LRD achieves ISO certification

Published Oct. 18, 2010

World-class engineers consistently deliver world-class quality. Maintaining world-class quality in an organization the size of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division (LRD) isn’t easy. However, acquiring certifi cation from an internationally recognized quality management certifi cation system is a major step in retaining world class status.

On September 30, LRD achieved International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001 quality management certifi cation. Independent third party auditing company ABS Quality Evaluations granted certifi cation after visiting and auditing LRD Headquarters, the Buffalo and Nashville districts, and Wolf Creek fi eld offi ces. ABS concluded LRD met the stringent ISO standards in the establishment and operation of its quality management system (QMS), which includes the polices, plans and practices an organization uses to reduce and eventually eliminate non-conformance to specifi cations, standards, and customer expectations in the most cost effective and effi cient manner.

LRD began the certification effort more than four years ago when it appointed a regional Project Development Team (PDT) to harness the best quality management practices. The team, which included members from each district within LRD, used Louisville District’s existing QMS since it has been ISO certifi ed since 1996.

The team combined what it determined to be the best practices into a manual that was circulated online. The division then began training employees on the manual. In-house audits were conducted to determine the QMS’s effectiveness before the ABS auditors conducted fi nal audits in the fi nal quarter of fi scal year 2010.

The team was expecting the internal audits to uncover signifi cant defects in the QMS, but that wasn’t the case.

“They went a lot better than the team thought they would go,” Pittsburgh District Deputy Engineer Lenna Hawkins said. “This entire effort, this entire team has been phenomenal. They strove for perfection, and that’s not really required for ISO. They really came through with flying colors.”

Immediately following these fi nal certifi cation audits, LRD’s Regional Quality PDT held their quarterly meeting at the Louisville District where each team member was presented an LRD coin.

“This ISO certifi cation signals LRD’s dedication to providing quality goods and services to the world,” said Project Manager Business Processes Dottie Krause. “It is also notable that achieving this milestone as a region is a fi rst for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. LRD’s ISO certifi cation fully supports our quality pledge and commitment to USACE Headquarters and our customers and stakeholders to say ‘what we will do and then do as we promised’ across the region while continually improving along the way.”

More on ISO

ISO was founded in 1946. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, it created the fi rst international standards for manufacturing, trade and communications. ISO 9001 emerged in 1987 as an internationally-accepted model that assists an organization’s efforts in implementing and operating an effective quality management system. A QMS is an organization’s polices, plans and practices by which an organization aims to reduce and eventually eliminate non-conformance to specifications, standards, and customer expectations in the most cost effective and effi cient manner. Today, ISO 9001 is helping thousands of companies worldwide manage their By John Neville, public aff airs LRD achieves ISO certifi cation Jack Sweeney processes to become more efficient and cost-effective.

ISO does not define the process of an organization’s quality management system; the organization does. ISO auditors improve and solidify the QMS by explaining what is necessary to defi ne, establish and maintain an effective QMS.

Why pursue ISO 9001

Organizations seek ISO 9001 certifi cation when they want to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products that meet customer and regulatory requirements. LRD wants to show that it is committed to doing the right things, the right way, for the right reasons, and to continually strive for improvement.

Another benefit of gaining certification at the division level is the ability to effectively cross level the workload. For example, employees from different districts within LRD will often work together on various projects. However, together different districts used to follow their own, separate QMS. This can lead to confusion on the ground, inconsistent service, and, ultimately, wasted taxpayer money.

Following the same ISO-certifi ed QMS also builds credibility with customers. “We do what we say we will do,” Krause said. “By using the procedures you’re establishing a baseline for anything that happens after that. If you start off by having a standard that says, ‘This is the way we’re going to do business,’ then everybody knows that. It’s communicated. It’s well known.”

The four-year process of achieving ISO certification had its challenges. The biggest challenge, according to Krause, was “getting past the district mentality.” Each district faces unique challenges along the way to completing the common Corps-wide mission of providing vital public engineering services. But instead of focusing on the differences, Krause said, district leaders asked their employees to fi nd common ground.

“We had to get away from how different we were and look for commonality,” Krause said. “People do buy into it when they see results. Now that we are certified, there’s a lot more credibility and enthusiasm.”