WILMINGTON, MA () by Ronald D. Croatti - Spotting an ISO 9001 quality management banner on a company building a decade ago was like catching a glimpse of an American bald eagle—a rare experience. But those banners can now be seen flying high almost everywhere these days.
Among the perks remaining intact today are casual Fridays, free coffee/tea, low cafeteria pricing, work uniforms, and employee discounts for such things as cell phones and restaurants.
What's changed? Generally speaking, companies have been discovering that the rigorous internal inspections ISO certifications require helps them improve and/or validate that resources are being used wisely, work procedures are documented and consistently followed, and their product offerings and services are being manufactured and delivered in a reliable manner. In short, certification helps assure overall quality practices are continually in place.
A notable example of one corporation that's been adding to the growing number of ISO 9001 banners in recent years is UniFirst, a leading uniform and work apparel supplier with more than 160 customer servicing facilities in North America. Since 2006, UniFirst has had 45 of its facilities ISO 9001 certified. And within the next few years, UniFirst says it will have all of its 160 customer servicing facilities carrying the designation.
"Our company was founded on the principle that customers are the focus of everything we do," says Adam Soreff, Director of Communications at UniFirst "By ISO certifying all of our facilities, we're telling our customers that we remain committed to providing them with only the best products and services possible."
Once ISO certification is attained, companies must constantly monitor all work flow processes to ensure operating efficiencies are maintained. "It's like steering a ship," Soreff says. "Environmental conditions change and new variables can arise; so you make adjustments to maintain a straight course toward your business objectives."
SCA Tissue, one of the nation's largest producers of paper and tissue products, is another company that has been ISO certifying virtually all of its facilities throughout North America. The certifications are intended to send "a clear message" to stakeholders, says its President Don Lewis that the company intends to continuously improve its overall business performance.
Because UniFirst has historically had a culture that stresses continuous improvement, such periodic course adjustments are nothing new for the uniform and work apparel company. "We're always striving to 'raise the bar' so our customer satisfaction levels remain as high as possible," Soreff says.
Industry statistics show that nearly 40,000 companies in the U.S. are currently ISO 9001 certified—with 90 percent of them being in the manufacturing sector, an industry that now appears to be continually soaring toward higher and higher customer satisfaction levels.
UniFirst (NYSE: UNF), a North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniforms, workwear, and protective clothing, outfits more than 1.5 million workers each business day. The company's most popular brands include UniWeave®, SofTwill®, UniWear®, and Armorex FR®. UniFirst also offers Facility Service Programs including floor mats, mops, and restroom products. For more information, contact UniFirst at 800-455-7654 or visit www.unifirst.com.