Elematic SA recently achieved certification from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), which entitles it to apply the SABS mark to all its products. Customers using any product which bears the SABS mark are assured of a consistent level of quality and reliability. In attaining this certification, Elematic SA (ESA) has provided its customers with further peace of mind via this assurance of quality.
Elematic hollow core concrete slabs are manufactured at ESA’s facility in Benoni, using state-of-the-art technology imported from Finland. ESA’s ability to rely on such technology, and on cutting edge research and development from Elematic in Finland, has always been beneficial to the business. In the case of achieving the SABS mark, ESA director Craig Webber points out that because all Elematic equipment is already designed to produce hollow core slabs that meet the EN European Standard, the process was made considerably easier.
When an organisation applies for certification, the SABS sends out an auditor to carry out an audit which essentially tests for conformity against a specified standard SANS 1879:2004. This usually takes the form of a quality management system. ESA began implementing the ISO 9001:2008 quality management system some 18 months prior to the SABS audit, and all processes and procedures were therefore tested against this standard. The company contracted independent consultant Francois Beneke of Interlock Quality Consulting Network to assist in the implementation of the ISO 9001 system at the time.
Beneke, who is a concrete technologist, was able to assist ESA in ensuring that the ISO 9001 system was fully and correctly implemented. He explains that this is not always a quick or simple process, and that for most companies, it takes between 12 and 18 months to implement an ISO or similar quality management system. Most companies need auditing from scratch, and often systems and processes need redesigning and reorganising before they comply with the requirements of the chosen quality management system. “One has to produce evidence and keep a detailed paper trail in order to meet the requirements for the SABS mark,” Beneke comments.
He says that it requires a committed effort from management in any company to implement the system well, and comments that the close-knit team at ESA worked very well together. “We looked at everything right down to the computer software to ensure that the products comply with South African structural standards. We also tested everything against the EN and SABS norms,” he says. By the time the SABS audit was carried out, ESA’s systems had been tested thoroughly and the audit and certification process went far faster than expected. The audit involves an inspection of all the ISO 9001 documentation as well as physical tests on the product. All the different slab types manufactured by ESA were tested, and all were deemed eligible to bear the SABS mark.
Beneke points out that, apart from the obvious benefit of attaining SABS approval, implementing a quality management system such as ISO 9001 has numerous spinoff benefits for any business. “In the manufacturing process, it is important to be able to get the quality of the products right the first time. ISO 9001 requires that companies carry out a self assessment on a regular basis, in line with the requirements of good corporate governance. If a mistake occurs, the system requires a detailed analysis that looks for the root cause of the problem, which means that one can’t just go for a quick-fix solution,” he says. All this adds up to a streamlined business which is ultimately more competitive and well run. Customer satisfaction surveys are also important, as they feed back into the self- assessment process.