We write often about the technologies and innovations that keep pipeline operations running safely and efficiently. It’s exciting to learn about those developments, but just as important are the quality management systems that keep day-to-day operations running smoothly.
At the 2021 CEPA Foundation Quality Summit we heard from Matt Sanders, of Stress Engineering Services (SES), about their own, ISO 9001 compliant, quality management system (QMS).
We spoke with Sanders to ask some follow-up questions about their QMS:
Q: Why is it important that your QMS is ISO 9001 compliant?
A: “ISO 9001 is an internationally recognized standard which provides requirements for a Quality Management System aimed at (i) ensuring products and services meet customer and regulatory requirements and (ii) enhancing customer satisfaction. This scope fits well within the context of our organization, as we are an engineering services provider. The main driver for pursuing a system in alignment with a recognized standard was the confidence it provides to our clients. Our clients are familiar with ISO 9001, as they follow it themselves, so it was a natural fit for SES.”
Q: What are the benefits, to you as an organization and to your clients?
A: “Having a 9001 based QMS provides a variety of benefits to SES and our clients, including:
- Consistency: Having policies and procedures in place for standard work processes allows SES to consistently provide high quality products and services that fulfill customer and regulatory requirements.
- Continual improvement: No organization is perfect. Identifying mistakes, errors and nonconformities is an important part of the learning process. Having a strong QMS and continual improvement process allows us to implement changes that bring permanent solutions. Ultimately, this allows us to boost employee performance and morale, all while increasing productivity and efficiency.”
Q: What types of business is ISO 9001 suitable for?
A: ISO 9001 is a process-based standard, which means it can be used to develop a QMS that controls your processes. This makes it suitable for organizations of all sizes and industries.
Q: What were the original training requirements, and what ongoing training is required?
A: “As an engineering consulting company, our employees are our biggest asset, thus making organizational knowledge a vital component to our business. Most of our staff have advanced degrees and deep technical knowledge. Organizational knowledge and training are provided via mentoring, job shadowing, coaching, on-the-job training, and formal cooperative training. Personalized training plans are developed to capture individual growth plans and ongoing training needs.
“To familiarize new employees with our QMS Program, they receive New Hire QMS training on SES processes and requirements. Based on an employee’s position, further training in our QMS Policy Manual and specific procedures may be given, as well as annual training on the concept of risk-based thinking for project managers and project teams. Additionally, an annual review of the QMS Program is given to address any new developments and maintain quality in the forefront of the employees’ minds.”
Q: How do you go about getting buy-in from everyone in the organization?
A: “SES utilizes a twofold approach to obtaining buy-in within the organization.
- Top management is involved in the QMS and committed to ensuring the policy, objectives and other requirements are in alignment with the strategic direction of the company.
- Task groups or committees are formed with employee representatives. These groups are involved in decision making. We’ve found that employees are more receptive to change when they feel their needs are understood; understanding their needs also allows us to bring forth meaningful changes which boost morale and drive our culture. Employees feel ownership as they are a part of the process, and help lead change by inspiring, informing, empowering, and engaging others.”
Q: What is the single most important thing you would say to fellow industry members about ISO 9001?
A: “ISO 9001 is a vital part of our business, as it provides the framework for a documented QMS aimed at consistency, continual improvement, and customer satisfaction. Having a QMS in compliance with the standard provides our clients and customers with confidence that we will provide ‘the right stuff, every time’.”
The pipeline industry is committed to quality, safety and sustainability, and a comprehensive quality management system helps ensure the highest standards and continuous improvement, for operators and their customers. Stress Engineering’s ISO 9001 compliant QMS is a fine example of that dedication to quality which engenders improvements in all areas of operation.