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54,3 A case study of a quality system
implementation in a small
manufacturing firm
Nadia Bhuiyan and Nadeem Alam
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Concordia University,
Received October 2003
Revised April 2004; Montreal, Canada
November 2004
Accepted December 2004
Purpose – This paper aims to present the findings of a case study conducted at ABC Structures
(pseudonym), which is a small North American manufacturing company that has spent close to one
year working on implementing the ISO 9000 standard. The main obstacles faced by ABC during
implementation are highlighted. Although the company was not actually seeking registration, it was
motivated by an internal need to improve operations, and by a vision of expanding business globally,
in which case it expected that registration would be mandatory.
Design/methodology/approach – The case study method was used to achieve the objectives.
Information obtained from the case study was collected from various data sources including
interviews and informal conversations with the president, sales manager, engineering manager,
operations manager, purchasing manager, manufacturing manager and technical personnel,
attendance at project meetings, company documents, plant tours, and observations of the
manufacturing process and product samples. These sources provided information that was useful
in developing and implementing a quality system.
Findings – The case study conducted at ABC revealed a number of issues related to the
implementation of a quality management system in a small company. While studies have shown that
the ISO standard may not be applicable to small businesses, this study shows that the implementation
of the standard’s requirements benefited the company significantly. However, it should be noted that,
while the company did not invest in all of the costs associated with ISO registration, it did invest in
implementing as much as it could.
Practical implications – This study will be useful to quality managers, quality assurance and/or
quality control practitioners, as well as researchers seeking to further understand quality practices and
issues surrounding them. The study will also be beneficial to organizations that are planning to
implement ISO 9000, are in the implementation phase, or already practising or registered with ISO
9000. While some of the findings presented in this paper are not new, they confirm the results of prior
research on the organizational barriers that companies face in the process of implementing a quality
management system.
Originality/value – The paper provides a description of steps taken by a small manufacturing
company prior to implementing ISO 9000. It shows the hurdles it faced, and proposes how they could
be overcome.
Keywords Quality management, International standards, Quality standards
Paper type Research paper

