz says
the new ISO process was easy to learn, and he can see improvements in product quality
since ISO has been implemented.
Another end result of
certification has been an increase in sales. Jim says several potential customers
are considering O’Hare Spring for the first time because of the certification.
Companies from various industries, such as second-tier automotive and power tools, are now
considering O’Hare Spring as their sole spring and wire form supplier.
For instance, a purchasing
agent from a potential customer told Jim on a recent plant visit that O’Hare would
have to fill out a 14-page survey to be considered as a vendor. The first question
the customer asked Jim was, "Are you ISO Certified?" When Jim responded,
"Yes," the potential customer said, "I don’t need to ask anymore
Receiving ISO Certification
was not the end of the quality process for O’Hare Spring, however. In fall of
1996, O’Hare Spring had an open house at its new facility. Attended by
longtime and potential customers, the mayor of Des Plaines, and other community leaders,
this event gave employees and management the opportunity to listen to customers’
concerns. In addition, this exciting event was also used to communicate
O’Hare’s ISO certification goals.
Another part of O'Hare's
quality improvement process was hiring an outside consultant to conduct a series of Team
Building and Conflict Resolution Workshops for its employees. These education
programs have encouraged employees to work as teams to accomplish goals.
The next part of the process
is to become QS-9000 certified. QS-9000 is a quality system used by suppliers to the
automotive industry. O’Hare plans to have this certification by the end of
It is expected that
O’Hare Spring's quality efforts will lead to continued growth, and the company plans
to expand sales to new industries in the future. These industries include:
automotive, home appliance, personal computers and toys. O’Hare recently hired
its first international sales representative in Mexico, a move which is expected to open
In short, the ISO
certification process was a learning experience that not only improved product quality but
also created excitement and enthusiasm among employees. In turn, this has led to
sales growth and expansion for O'Hare Spring Company.
- About the Author
- John Schneider has been with O'Hare Spring Co. since
1992 and has worked closely with his father, William Schneider, to learn the many facets
of the spring industry. John took an interest in his family's business at a young
age and has spent his time learning the intricacies of each department, including quality
assurance, inventory control, machine setup, engineering, and sales. Recently, he
has focused his interests on spring design and engineering, and job costing. He says
he looks forward to learning all he can from the veteran springmakers in the
industry. He earned his bachelor's degree from Aurora University in 1995.
article was reprinted with permission from the Spring Manufacturers Institute.
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