Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

The Implementation and Impact of ISO 9000 among Small Manufacturing Enterprises

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

The Implementation and Impact of ISO 9000 among Small Manufacturing Enterprises

Article excerpt

Quality is essential to customer satisfaction and competitive success. Unfortunately, resource constraints can place the small-firm manufacturer at a quality disadvantage. This paper considers the benefits and barriers to International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000 certification among small-firm manufacturers. An empirical study explores whether small manufacturers can successfully implement and benefit from a standardized and resource-intensive program such as ISO 9000. The answer is yes if management can internalize core ISO practices. Keys to success include inculcating a quality culture, reducing behaviors that inhibit ISO adoption, performing a readiness analysis that helps tailor the ISO program to company needs, and leveraging a dynamic environment to drive quality consciousness.

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Introduction

Quality is essential to customer satisfaction and competitive success. This reality is true for companies of all sizes (Tan et al. 2000; Kumar et al. 1999; Deming 1986). Unfortunately, resource constraints, including scarce managerial time, limited training funds, and a lack of quality know-how, can place the small-firm manufacturer at a quality disadvantage. As a result, small companies often struggle to achieve the world-class quality standards customers now demand. To overcome inherent resource constraints and to dispel poor-quality perceptions, many small-firm manufacturers have adopted standardized quality programs. The goal is to improve quality practice and show customers that they are capable of meeting heightened quality expectations (Tata et al. 2000). The most recognized standardized quality program, International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000, has gained international attention and positioned itself as the quality standard of choice (Khan and Hafiz 1999; Brown and Anders 1994).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that real benefits are available through ISO 9000 certification. However, most of the discussion has focused on ISO implementation at large organizations. Very little emphasis has been directed toward the small-firm manufacturer, which has been defined in previous research as a manufacturer with fewer than 100 employees (Lee and Palmer 1999; Van Der Wiele and Brown 1997). By focusing on large corporations, an important portion of the U.S. economy has been overlooked. In the United States, small businesses account for 98 percent of all manufacturers and employ over two-thirds of the country's 18 million manufacturing workforce (Committee on Supply Chain Integration 2000). They have also created more jobs and had faster growth rates than larger manufacturers (Committee on Supply Chain Integration 2000; U.S. Small Business Administration 1999). It is time to take a closer look to see if ISO 9000 can effectively help improve the competitiveness of the small manufacturer.

Moreover, because of their limited resources, small-firm manufacturers face unique challenges as they evaluate whether to adopt ISO 9000. They do not have the wherewithal to dedicate the time and money to resource-intensive programs that can be hard to implement and may not deliver sought-after benefits. In addition, ISO 9000 has gained a reputation for being resource intensive and at least somewhat difficult to implement (Lee and Palmer 1999; Simmons and White 1999; Van Der Wiele and Brown 1997). Further, many companies have failed to achieve the quality and competitive benefits sought through ISO implementation (Lima, Resende, and Hasenclever 2000). Therefore, it is important to take a closer look at the issues surrounding the implementation of ISO 9000 among small manufacturers. The objective of this paper is to answer the question: "What are some of the antecedents to successfully implementing ISO 9000?"

ISO 9000 Defined

The ISO 9000 registration program, commonly called ISO 9000, is a family of "generic management system standards" concerned with managing a company's quality systems. …

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