International Journal of Productivity Introduction

and Performance Management The ISO 9000 standard has had a great impact on manufacturing and service
Vol. 54 No. 3, 2005
pp. 172-186 industries by helping to establish the framework required for effective and efficient
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited quality assurance and quality management systems. Numerous studies have been
DOI 10.1108/17410400510584893 undertaken on the experiences of ISO 9000 implementation globally, and they show
that quality improvement initiatives such as ISO 9000, while successful in many Quality system
respects, can also be accompanied by major roadblocks. implementation
In this paper, we begin by discussing the existing research on the ISO standard. We
then describe in detail the implementation of the quality management system through
a case study conducted at a small-sized manufacturing company, which we call ABC.
Finally we conclude with a discussion of the results and key lessons learned.
Existing research
Countless companies have successfully become ISO registered, either due to external
pressures, such as customers demanding registration, or internal reasons, such as
improving or developing a quality system to improve overall performance, or a
mixture of both (Bhuiyan and Alam, 2004; Yahya and Goh, 2001). While the benefits of
ISO 9000 registration are widely known and proven, numerous studies show that there
are many hurdles to obtaining registration (Bhuiyan and Alam, 2004; Yahya and Goh,
2001; West et al., 2002; Samson and Challis, 2002; Salegna and Fazel, 2000; Chin et al.,
2000). In a survey of ISO 9000 implementation in companies in Singapore, it was found
that devoting time to quality initiatives, lack of management support, and employee
resistance to change were the main obstacles in establishing an ISO 9000 quality
assurance model (Calingo et al., 1995; Quazi and Padibjo, 1998). Findings of another
survey for Greek companies by Lipovatz et al. (1999) revealed that changing employee
mentality was the main problem in preparing for ISO 9000 registration. These general
roadblocks were also pointed out by Yahya and Goh (2001) in their study of ISO
implementation in Malaysian companies, while Bhuiyan and Alam (2004) have pointed
out similar ones in their study of Canadian companies. Fuentes et al. (2000) have
examined the literature associated with the ISO 9000 quality assurance system in
Spain. Organizational barriers such as cooperation among managers, resistance to
change, and employee involvement were found to be major obstacles to successful
implementation. Kim (1994) reported that understanding ISO 9000 and
underestimating efforts for the implementation played a key role in hindering
progress to quality assurance system implementation. Carlsson and Carlsson (1996)
investigated the experience of implementing ISO 9000 in Swedish industries, and found
that the most difficult factors during implementation were the interpretation of the
standard, and the time and resources required in undertaking the initiative.
The benefits of ISO have also been well reported. Santos and Escanciano (2002)
have investigated the benefits of ISO 9000 through a survey of Spanish companies, and
found that organizations experienced a better understanding of processes and
responsibilities as well as the awareness of quality among employees because of the
implementation of ISO 9000. Besides internal benefits, companies also enjoyed external
benefits such as improvement in market reputation. Laframboise (2003) studied
empirically the link between quality practices and business performance excellence in
central Canada. His findings, based on a study of 280 firms, reveal that ISO 9000
registration coupled with a high-level quality initiative, such as a national quality
award program, has a very significant impact on the perceived performance excellence.
Carlsson and Carlsson (1996) found that management commitment had a positive
influence on successful implementation of ISO 9000.
One of the major benefits of the ISO 9001:2000 standard is its structure, which
provides compatibility with other management systems, including environmental,
IJPPM occupational, and health and safety systems. McDonald et al. (2003) discuss the
54,3 plausibility of integrating management systems. After identifying similarities among
quality, environmental, and safety systems, the authors state that an organization can
achieve a high return on investment by taking advantage of integration. Furthermore,
they point out some benefits to an organization from adopting integrated management
systems, including:
174 .
simplified systems (reduces confusion of documents);
. optimized resources (less time, money and man-hours required for a single
system that covers the requirements of all three standards); and
improved performance (helps to identify and provide opportunity for improving
risk, hazard, complaints, wastage, product nonconformity, accidents and illness).
Chin et al. (2000) found that the most critical issue in maintaining the ISO 9000 system
is corrective and preventive action. The top three measures that were found to be
effective in maintaining the ISO 9000 system are:
(1) strengthening of internal quality audits;
(2) improving culture through teamwork; and
(3) management support and participation.
The applicability of the standards to small and medium enterprises has often been
studied, since such companies are limited in resources (Boys et al., 2004). Most small
companies surveyed in a study in Northern Ireland perceived more benefit from their
TQM program than from ISO 9000 (McAdam and McKeown, 1999).
While numerous empirical studies have been conducted around the world on a
range of companies that have experienced ISO implementation, the purpose of our
paper is to discuss the details of one small manufacturing company that was preparing
for the implementation of the standard. Thus, we focus on the preliminary steps that
were taken prior to implementing the standard, and we present specific hurdles that
had to be overcome and the benefits achieved as a result of the preparation, and we
shed some light on things that could be done to make the transition to ISO registration
smoother. The results of the case study show that for this particular company,
implementing the requirements for ISO 9000, while accompanied by its share of
hurdles, proved to be beneficial.

