In 1999 there were over 1,200 active printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Today, there are fewer than 130. What has transpired at a lot of these manufacturing companies are small service businesses that act as a liaison between a manufacturer and their customers. In many instances, this is a valuable relationship; the products are low in technology and the risk is very minimal. However, why is it that we require ISO certification for our manufacturing locations but not for service providers?
How Important Is ISO Certification If You Don't Manufacture Everything Yourself?
As a hybrid manufacturer who manufactures product at our own facilities and with manufacturing partners, we know the value of being ISO certified. All of our manufacturing facilities are certified to the most current standards. Additionally, our entire customer facing, engineering, NPI, and quality processes are part of the certification. The reason for that is that every process in our company needs to be documented. Followed, audited, and improved on every day. The ISO process helps us do this.
In 2015 there was a new standard published that provides more guidance and direction when it comes to managing risk and new sections on supply chain management that will all require investment to meet the standard. In our view, the investment is worth the time and effort as it will make our systems stronger to meet our customers’ every changing demands.
Epec ISO Certification Audit
Now let's circle back and address the original question: Why certify manufacturing locations but not service providers?
There are several factors to consider:
Certification implementation can vary by company size. While a larger provider might benefit from being certified, a two person service provider organization working out of a garage probably won't see the same benefits.
The hard cost of getting ISO certified isn’t the hard part, it’s all of the soft costs necessary to develop, implement, and then manage the process year round.
Everything needs to be documented, everyone needs to be trained, and the program needs to be monitored to ensure compliance. That requires commitment, investment, and dedicated personnel to manage.
Building A Culture Of Improvement
ISO forces you to improve. It requires that you invest the time and effort in true root cause analysis in order to make your process better. Thriving companies know they need to do this to survive; a lot of industries cannot just raise their prices when costs like health care are rising every year.
There is a common theme to all of the above and that is investment and commitment. Small PCB companies focus on getting through the challenges of today, which is understandable. As a company who has been around for over 65 years, we have built our business on how do we get better in the next 5 -10 years to be here to service our customers and be valuable partners for the long term. ISO certification for manufacturers is one of the key investments that force a business in getting better every single day. In truth, can you afford to have a supplier that doesn’t have an ISO certification?