The specification sheets for the TÜV Rheinland inspectors were as thick as a telephone book: Daimler AG has been audited and certified for seven different standards, carried out at two sites at the same time. Quality management, environmental management and energy management were tested and compliance with the specifications was certified for ISO/TS 16949, ISO 9001, EMAS, ISO 14001 as well as ISO 50001.
It was necessary to fulfill the specific requirements of the German Federal Motor Transport Authority – KBA – as well as the Chinese certification system CCC to also ensure access to the markets in Europe and China for Daimler AG’s largest van plant in Düsseldorf and its sister plant in Ludwigsfelde with the Sprinter, Vario and Crafter models.
“We put our heads together to work out how we could more intelligently structure the process for this demanding auditing process. Alongside savings in cost and time, the challenge also lay in causing as little as possible disturbance to the normal operating procedures”, reports project manager Erich Grünes from TÜV Rheinland. The results of the brainstorming: a combined certification. Instead of organizing the task piece by piece, both companies decided on inspection procedures that ran simultaneously.
For the inspectors that meant significant additional effort in the planning phase as finely calculated
was the key for the tight scheduling of the auditing procedures and assessment of the plants. However the increased planning and coordination efforts paid dividends for the Daimler AG in the implementation phase.
The bundled auditing meant time could be reduced by approximately 20 percent. Moreover, there is much less likelihood that the employees will have their work interrupted. It is not just the Daimler employees that are less burdened thanks to integrated certification but also the management, as Grünes points out: “If the different audits were carried out at different times or were awarded to different inspection agencies, management would need to make themselves available time and again for different appointments and have to answer similar questions. This extra stress has been almost completely alleviated by the effects of synergies”.
In addition to time savings there were also cost savings, as the entire certification process was able to be carried out without having to stop production once. However, being awarded the certificate does not mean the project is complete, as Daimler AG and TÜV Rheinland have already begun work on the next evolutionary step of their cooperation, which has been running since 1996: “With detailed feedback from both sides, we are already starting the optimization process in order to ensure that we are able to work through the required points on the next telephone-book-thick specification sheets even more effectively", explains Erich Grünes.
For Peter Mengel, who as senior manager at Daimler is responsible for quality management, the cost and effort of the combined certification was worth it. In an interview he makes his initial review.
In general what are your expectations regarding auditing procedures?
Certifications are a requirement that allows our models to be represented on all relevant markets. However it’s not about the inspection certificate on the wall. We expect concrete suggestions for optimization that in the long-term with help us to secure our competitiveness.
The use of combined certification was a first for the Düsseldorf location. What sort of experiences did you gather in the process?
On balance it was certainly positive. The greatest advantage was the time savings, as we were able to complete all inspections within just one week and also achieve the hoped-for synergies through the parallel auditing processes.
What sort of challenges arose?
In comparison to carrying out many individual auditing processes, we had to place more value on the details during the planning process. After all, a complicated process like this stands and ultimately falls with the availability of the parties concerned.
What sort of feedback did you receive from the employees at the plant?
There is a high level of awareness of the necessity of auditing by independent inspectors at our site. Therefore it is not a burden but has now become routine. Therefore, we didn’t have to have a big tidy-up program in the week before the inspection. The fact that we now only have one audit period per year at the plant was generally very well received. All savings in time are highly welcome especially at the upper management level.
Do you expect that combined certification in large organizations will replace the previous individual inspections?
Combined certification in cooperation with TÜV Rheinland was a pilot project in Daimler’s production network. I am sure that this example will set a precedent that other sites will also follow. Overall combined certification belongs to the future as growing globalization and the increase in economic relations with companies in more and more countries more often now demand compliance with specific standards. If this trend continues, it will become essential to carry out simultaneous auditing and certification for several standards.
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