Case study
Many companies avoid ISO implementation for fear of facing major organizational
roadblocks in the registration process. The case study presented in this paper
documents the experience of implementing a quality system in preparation for ISO
9000 registration in a small manufacturing company. Over a nine-month period, the
goal of the study was to focus efforts on changing procedures and implementing
standards of quality that would not only be beneficial for the company internally, but
would also prepare them for the future ISO registration process. Through this study,
the challenges and organizational barriers faced during implementation are
highlighted, and the results are compared to an empirical study that studied the
issues surrounding ISO implementation in Canadian companies.
About the company Quality system
ABC Structures (pseudonym) is a small-sized Canadian manufacturing company implementation
established in 1996. ABC designs and manufactures aquatic structures for recreational
purposes, mainly for use in outdoor playgrounds. The company’s primary market is in
North America, although it also serves markets in Europe. The company is privately
owned, employing about 40 employees, and has been growing steadily, gaining a
reputation among its major customers by delivering its products on time while offering 175
high quality at competitive prices. ABC offers a variety of products related to aquatic
recreation. Their products use equipment such as water cannons and ground sprays to
provide spray effects and to create an interactive, automated playground. All products
are made up of a controller, a physical structure, a distribution system, water
treatment, and filtration systems. The majority of the parts are manufactured from
stainless steel, while a selected few are made of fiberglass.
ABC has numerous products of varying types, each with different processing
requirements. Their process flow varies between the receipt of raw materials to the
delivery of the final product to customer. Raw materials such as steel pipes and
components (assembly accessories) are received at the receiving dock, and go through
an inspection process. If they are unacceptable, a nonconformance report is generated.
Raw materials that pass inspection are stored in a designated area until they are ready
for the next operation, which is metal preparation. This step includes cutting and
drilling, where the metal is prepared in the required dimensions and shape before
Once the metal is cleaned and prepared, it is welded using two techniques:
(1) gas metal arc welding (GMAW); and
(2) gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW).
This step is the most important and crucial operation at ABC because it requires
trained personnel, special equipment, the right materials, the proper methodology and
the proper work environment. In some cases, ABC sends its raw materials to
subcontractors for welding due to the pressure of fulfilling order requirements. After
the joining process, an air-test is carried out for both internal and subcontracted
products to check for weld-leakage, a critical defect. Visual inspection is also performed
to check the weld quality. Welded products are stored in a designated area after
passing through inspection and testing. These products are then shipped to the
painting subcontractor, and once the painted structures are returned, they go through
inspection and are crated and assembled in the next operation, where product
accessories are pulled out from inventories to build the final product. Finally, the
product is shipped to the customer after a last check of the product. Water treatment is
also a part of the ABC business process – it is not mentioned in the process flow
because it is required for a few products only. It involves a test of water flow through
automation and can be incorporated after welding in a generic process flow.

Quality system implementation

At the time of the study, ABC was at a crossroads of improving its products, processes,
and systems. As a young and steadily growing company, ABC was ready to streamline
its business processes, control nonconformances associated with the product, process
and system, reduce rework, improve corporate culture, and set up an organized
IJPPM framework for quality. Both expansion and major reorganization of the company were
54,3 being considered. The company’s financial situation prevented it from actually seeking
ISO 9000 registration, but ABC decided that it would nevertheless be important to
prepare for eventual registration. They therefore hired a quality expert to help them
put into place a quality system which would comply with ISO 9000 requirements and
therefore lead to smoother registration in the future. The company focused its efforts
176 on implementing what they generally called a “quality system”, a system which
essentially fulfills all the requirements for ISO registration.
ABC was driven by three main forces to implement a quality system and to prepare
for ISO 9000 registration. The first is an internal force, while the other two are external
forces. First, as a young company, it was interested in putting a formal quality system
in place, and expected to gain benefits such as creating a disciplined work environment
and more consistency in operations. Second, fulfilling customer expectations was a
strong motive. Although ABC’s customers did not require the company to be ISO
registered, they did expect ABC to have a quality system in place. Finally, ABC
believed that it could gain a strong market advantage in the future, expecting that it
could earn more business, specifically in European markets, by using ISO 9000 as a
marketing tool.

Data collection
Information obtained from the case study was collected from various data sources
including interviews and informal conversations with the president, sales manager,
engineering manager, operations manager, purchasing manager, manufacturing
manager and technical personnel, attendance at project meetings, company documents,
plant tours, and observations of the manufacturing process and product samples.
These sources provided information that was useful in developing and implementing a
quality system.

Quality system implementation plan

An implementation plan was developed to initiate the case study to provide a
systematic approach to putting in place the quality system. The steps followed are
detailed below.

