Refusal to discuss ISO 9001 obligations... what to do?

Andy12

Registered
Hi,

I'm looking for some expert guidance on a tricky ISO problem....

We are a small manufacturing company with ISO 9001 (last audit Grade 1).

A while back we were issued a set of specification drawings from a customer with ISO 9001. The actual drawings themselves came from another company who also have ISO 9001. "
Err, not quite...

We were given two drawings as specification documents. By the time these documents reach us they had been through two QC systems so the information was of a higher quality than would be expected from a member of the public.... or so we thought.

We did notice a TBC dimension substitute which we thought a little strange; a properly vetted drawing ought to have finalised dimensions not TBC. As part of our own ISO checks we highlighted this with our customer and were informed by email that "5mm " was the correct thickness. Both drawings featured a specific typestyle which was featured in numerous locations. In addition the full typeface name was stated upon the drawing numerous times. As drawn the fixing system caused some issues with the chosen typeface, this was highlighted to the customer who agreed to an alternative method as suggested by us.

All went well until production had been completed. At this stage the customer complained that the finished product was 5mm thick not the 50mm thickness required; this dimension was covered by TBC on the drawing. It transpired that the customer required a structure manufactured from 5mm steel to a final structure of 50mm depth; a product we do not manufacture nor advertise. Ultimately a "suitable" replacement product was supplied by the customer although the typeface was now switched to a simpler style and the sheet steel thickness reduced to a more pliable 3mm.

The company who authored the drawings subsequently allowed a staff member to reclassify the drawings as being "indicative", this being a convenient way to explain away any omissions and mistakes. Had the drawings been complete then the job would have been rejected on our part as being not something we could do.

What do I do here? Both other parties refuse to even discuss ISO 9001 and remain silent as to how these incomplete, inaccurate drawings were allowed to be issued to me in the first place. I have been forced to accept responsibility for someone else's drawings and designs, a bigger company with more staff who "manufacture" drawings and designs for a living. My customer won't explain what QC checks he carried out and will not answer any questions relating to ISO 9001, a position shared by the authors of the drawings.

At the moment it feels like you can display ISO 9001 logos and certification numbers and then not bother implementing anything; safe in the knowledge that any mistakes can be palmed off onto someone else. Keep your mouth shut, ignore the problem and it will go away. I have suggested that all parties submit their QC documents to an independent expert for assessment... I was completely ignored.

How can I make the other parties abide by the ISO 9001 obligations they volunteered to uphold? We work hard to make ISO 9001 work within our little company so it's quite sickening to see the system be so comprehensively ignored to our detriment.

Any thoughts would be welcome :)

Andy
 

Johnny Quality

Quite Involved in Discussions
Andy,

What a situation you have! In my limited experience I find the most back and forth I have with customers is with their supplied drawings or CAD. Little traceability, inaccurate part numbers, materials, dimensions. All from ISO 9001 or IATF 16949 customers.

I don't see the problem as "customer wont abide by ISO 9001", whilst that certainly seems to be a symptom. I think the actual problem is "customer wont talk to me or let me help them". Mind you, you state you're in a small manufacturing organisation and your customers are "bigger"; you might not have much clout to demand improvements.

I will say that I think your questions to your customer regarding their commitment to ISO 9001 are not helping. I would never ask questions about ISO 9001 to an author of a drawing, I don't think they'll be able to understand your questions and simply ignore them. Those questions would be best directed to their top management but even then I would be amazed at a response.

You could complain to their CB but that would most likely make the situation worse as this would ruin whatever business relation your customer has with your organisation. I would highlight your peeves with the decision makers in your business and focus on how difficult this is making your life and how this will ultimately affect your business, not on how the customer refuses to abide to ISO 9001 as I don't think any of us have leverage to say this to our customer - even if they are a supplier of requirements.

Your organisation may ultimately decide this customer is not worth their time or try to work together to improve future business.

Best of luck
 

Andy12

Registered
Hi,

Thanks for the reply.... much appreciated.

From what I can see there isn't a commitment to ISO 9001 by either of the other parties..... the logo looks nice on the website and the certificate helps with public sector tenders but the actual system behind it all doesn't get bothered with.

It concerns me that other people might do business with these characters only to find the quality assurance which "sealed the deal" doesn't actually exist.

I have complained to their accreditation bodies who couldn't really care less, they only responded one UKAS were CC'd into the emails.

