The management team in Unicon Concrete's Foothills Area used its goal of ISO 9002 registration as a chance to achieve the next level of quality.

When a company has been successful, it's important to show employees that change will be for the good.

In the fall of 1998, Godwin Amekuedi was appointed director of quality management and brought a different approach to his position by establishing a Quality Management System (QMS) documentation program.

Unicon managers had realized that the concrete production industry was changing dramatically. The stereotype that concrete was produced by low-technology, undereducated, and uncaring employees with no regard for customer satisfaction would no longer be acceptable. "The hardest part has been changing traditional mindsets to the more proactive QMS concepts, business practices, and philosophy," says Amekuedi. We found that convincing employees to change is the hardest task that managers must accomplish.

Unicon started off by trying to explain the ISO 9002 standards to each employee, so that everyone would understand why Unicon had begun the QMS. Over a short time, employees began to understand the importance of ISO 9002 registration.

There were two major objections: too much paperwork and too little time to complete the new procedures.

Fortunately, there was strong team support from plant managers. Tim Kinder, Denver, N.C., plant manager, found the new organization of the paperwork to be the hardest challenge in the implementation of ISO 9002. One key procedural challenge Kinder and other plant managers faced was certifying that all raw material received from each supplier met the minimum Unicon-established requirements.

Unicon knew that once the system was in place and minor problems were eliminated, employees would have more than enough productive time in their shifts to keep up with the new QMS requirements. For managers, better time management became a key goal.

Cost savings and increased profitability are some of the benefits. But the ISO registration process has also helped in some day-to-day activities:

  • Establishing inspection and test procedures
  • Documenting customer complaints
  • Tracking information for future customer concerns
  • Developing requirements for product suppliers to meet
  • Dealing creatively and systematically with employee problems or complaints
  • Educating employees
  • Increasing environmental stewardship

More importantly, implementing QMS and receiving ISO registrations have maintained the pride employees always had in Unicon. " We want to be first in quality and first in service," says David Cahill, ready-mix truck driver.

N.C.-based Unicon Concrete LLC's Foothills area received ISO 9002 registration on March 16, 2000. Along with this article is Unicon Concrete's Quality Vision and Creed.

If you want to learn more about the ISO registration process, browse the The Concrete Producer's online article archive for a June 1997 article, "What Does ISO 9000 Certification Mean to Concrete Producers."