Gap analysis
The implementation began with a gap analysis to determine the discrepancies between
ABC procedures and the ISO 9000 framework. The analysis revealed that several areas
in the company needed to be considered, including:
sales and marketing;
inventory control; and
customer service.
Management was aware of some of the gaps that existed, such as handling of customer
complaints, but they were surprised at finding certain gaps related to shopfloor
activities, including a safe work environment, maintenance of the machines and tools, Quality system
and investing time in rework and inspection activities. A meeting was then set up with implementation
the president and the director of operations to discuss how to initiate filling in the gaps
and how the project would be developed and executed.

Understanding the quality system

To get the company initiated into the new quality system implementation, basic 177
training was provided to top management in ISO 9000. The training also addressed the
issue of what version of ISO 9000 to prepare for (ISO 9001:1994 or ISO 9001:2000), a
decision that had not been taken previously since management wanted a better
understanding of ISO 9000. They opted for ISO 9001:1994, since it is less demanding
than the new version.

Project team formation

A project team called the Quality Council (QC) was then formed, consisting of
cross-functional members made up of key personnel including the president, the
operations, manufacturing, marketing, sales, purchasing, and engineering managers,
and the floor supervisor. The mandate of the QC was to discuss issues of implementing
the quality management system, to set a timeframe for the assignments given to the
responsible functions, to provide resources, and to discuss the results of audits and
means of resolving disputes that hindered project progress. It was decided that the
team would conduct management reviews every three months, and on an as-needed

Management representative
A management representative (MR) was designated to lead the change. The key
responsibilities of the MR included:
ensuring the establishment, implementation and maintenance of the quality
system commensurate to the standard;
reporting the performance of the quality management system by presenting and
sharing results to top management and all team members as a basis for
liaising with external parties such as vendors, customers and calibration
agencies on matters regarding quality system issues; and
ensuring awareness of customer requirements throughout the organization.
The responsibilities of the MR were given to the operations manager once the quality
system was in place. The responsibilities and authorities of the MR were made clear to
top management, and signed in a formal document by the president to provide
objective evidence for one of the mandatory requirements of the system.

Quality policy and objectives

An important part of the implementation plan is to develop a quality policy and set
objectives for the first three months of the project. The quality policy reflects the
commitment of top management to their quality goals. This commitment needs to be
communicated at the grass-roots level through managers and department heads in
such a manner that everyone clearly understands the quality management perspective.
IJPPM Although ABC could not come up with a quality policy due to their hectic schedule
54,3 with marketing and other business activities, quality objectives had been set for each
department because of regular discussion in QC meetings. Department heads were
asked to translate all objectives into measurable items.

178 Documentation requirements

Another important dimension of setting up a quality system is the documentation of
procedures, which is important, as it is a mandatory requirement for ISO 9000. There
are four levels of documentation requirements. The responsibilities of developing these
documents had been delegated to various people by top management. The Level I
documentation is the Quality System Manual (QSM), which elaborates what the quality
system at ABC is all about. Each section of the document describes a particular ISO
element and refers to more detailed procedures when applicable. This manual forms
the basis for quality audits and can be seen by the customers where required. Level II
documents are the Quality System Procedures (QSP), which are detailed written
descriptions of what is being done in the company, who is responsible and when the
task is to be performed. Level III documentation includes Work Instructions/Technical
Procedures, Job Descriptions, a Quality Plan, and Process Flow. Level IV documents
form a basis for proof and evidence that an activity has been completed. These
documents include forms, reports, check sheets, work orders, bills of materials,
purchase orders, tests, reviews, surveys, audits, etc. Some of these Level IV documents
were already in practice at ABC and required numbers to control them. Some forms,
which are necessary from the ISO perspective, have been generated to fulfill the
requirements of the system. All documents were controlled by issuing each one a
number systematically, with revision levels and revision dates.

Training of shopfloor personnel

The next step in the implementation plan was to provide training to shop floor
personnel about their work instructions, inspection sheets, workmanship manual, and
the filling out of nonconformance reports. Responsibilities in this area rest with the
department heads. A training acknowledgement sheet was developed to ensure that
the shop floor personnel understand clearly the training material. The skill and
competence of the workers and their supervisors have a decisive effect on the quality of
the product.

