Bill Totten, president and founder of MI-TECH, Inc. (North Charleston, South Carolina), has been servicing large power generation equipment through his company since 1985. His staff of 50 repairs industrial and marine machinery for national and international customers. The company takes a two-pronged approach, with a technical representative division supported by a machine shop division. Technical representatives go to customers' facilities to determine their needs. MI-TECH then sends mechanics or machinists to the job site. If the mechanics or machinists are unable to repair the equipment onsite, they disassemble the components that need repair and take them back to the MI-TECH facility for repair. Many times, the team is able to reverse-engineer a process to create machinery parts that are unavailable from the original manufacturer.
Two years ago, Mr. Totten felt the time had come for MI-TECH to become ISO 9002 compliant in order to maintain and grow its client base. He believed that ISO 9002 certification would open doors to new customers and that customers soon would require their vendors to be certified to this international quality standard. As a small manufacturer, MI-TECH had a very limited budget for preparing and meeting all ISO requirements in order to gain certification for its quality assurance program. With every passing day, the company was competing and losing contracts to much larger manufacturers that were already ISO certified.
Mr. Totten decided to contract with the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP), a non-profit organization that provides services to small- and mid-sized manufacturers. Working under a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce/Minority Business Development Agency, SCMEP was able to help MI-TECH reach its goal of ISO 9002 registration in a short period of time.
By using SCMEP, MI-TECH was able to save $50,000 on the entire registration process. Standard market value for ISO certification is about $30,000; MI-TECH paid close to $6,000 and saved additional funds by using SCMEP to point it toward the most cost-effective registrars. The company also got assistance in the institution of better controls, resulting in a reduction-in-inventory of $20,000, and SCMEP negotiated on MI-TECH's behalf to secure private vendors' services at reduced costs.
The rigorous preparation process included a competitiveness review or a high-level needs assessment; a gap analysis, which compared standard compliance with machine shop reality; and development and implementation of new documentation. Although all companies seeking certification must develop new process documentation, they usually do not have access to high level consultative assistance such as a competitiveness review and gap analysis. Hiring an outside consultant to assist with these needs is very expensive. MI-TECH was able to save money on these steps due to SCMEP's non-profit service rate.
MI-TECH became ISO 9002 certified about a year ago. The company was also able to land contracts with companies it had been trying to work with for some time. And, Mr. Totten believes the certification will help him acquire other new customers as well.