Economy May Slow, But Self-Improvement Never Stops

Wright Technologies, an eight-employee machine shop, spent the down time buying a new machine tool and getting certified to ISO 9001:2000

 

When the economy tanks, as it has for much of the industrial machine building community during the past two years, orders for new machines slow. But at least one of your customers used the down time to prepare for the recovery by gaining ISO 9001:2000 certification. And a key component of that effort was the purchase of a new, higher-precision machine tool.

Wright Technologies, an eight-employee contract manufacturer in the precision machining business, became registered to ISO 9001:2000 by Quality Assurance Systems Inc. last year.

 

President Casey Aleszczyk (right) sets up the new Hanwha turning center with Tom Wyderski.

Big deal, you say. Well, in an age when everyone wears several company hats, works long hours, and has to endure too many meetings, the real story is that the company achieved certification without using outside professionals.

A key factor in seeking ISO 9001:2000 registration is to become more competitive. "When you achieve ISO 9000, you are one or two levels higher" than your competitors, says Wright Technologies President Kazimierz "Casey" Aleszczyk. "There is less competition when you're not just like everyone else."

According to Aleszczyk, who did most of the work, the certification was possible because Wright Technologies has been compliant to the military standard MIL-I-452089 for 10 years. The firm has also been compliant to ISO 9002:1994, so much of the documentation has been in place for quite a while and many of the requirements overlap with ISO 9001:2000.

The company has a long-standing commitment to quality and continuous improvement and consequently considerable experience with quality management. "And," says Aleszczyk, "never underestimate the value that comes from doing business with customers that impose high standards."

The only outside professional help needed was for a gap analysis in June 2001. Wright Technologies personnel took courses on ISO 9000 through a local technical training firm.

The company undertook its ISO 9001:2000 initiative when business was slow and, consequently, more time was available. It did so not only to achieve the higher levels of quality that its customers demand, but also to position the company for the economic upturn. Its goal is to expand its business in the medical device, hydraulics, and connectors industries, and with the Dept. of Defense.

To that end, Wright bought a Hanwha SL-32 seven-axis turning center to produce high-volume, high-precision parts. The Swiss-style lathe, controlled by a Fanuc 18ITA CNC, cost $220,000, but can do extremely long parts, has tolerances to .0005 in., and can run autonomously for up to 36 hours. It can run two programs at the same time, with one head performing the primary turning and a second one doing finishing.

"Our business overall was down about 9% [in 2002] from the previous year," says Aleszczyk. "One of my friends has a business that was down 43%, but he's not as diversified as we are. Although hydraulics was weak, medical and electronics were strong for me last year, and medical looks like it will be good again this year. That's why I needed to buy this turning center: to win more high-precision medical business and to stay competitive."

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