Internal audit
Finally, at the end of the project, an internal audit was conducted to determine the gaps
remaining and submitted to top management for review in the next QC meeting. Most
of the elements required were documented and implemented, although some needed to
be done more effectively (process control, control of inspection, measuring and test
equipment, quality records and internal quality audits). At the time of the study, the
workers did follow the procedures but not very strictly, an indication that there was no
rush to do so. Understandably, their motivation was different from that of a typical
company working on registration.
Quality system implementation issues Quality system
During implementation, ABC faced various challenges that needed to be addressed to implementation
comply with the ISO requirements. The main challenges are discussed below.

Critical process: welding

During the implementation of the quality system, it was noted that the welding process
is critical for the quality and timely development of the products. During the gap 179
analysis and the discussion with Engineering and the Operations Manager, it was
found that controlling the process parameters for welding is more difficult than the
metal preparation process (cutting and drilling). Without special training and
experience, a welder cannot operate welding machines efficiently and effectively;
however, a semi-skilled person at ABC can prepare metal before welding with little
training. Any nonconformances in the cutting and drilling processes can be identified
and fixed, whereas a defective, weak weld could be dangerous. Relative to other
processes, welding contributes more towards the reliability and safety aspects of the
finished product. For this reason, ABC’s management was keen on improving the
process, specifically by developing standardized procedures for welding. In order to do
so, Design of Experiments (DOE) had been performed to control welding parameters so
that the process could be optimized by reducing variation in the weld quality. This
standardized method of welding would then provide a guideline for all workers to
obtain a good quality weld on structures.
The objective of introducing DOE was to integrate the technique with ISO 9000.
Many researchers have attempted to combine ISO 9000 with other techniques such as
just-in-time and TQM. Perez (1993) presented a cost-effective model of ISO 9000 by
using DOE for a company involved in friction welding. Therefore, an experiment was
performed for the shielded metal arc welding process as a part of the implementation.
Results of the DOE determined the optimal current, wire-feed rate, and welding speed,
the three critical parameters required to obtain a high-quality weld. Once the results
were verified, the method was standardized by writing up a work instruction for the
machine set-up procedure. The exercise proved that DOE could be an effective and
beneficial part of the ISO 9000 standard.
Determination of the response variable and the control factors (critical parameters)
was undertaken as part of the DOE. Based on historical data and with the involvement
of process, operations, quality and engineering personnel, critical quality
characteristics and the response variable were selected for process improvement.
Prior to using DOE, measurement system analysis (MSA) was conducted to the
measure response variable (weld quality) and control factors. Weld quality is an
attribute variable and to quantify this attribute variable, a ranking system based on
weld appearance, uniformity of the weld, weld ring continuity and weld leakage result
was used to give a number to the weld quality. Hence, a ranking system using
numerical values from 1 to 8 was used, with 1 corresponding to a superior quality weld,
2-4 representing good quality, 5-6 being given to acceptable welds, and 7-8 indicating
an unacceptable weld. For controllable factors such as feed rate and welding speed
(measured in inches per minute), a simple calculation was performed by using a
stopwatch and inch-tape in order to ensure the accuracy of the measurement.
A 23 factorial design was successfully carried out with two replications. The
exponent “3” represents factors which have an impact on the response. Base “2”
IJPPM represents levels of the factor, which are low and high, and 23 ¼ 8 gives a number of
54,3 experiments, and each experiment was performed twice, giving a total of 16
experiments. Hence, after performing 16 experiments, an optimum factor-level
combination was achieved to optimize the process. The results were verified by the
process owner through the monitoring of production. After verification,
standardization was done by writing up a work instruction so that all welders had a
180 guideline to follow the same procedure.
For the accountability of rework, a nonconformance procedure was invoked in
compliance with ISO 9000 requirements. It is not mandatory to conduct a cost of poor
quality (CPQ) analysis, and therefore a formal CPQ was not performed. However, root
cause analysis and preventive action were identified in the nonconformance report to
prevent recurrence.

