The British Standards Institute has embarked on an expansion in the United States to meet the growing demand from U.S. companies for outside certification of compliance with international standards.
The most visible change has been the move of the institute's U.S. headquarters from Tysons Corner, Va., to Herndon, Va., and the opening of offices in Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and Morristown, N.J.
These offices and the hiring of an additional 160 people over the next four years are part of a strategic plan developed by George Cornecelli, vice president and general manager of the institute's U.S. operations, to increase the visibility of the institute and win more U.S. business.
"We plan to have a substantial presence here and increase our use of American expertise," said Cornecelli, who was hired by the institute six months ago. He is the former director of total quality and productivity for AlliedSignal Technical Services Corp. of Columbia, Md.
Besides the nonprofit British Standards Institute, there are about 60 organizations that register or certify that U.S. companies comply with ISO 9000. It certifies that companies are following their internal policies and procedures for delivering a quality product. ISO 9000 can be applied to virtually any industry and can be used by manufacturers or service providers, Cornecelli said.
Currently, the British Standards Institute has about 40 U.S. employees in Herndon and the new offices, and often must bring British officials over to certify U.S. companies' compliance with ISO 9000, Cornecelli said. The nonprofit corporation was established in Great Britain in 1903 and is one of the originators of ISO 9000.
Cornecelli and others see use of ISO 9000 increasing in the United States as companies recognize its value and the federal government uses it as a way to assess the quality of contractors.
Pushing companies to get registered as ISO-complaint is the federal government, which sees ISO 9000 registration as assurance that a contractor can deliver a quality product or service, government officials said. Being registered by an outside party also means that the government does not have to expend resources to verify a company's claims about quality, officials said.
To maintain registration, companies must undergo periodic audits by the outside party, Cornecelli said.
U.S. industry's attitude toward ISO has changed in the past five years because of the standard's growing global acceptance, especially in Europe where it was born, Cornecelli said. To compete in Europe, companies often must be registered as ISO-compliant, he said.
"The U.S. has been a little slower to join than the rest of the world but America is now stepping up," he said.
Taking the lead in adopting ISO practices in the information technology industry have been manufacturers. Companies that primarily provide services, such as systems integrators, have been a little slower to embrace ISO because services are not traditionally viewed as a product, Cornecelli said.
"They haven't been up in the front but more and more [integrators] are expressing interest," he said. "We have several of those organizations involved now."
The U.S. government also is looking to ISO 9000 as a way to improve its own way of doing business. As more parts of the government comply with ISO 9000, the pressure on contractors to comply also will increase, said Carl Schneider, a senior technical advisor at NASA.
Scattered departments within the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have already gone through the ISO 9000 registration, but NASA is the first agency to set registration as a goal for the entire organization, Schneider said.
NASA will be accepting bids through mid-June for a third party to audit the agency's quality management procedures, he said. NASA wants to be compliant with ISO 9000 by September 1999.
Cornecelli said the British Standards Institute is bidding on the NASA contract.
NASA likely will not require ISO 9000 compliance from contractors, but many companies, especially those supplying hardware, are voluntarily pursuing ISO registration. That is a change from two or three years ago, when any mention of being registered as ISO-compliant brought howls of protest from contractors, Schneider said.
The biggest complaint was that it would cost too much to go through the auditing and registration process, which can take up to two years, he said.
He estimated the cost for NASA to be registered would be $500,000 to $1 million, but changes to internal policies and retraining of personnel would cost an additional $50 million to $100 million. After being registered, the agency will go through periodic audits.
"But I have no doubt that the improvement in efficiency and effectiveness will pay back [the cost] in a couple of years," he said.
At the Department of Defense, for example, the agency used ISO 9000 as a model for developing its Earned Value Management System guidelines. DoD accepts ISO 9000 registration in lieu of its own audit of contractors, an official said.