Growth Manufacturers Case Study
SemiNex Prepares for Growth in New Markets with ISO 9001:2008
By Karen Myhaver, NGM Program Support Administrator, MassMEP
"In the past, we delayed ISO certification due to the perceived cost and time requirement in both establishing and maintaining certification. At the ISO Collaborative, we learned that our perceptions were wrong. The materials were extremely useful and provided us with a solid framework to design a system that works for SemiNex at a very reasonable cost, with minimal impact to our people and processes. We saved $25,000-$30,000 as compared to going with a consultant or trying to do ISO on our own."
– David Bean, President, SemiNex Corporation
David Bean, President of SemiNex Corporation, founded the Peabody, Massachusetts company in 2003. A dedicated and talented team of employees has helped the company become an industry leader, offering the highest power and highest efficiency laser diodes in the 1300 to 1700 nanometer wavelength range for medical, industrial, and military applications.
Customers know that SemiNex produces products they can count on. The company partners with their customers to ensure them an uninterrupted supply of high quality laser diodes and to provide technical support during new product development. SemiNex's own technology has brought them growth opportunities in several markets expected to transition to the safer 1300-to-1700 nanometer wavelength range.
"SemiNex is a leading supplier for several applications that are expected to explode in the next 3-5 years, including home medical devices, new military advancements, unmanned vehicles and telecommunications lasers," said Bean. In anticipation of this growth, SemiNex decided to move forward with ISO 9001-2008 certification.
MassMEP project manager Mike O'Neill invited SemiNex to participate in an ISO Collaborative. A year earlier, the company had been unable to invest the manpower and declined the invitation; but they were able to take advantage this time around. A Workforce Training Fund Program grant covered half the cost of the company's collaborative training, which consisted of seven, once-a-month, day-long training events with members from all the participating companies, and then five on-site sessions where the facilitators assisted individual companies in applying what they had learned to their own processes and environment. SemiNex was one of eight companies in their group, which represented several different types and sizes of manufacturer.
David brought Dr. John Callahan, VP of Engineering, and mechanical engineer Matt Hamerstrom to several of the Collaborative training sessions. Ongoing improvements SemiNex had made to their Quality Management System over the years put them in a good position at the start of the program. The Collaborative helped SemiNex make the necessary changes to their quality program to bring it to ISO compliance and prepared them for audit.
Typically, it takes 7-12 months for ISO preparation, but mock audits of their processes and procedures by the trainers indicated that SemiNex was ready to move forward just 3 months into the program. SemiNex thinks their actual ISO audits went smoothly and quickly because they were well prepared. They achieved 9001:2008 Certification in November 2013.
ISO Supports Sales Expansion
SemiNex has focused a strong marketing presence on expanding their reach to current and potential customers in Australia, Germany, Japan, and China, where they already have distribution agreements. ISO certification is valuable here as well.
"We decided to do it (ISO) now, rather than wait until our customers demanded it, and be ahead of the game," offered Bean.
Their proactive marketing, coupled with strengthened customer confidence, supports the business increases SemiNex has seen to date. Neal Stoker, SemiNex Vice President of Sales and Marketing, noted that since adding mention of their ISO certification to various marketing materials and posting a copy of the certificate on their website, the sales departmen has received fewer questions regarding ISO compliance and no longer receives requests for copies of documentation.
"Being ISO certified has helped simplify the sales process," says Stoker. "The fact that we are now certified actually seems to be noted more frequently by our domestic customers than our international customers."
SemiNex was able to focus their attention on and successfully obtain their ISO 9001:2008 certification after identifying growth opportunities which could require the certification in the future. They prepared for this by taking advantage of the successful and cost effective MassMEP ISO 9001:2008 Collaborative. Bean knows of companies who spent $30,000 to prepare for ISO certification. When you figure in the time investment, their final cost was closer to $100,000.
"SemiNex was able to go through the program for under $10,000, which is quite remarkable," Bean shared. "Being part of the collaborative probably saved us $25,000-$30,000 as compared to going with a consultant or trying to do ISO on our own. John, Matt, and I found the collaborative classes very helpful. Jim Saropoulos, the instructor, is excellent. He took a topic that was pretty dry and a bit scary and created a pretty great course!"
The company has been able to maintain certification for the past year without creating undue burdens on personnel, which is key for a small company. They also credit the 9001:2008 ISO Collaborative training for helping them keep the scope of their quality system appropriate for their particular business, said Hamerstrom,
SemiNex regularly reviews their quality processes and procedures to make sure they reflect their Quality Policy. All continuous improvement efforts in support of ISO Certification benefit both SemiNex and their customers.
"We had good quality systems in place and felt ISO would validate what existed and add confidence for our current customers," explained Bean. "We design & build laser products that consistently meet or exceed our customer expectations. Continual improvement is expected in everything we do."
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