Preventive maintenance
ABC does not have a set procedure for preventive maintenance of their machines. Some
of the workers perform maintenance checks, but not routinely. The company has
welding, cutting, and drilling machines that should be maintained with a regular
frequency. Establishing preventive maintenance for the machines had been planned
after a discussion with the manufacturing manager. Machine manuals were controlled
and the items specified for the maintenance had been considered to initiate routine
maintenance, which was the responsibility of operators. However, there were no
employees who could perform and implement a weekly and monthly maintenance plan.

Rework of parts is a time-consuming, non-value added activity, but ABC has no
account of how much time is spent on rework. As a result of the implementation
process, the manufacturing manager began to monitor rework activities through the
development of a nonconformance-tracking system throughout the company. A
nonconformance report (NCR) contains various sections such as problem identification,
root cause, corrective action, preventive measure, and verification of the action taken
for the nonconformance. For the quantitative analysis of NCR, a report is generated at
the end of month to figure out which NCRs have been closed and which have not. This
resulted in the improvement of reducing and tracking internal and external problems.

At ABC, inspection is done at various stages in the process, but there is no supervision
of inspection activities. A bigger problem is that there is no independent quality
function, and as such, inspections are carried out by various people in the company,
depending on what needs inspection and when. The purchasing manager is
responsible for inspecting items that are received from suppliers, the manufacturing
manager supervises in-process or online inspection, the engineering manager controls
inspection for the water treatment and automation area, and final inspection of finished
goods is monitored by the assembly supervisor. This demonstrated the need to have an
independent quality function, but management was not serious enough to establish an
effective quality department at the time of the study. In the future, they will consider
this, depending on business growth and available resources.
Safety Quality system
Safety is an important issue and should be given top priority, especially for implementation
manufacturing companies where heavy machinery or dangerous tools are used. At
ABC, there were no safety procedures or a safety audit plan in place. Employees who
work on the shop floor were not restricted to follow typical safety precautions such as
wearing safety boots, goggles, gloves for handling products, ear plugs, etc. Anyone,
including visitors, could go into the plant without these protective items. To conform to 181
the ISO standard, safety procedures were put into place and every employee must now
follow the safety rules described in the procedures. An audit plan for safety, to be
conducted by trained personnel, is also included in the procedures. Now, nobody is
allowed to visit the shop floor area without following the safety precautions.

Customer complaints
ABC has a formal review board that meets once a month to examine returns and
complaints from the receiving and marketing departments respectively. The board
comprises the Purchasing Manager, the Director of Sales/Marketing, and the Floor
Supervisor. Depending on the type of problem they are examining, appropriate action
is taken. The approach of the board has been of a quick-fix type, with very little
supervision by the senior management. Handling of customer complaints is an
important clause in the ISO 9000 system, because responding to the customer
positively can rebuild customer relations and help maintain business. Therefore, a
procedure for handling customer complaints better was designed, and importantly, the
customer’s input was included. The procedure was modified and a potential/existing
customer satisfaction survey was also started. A weekly report is now submitted to the
Overcoming the challenges outlined above forced ABC to improve its operations.
Whether or not the company opts for registration in the future, it has already benefited
from major improvements through the quality system implementation initiative.

Organizational barriers to implementation

The initial stages of implementation and the corresponding implications of change
created a number of roadblocks that impeded smooth implementation. The following
items were the key factors that slowed down progress:
quality perception;
lack of top management commitment;
lack of resources;
lack of training; and
resistance to change.

Quality perception
Understanding the quality system, the implementation requirements and the benefits
was crucial to make the system effective at the grass-roots level. From the start, many
employees misunderstood the perception of the quality effort. A number of key people
considered the effort to be useless, believing that the status quo was good enough as
the quality of their products was considered best on the market. Furthermore, the
IJPPM assembly supervisor believed that tracking defects at the inspection stage meant that
54,3 the company had good internal quality. As a result, not everyone seriously committed
to making the changes needed to successfully implement a quality system.

