SCOTTSDALE, AZ, Feb. 11, 2008 -- Certification to quality standards, a clear indication of professionalism, is an achievement that is respected on a global scale. For an organization in the public sector, seeking and receiving triple certification is a goal that even large corporations would hesitate to attempt. On Feb. 5th, 2008, however, Tucson, Arizona's Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department's Conveyance Division (PCRWRDCD), which serves a population of more than one million, was the first enterprise (public or private) in the United States to receive three management standard certifications simultaneously -- for ISO 9001:2000 for Quality, ISO 14001 for Environmental, and OHSAS 18001 for Safety.
Business Enterprise Mapping Inc., a process improvement consulting company, collaborated with the public utility throughout 2007 in preparation for simultaneous management audits that were conducted by independent auditing company, TUV SÜD America during October and November 2007.
The results of a third party audit were the catalyst for management commitment to improving quality. Leadership elected to establish a business management system that would incorporate certification to all three international management standards as a tangible indication of that commitment. Three different certifications were relevant to the organization: ISO 9001:2000 which specifies requirements for a quality management system, ISO 14001 which addresses various aspects of environmental management, and OHSAS 18001 which addresses health and safety standards and requirements.
Because preparing for a certification is extremely challenging and involves significant organizational change, most organizations wanting multiple certifications choose to seek them consecutively. At PCRWRDCD, however, management recognized that even though two auditors for each standard would be needed, the certification requirements overlapped and there was a clear correlation between the three standards.
"We just decided it would be more efficient to prepare for all three at once," said Edward Collette, Environmental & Safety Manager who served as Leadership Representative for this project.
The department contracted with Business Enterprise Mapping to help the department develop a business management system to achieve its objectives and prepare for the certifications. The three major goals of this system were to regain public confidence, establish accountability and prepare for the challenges expected in the next decade by defining roles and responsibilities and building a system for process excellence and continuous improvement.
"We wanted to become more like private sector businesses in our operations," said John Warner, Deputy Director. "We felt process mapping would be the key to success. It offered the most value added business change."
In March 2007, Business Enterprise Mapping began the assignment to develop a business management system that would be compliant to the three international standards. Don James, President of Business Enterprise Mapping, said, "We were excited at the opportunity to be part of this groundbreaking project. I was delighted at the enthusiasm and commitment among the employees. They thoroughly embraced the concept of process mapping and process improvement."
Empowered to be the instruments of change, the employees quickly recognized the new system's value and developed pride of ownership in their processes. During the process mapping assignment, more than 300 opportunities for improvement were identified. By year's end, the PCRWRDCD had recorded dramatic improvements across the board. With employees committed and involved, teamwork and morale have improved. The new system has also allowed management to capture what employees are doing right and to quickly act on suggestions.
For the audit, TÜV SÜD America Inc., a global certification organization, assigned six independent auditors, two for each certification. During the audit, the auditors reviewed quality manuals and the supporting procedures, toured and inspected the facility and observed ongoing operations in addition to interviewing employees working at various levels, and evaluated quality records. Citing the example of a new entry level employee who already had a remarkably clear understanding of his charter, the auditors were particularly impressed with how well quality procedures had been integrated throughout the organization.
Said Manuel Rodriguez, TÜV Lead Auditor, "PCRWRDCD performed an extraordinary job to earn their certification because there was a 100% commitment from all employees to perform their best... from management on down."
With 113 employees, PCRWRDCD collects approximately 70 million gallons of wastewater per day and maintains over 3,400 miles of pipe and 70,000 manholes as well as 34 pump stations. "We serve more than a million citizens over a 370-square mile service area," said Warner. "One of our main objectives was to improve their opinion of our service. Certification and the process improvements we made go a long way toward doing that." The three standards and changed business practices are now a part of the department's culture. In Feb. 2008, the department received word it had successfully achieved all three certifications it sought. With those certifications, the PCRWRD has set the bar for government agencies across the country and shown that government agencies can be run like any other business.
Business Enterprise Mapping Inc. is a leading provider of consulting and training solutions to organizations around the world.