NQS 9000: An Alternative Metal Casting Vendor Certification Program

Author(s):

Mr. James L. Mallory, C.A.E
Mr. James L. Mallory, C.A.E, Executive Director, Non-Ferrous Founders Society, Des Plaines, IL 60016, 847/299-0950.
Jerrod Weaver
Jerrod Weaver, Quality Services Manager, Non-Ferrous Founders Society, Des Plaines, IL 60016, 847/299-0950.

82nd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1997 

NQS 9000 is an industry specific ISO 9000 compliant quality program developed by and for the foundry industry. Created and administered by the Non-Ferrous Founders' Society (NFFS), it is a broad based series of common sense guidelines that provide an organized and efficient method of doing business. Compliant with all 19 clauses of the ISO 9002 (1) quality standard, NQS 9000 enables foundries to produce higher quality castings at reduced costs, benefiting both the purchaser and the supplier.

No one can argue the fact that the emergence of a global marketplace has significantly impacted virtually every industry. The foundry industry is no exception. Competitive pressures have forced many organizations to realize that in order to succeed in the new global market, product quality must be superior. This is evident due to the continuing acceptance and utilization of the ISO 9000 series of quality standards. Meeting and exceeding the minimum requirements laid out in the ISO 9000 standards has become a virtual prerequisite to both international and domestic commerce.

ISO 9000 is a generic set of standards that outline the necessary requirements to assure quality. No product standards or specifications are mentioned, however. This is because ISO 9000 is complimentary to the already existing product and industry specifications rather than being a replacement for these standards. ISO 9000 does require a company to document what actually occurs within their organization, including review of their own procedures and modifying the system as required. An ISO 9000 registered company can state that they have a well documented quality program that is in place and is consistently followed.

Except for a few of the larger foundries, the international foundry industry has mostly chosen not to pursue ISO 9000 registration. The reason is not that foundries are disinterested in ISO 9000, rather it is the financial and personnel requirements that are prohibitive for most small to medium sized foundries. Average ISO registration costs in North America are well over $15,000 for the audit alone. This is in addition to consulting fees which can reach upward of $10,000 depending on the foundry's size and complexity. The costs are equally prohibitive in other parts of the world. This lack of resources to undertake the costly ISO registration process seriously threatens not only the foundry's business, but indeed it threatens their very livelihood.

In response, the Non-Ferrous Founders Society (NFFS), principal North American trade association representing the aluminum, brass, and bronze foundry industry, has developed a low-cost alternative to traditional ISO 9000 registration. Dubbed NQS 9000, the program is intended as a tailored application of ISO 9002 requirements for foundries that is both effective and economical. NQS 9000 is not a new standard, rather it is an award winning, industry specific approach to ISO 9002 compliance designed by and for the foundry industry. 11 months in development by a quality team with well over 200 years of combined foundry experience, the NQS 9000 program fully satisfies each of the 19 clauses of the ISO 9002 standard.

Although developed by the Non-Ferrous Founders' Society, NQS 9000 works equally well for ferrous and non-ferrous foundries alike. Just as important is the fact that NQS 9000 can be applied to virtually any casting process, including die casting, squeeze casting, and semi-solid molding operations. There is even an ingot makers supplement for NQS 9000 specifically tailored for the ingot making industry.

NQS 9000 was formally introduced to the foundry industry in April, 1996. More than 20 foundries enrolled in the program within the first 100 days of its introduction demonstrating the tremendous interest and potential industry wide acceptance of the NQS 9000 program. Moreover, foundries enrolled in NQS 9000 are already reporting increased productivity, reduced scrap rates, and improved continuity within their internal operations, all of which are proven contributors to an increased profit margin. These improvements, along with achieving ISO compliance, are the reasons why the NQS 9000 program and its certification logo are of interest to foundries and their customer industries worldwide.

For a $3000 dollar enrollment fee, NFFS members receive a sample quality manual, installation and audit guidelines, Tier III documentation templates, and two training seminars. Enrollment fee for nonmembers is $5,500. The materials are provided in English on both hard copy and computer diskette to make modification of the materials much easier. Arrangements can also be made to supply the materials in any language. The two seminars included in the program package cover installation and internal audit training. In addition, participating foundries receive unlimited technical support covering everything from document writing assistance to help with preparing for a certification audit. Optional third party NQS certification audits are also available and cost roughly $3000 depending on the size of the foundry and the complexity of their internal operations.

Similar to ISO 9000 audits, NQS certification audits are conducted by independent third party registered auditors with a minimum of 10 years practical foundry experience, and are reviewed by a certification body operating in compliance with EN 45012. The certification body consists of eight members who are well seasoned foundrymen with intimate knowledge of NQS 9000, ISO 9000, and quality system certification techniques. However, unlike traditional ISO 9000 audits, NQS certification audits do not result in an ISO 9000 registration certificate. They result in NQS certification, an independent third party evaluation of the company's quality system as being fully compliant with ISO 9002.

In a survey of customer markets conducted by NFFS in late 1995, over 80% of the respondents indicated they required quality documentation from their casting suppliers. (Figure I) However, only 16 % of those responding indicated that their supplier's quality documentation system must be ISO 9000 registered. The balance, over 83% of the surveyed market, indicated that ISO compliance was satisfactory! (Figure II) In other words, NQS certification was an acceptable method of quality system documentation for over 83% of the surveyed customer market.

NQS 9000 will soon become the dominant quality certification program within the foundry industry. It's no-nonsense approach to ISO 9002 compliance is an economical and common sense way to certify or approve any foundry quality system. For further information on the NQS 9000 program and its related NQS certification, contact the Non-Ferrous Founders' Society.

REFERENCES

  1. ANSI/ASQC Q9002-1994, Quality Systems-Model for Quality Assurance in Production, Installation, and Servicing (1994)

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