Top management commitment

182 Although the president of the company was keen on fostering a quality culture
throughout the organization, his commitment was not reflected and communicated
from managers down to the shopfloor level. Some examples of this problem
demonstrate the difficulties faced in getting everyone’s buy-in.
The engineering manager felt that ABC’s products and processes were sufficiently
good and well recognized on the market. As a result, he did not dedicate much of his
time to meeting his deadline for setting standard instructions for his department. One
of his responsibilities was to develop the sampling plan, which is a critical process of
the business because if there is no effective control at the receiving dock, then the
probability of accepting wrong materials and components is higher. This took five or
six months to be completed and ready for use at the receiving station, when it could
have taken one month.
Since ABC did not employ a quality manager at the time of the study, the
purchasing manager was responsible for receiving items. He was therefore delegated
the responsibility of implementing instructions and sampling plans for the receiving
activity, but even after five to six months, he was unable to meet his deadline. A
commitment to this effort would have enabled him to complete this task within one
month. The assembly supervisor was very dedicated to his job. However, his
perception of the quality effort also prevented him from changing his way of doing his
job. He also felt that the status quo did not need changing and put little effort in
completing his task of following the written instructions, thereby failing to meet his
Although QC meetings were conducted regularly, meeting minutes show that
department heads were too busy to devote their time to setting their procedures and
standards. An independent quality function in the company had not even been set. As
a result, many managers adopted an attitude of “all talk, no action”, which became a
symbol of disappointment for the rest of the organization.

Resistance to change
Employee resistance to change was found in the organization. Manufacturing
personnel believed that they would be overburdened with work and thus did their best
to defeat the improvement scheme. While some managers were supportive in
explaining the importance of the initiative, it was ineffective in assisting in
implementation. This resistance was due in part to the lack of top management
commitment, and also due to the lack of training and understanding of how the quality
system would benefit the organization. People will accept or reject change depending
on how the change will affect them. A strategy that convinces employees is needed to
overcome this hurdle through emphasis on teamwork, brainstorming sessions, and
consistent meetings. Employees’ participation and cooperation in the improvement
programs must be recognized and encouraged for effective implementation of the
improvement program.
Lack of resources Quality system
While many employees were not committed to the quality effort, a newly appointed implementation
manufacturing manager was eager to implement the system. However, due to a lack of
resources, he could not develop the preventive maintenance procedure for the
At the time of the study, ABC did not have a resource committed solely to quality. It
was believed that the company needed a full-time quality manager to supervise 183
activities related to quality throughout the organization, and to assign inspectors for
reporting problems related to the inspections. This quality manager would also play
the role of the management representative. In this way, quality would be expected to be
free from bias, which could occur if the production head supervised quality-related
issues. Since an MR is a mandatory requirement of the ISO 9000 system, it would
beneficial to have one in the event of future registration. Unfortunately, at the time of
the study, due to budget constraints, a full-time MR was not appointed.

Lack of training
ABC’s management was not convinced that allocating funds for training at all levels
was necessary – only selected persons who were expected never to leave the
organization were trained. As a result, only a few people understood the system, and if
they were to leave the organization, they would take the knowledge of the system with
them. Sadgrove (1994) pointed out the importance of training, since quality depends on
employees. This lack of training was translated into the resistance to change discussed