Frankly I'm shocked by how slap dash the whole process has been.... who knew that an ISO 9001 certificate was merely a marketing gimmick!
 

Tagin

Trusted Information Resource
What do I do here? Both other parties refuse to even discuss ISO 9001 and remain silent as to how these incomplete, inaccurate drawings were allowed to be issued to me in the first place. I have been forced to accept responsibility for someone else's drawings and designs, a bigger company with more staff who "manufacture" drawings and designs for a living. My customer won't explain what QC checks he carried out and will not answer any questions relating to ISO 9001, a position shared by the authors of the drawings.

Let's talk about YOUR 9001 system, you now have a new risk to address:

Will I risk taking future orders from this customer, and if I do, what mitigations will I put in place to limit my exposure?
Your first attempt to mitigate the risk was to fix the customer. :) But that didn't work. I agree with Johnny Quality that trying to resolve their ISO 9001 deficiencies is counterproductive.

So, you might want to force them to sign (by someone with authority at your customer) some doc that affirms that the drawings they provided are the final and correct requirements they want you to achieve. If they renege later on, then you have this to stand firm in demand of payment. If they won't sign....well...then you have an unmitigated risk you need address in other ways or walk away from them.

Living the spirit of 9001 (or other quality standard) is very different from doing just enough to get the cert. It's just like in school - some kids really delved into a subject, while others did just enough to not fail on the tests. Trying to change a customer's company culture from just passing the tests to having management actively live and promote 9001 throughout the organization is an insurmountable goal.
 

QChas

Involved - Posts
We to are a "small" organization and have faced the same situation. What we do is what "Tagin" stated. When we receive a drawing part our AQP reviews it and addresses any concerns with the customer and document any concerns. When I have received the "5mm" type emails I always reply confirming the requirement and keeping it with the paperwork. We then require written approval of sample parts we supply with some dimensional checks and deem them as customer approved samples even if they don't meet the drawing. We have an ISO customer that rarely updates the drawing to the actual sizes (reverse engineering) but since parts were approved that is what we produce. If there is ever an issue we have the documentation to protect us. It is frustrating when the big customers demand ISO and / or IATF but when you try to follow the rules they make it difficult. Document, document, document. Remember if it isn't written down it didn't happen. Good luck!
 

Sidney Vianna

Post Responsibly
Leader
Admin
I have complained to their accreditation bodies who couldn't really care less, they only responded one UKAS were CC'd into the emails.

Frankly I'm shocked by how slap dash the whole process has been.... who knew that an ISO 9001 certificate was merely a marketing gimmick!
As I mentioned numerous times in this forum, the certification process has been commoditized with tremendous damage to the integrity of the process. The low cost providers have infiltrated all levels: consulting, training, certification and even the accreditation layers.

But, just to be clear, did you complain to their certification or accreditation bodies? UKAS is an accreditation body and they should act if the certification body does not take action on a valid complaint. There are levels of escalating a dissatisfaction when certified organizations don't live to the intent of the standard and their certifiers don't take appropriate actions.

Check the section on page 12 of the below linked brochure and consider naming names HERE, if you have the evidence to prove your claims.

Refusal to discuss ISO 9001 obligations... what to do?
 

Golfman25

Trusted Information Resource
ISO doesn't guarantee no mistakes. The person who sent the 5mm email when he ment 50 mm made the mistake. You did what you could -- questioned it and accepted their response. Not much else you can do and trying to discuss "ISO" with them is counter productive. You should move on to the next project.
 

Kronos147

Trusted Information Resource
...we highlighted this with our customer and were informed by email that "5mm " was the correct thickness....

Drafting an issue like this on a formal document titled "Deviation Report", with a section for sign off by customer, and sending it with the product is about the best thing you can do.

If the customer replies with an e-mail, attach it to your form.

It is a 'preventive action taken to mitigate the risk their receiving inspection would raise an NCR.'

I also advise a log for these issues, to preserve the history and identify where the form and response are stored to print with future shipments.
 

John Broomfield

Leader
Super Moderator
Andy,

Being officious is unlikely to result in customer satisfaction.

Instead, take a look at the design of your organization's services.

You may find that it should include provision for customers who need your design services.

Update your management system accordingly.

You may then be able to package and deliver your design review for manufacturability services to build customer loyalty if not a profit center.

John
 
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