ISOTEC (Hong Kong) Ltd takes the business of quality management to heart. While the company's business is to ensure that other firms achieve ISO 9000 quality certification, ISOtec likes to point out that it has gained certification. 'We are the only quality management consultants in Hong Kong to actually have it,' said ISOtec director Denise Chambre. 'This is something we are obviously proud of and it shows we not only take our work seriously but we practice what we preach,' she said. 'It not only gives us confidence but shows clients we are committed to quality.' The philosophy at ISOtec is to see quality management as a journey rather than a destination, a fluid framework which enables it to constantly assess its own ways of working as well as those of its clients. ISOtec was established in 1992 and it provides service to manufacturers, construction organisations and service industries. It is also a regional consultancy for multinationals with operations in Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and China. 'The ISO 9000 works as a quality assurance system and companies want to get this for a number of reasons,' Ms Chambre said. 'For overseas clients it provides them with confidence that the company they are placing an order with has a benchmark of quality. 'Internally, it serves to give companies better processing systems so they can provide a more consistent product and cut down on costs. 'For some companies, it is simply essential to have certification. For example, the Hong Kong Housing Authority makes it mandatory for many contractors to have an ISO 9000 certificate. But, whatever the reason, we can help companies interpret and adapt the compartments of the certificate so it can work for them.' ISO 9000 has 20 component parts; it is a model that sets out targets of achievement for companies. It provides a framework to improve quality but the skill in its implementation comes in the way the system is tailored to each industry. Consultants from ISOtec usually spend from six months to a year at companies assessing how the system can be used to improve quality management. The consultants follow a step-by-step plan, which ultimately leads to certification for the firm involved. The consultants need to immerse themselves in the business of the company and become conversant with all of its procedures. A first stage in the analysis is to see how close to ISO 9000 standards the company is already. Documentation is then drawn up to assess what needs to be done to reach ISO 9000 status. This includes complex breakdowns of all procedures covered under the 20 points of the ISO 9000 quality system. Documentation is then put in place to cover things such as training procedures, manufacturing processes and quality testing. 'When all this has been done, the system has to be audited. This means it has to be checked to see that it works,' Ms Chambre said. 'By the end of it all, the company will have a quality system in place that should greatly improve its functioning at all levels.' The final stage in the process is the independent certification of the companies involved. External bodies, such as the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency, will go into the company involved and check to see if the standards of ISO 9000 have been met. 'We aim to get companies through the whole procedure without generating a mountain of useless paperwork. It is a matter of getting a system in place for the companies that not only gives them the ISO 9000 but also makes sense for their business in terms that it improves their profitability and procedures,' Ms Chambre said. ISOtec's customers come from a broad spectrum of industry, including both manufacturers and now, ever more increasingly in Hong Kong, from service industries. Among the more traditional customers is the Mattel Toys production factory in Guangdong. The 8,000-employee business makes the world-famous Barbie doll. ISOtec successfully helped the factory reach certification. 'Although we still get a lot of business from manufacturers and the construction industry, more and more people are becoming aware of ISO 9000, including the service industries such as large shops and banks,' Ms Chambre said. 'They see the advantage as coming from improving their in-house systems and methods of training. It will formalise their procedures and this will be of particular use in many of the service industries where staff turnover is so high.'