The case study presented in this paper demonstrates major issues that were raised
during the implementation of an ISO 9000 management system in a small
manufacturing company. An empirical study conducted by Bhuiyan and Alam
(2004) on Canadian firms investigates implementation issues related to the emergence
of the latest version of the ISO 9000 quality standard, ISO 9001:2000. Results of the
empirical study show that whatever the impetus for seeking registration, Canadian
companies generally faced the same degree of difficulty in implementation. The case
study was therefore compared to the empirical study.
The dominating reason for implementing ISO 9000 at ABC was internal, and the
intention was to put a formal quality system in place on the basis of availability of
resources. During implementation, human resources were busy executing other
organizational tasks, such as enterprise resource planning. Also, delivering
manufactured products on time with limited resources was the priority at the time
of the study, which made implementation of the quality system difficult. Results of the
empirical study show that most Canadian organizations seek registration to meet
customer demand/expectations. However, a large percentage of Canadian companies
also implement ISO 9000 in order to improve quality management practices – an
internally motivated reason for seeking registration, similar to ABC.
Budget allocation, time devotion, and scarcity of resources have created obstacles in
the smooth implementation of ISO 9000 at ABC. The empirical study showed that
scarcity of resources was found to be the biggest hurdle for organizations. Other
IJPPM barriers such as lack of training, employee resistance, and top management
54,3 commitment, were also found in respondent companies, similar to ABC.
The empirical study shows that companies that are rich in resources face a lesser
degree of difficulty as compared to small companies that have between one and 100
employees. This finding proved to be true with ABC, a small-sized company that had
40 employees at the time of study. The unavailability of required resources was found
184 to be the biggest hurdle during implementation. Most employees were over-burdened
to fulfil their tasks. This is a typical problem that occurs in small companies.

Key lessons learned

The case study conducted at ABC revealed a number of issues related to the
implementation of a quality management system in a small company. While studies
have shown that the ISO standard may not be applicable to small businesses, our study
shows that the implementation of the standard requirements benefited the company
significantly. However, it should be noted that while the company did not invest in all
of the costs associated with ISO registration, it did invest in implementing as much as
it could.
At ABC, the lack of management support and training, inadequate perception of
quality on the part of most employees, resource constraints, and employee resistance to
change were the main obstacles in establishing ISO 9000 quality management system.
As expected for a small business, lack of resources proved to be the major hurdle in
implementing a quality management system. These are implementation issues that
seem to plague a large number of companies pursuing ISO registration, as evidenced
by a comparison to an empirical study that focused on difficulties that companies face.
The results of the case study suggest that managers must focus their efforts and
resources in a dedicated manner to the implementation of a quality system, and
furthermore, need to provide sufficient training to the employees and an provide them
with an awareness of the reasons and potential benefits of implementing a quality
system. With these critical prerequisites in place, the difficulties in implementing the
ISO 9000 quality standard can be minimized and should enable a smoother
implementation. Understanding the quality system, the implementation requirements
and the benefits was crucial to make the system effective at the grass-roots level.
Although this paper highlights key problems during the implementation of a
quality system at ABC, it must be noted that the company also enjoyed a number of
benefits from the exercise. Putting an ISO 9000 system in place helped to streamline
their business processes, set up procedures in a systematic framework, and adopt a
disciplined approach in the work environment. Other noticeable benefits were
improved documentation, improved quality awareness throughout the company, and
more consistent products and services. The benefits they enjoyed are similar to most
companies in the empirical study. The three greatest benefits achieved by the
companies surveyed are:
(1) improved documentation;
(2) improved quality perception; and
(3) a disciplined work environment.
Before the implementation of ISO 9000, ABC did not have any structured
documentation: quality perception and awareness had been increased through
training and procedure implementation, and an increase in discipline was found in the Quality system
workplace due to employees following defined instructions. implementation
Many studies have investigated the issues involved with ISO 9000 implementation
around the world. Implementation issues faced by companies during the registration 185
process are well documented, as evidenced by the literature. The case study presented
in this paper demonstrated issues raised during the implementation of ISO 9000 in a
small manufacturing company, and discussed the consideration of DOE in the quality
assurance model so that productivity can be increased by implementing a cost-effective
This study will be useful to quality managers, quality assurance and/or quality
control practitioners, as well as researchers seeking to further understand quality
practices and the issues surrounding them. The study will also be beneficial to
organizations that are either planning to implement ISO 9000, in the implementation
phase, or already practising or registered with ISO 9000. While some of the findings
presented in this paper are not new, they confirm the results of prior research on the
organizational barriers that companies face in the process of implementing a quality
management system.

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