Pioneer in quality management: HBM celebrates 25 years of ISO 9001 certification

First German company to be accredited to ISO 9001 - the certificate is a worldwide standard today

Over one million companies worldwide are accredited to the ISO 9001 quality management standard today - including over 45,000 companies in Germany. However, the situation was different 25 years ago: At that time, test and measurement technology manufacturer HBM was the first company in Germany to take the step toward certification of its quality management system. Pioneering work that has been a success factor so far.

In the meantime, companies worldwide consider ISO9001 certification virtually indispensable proof of the performance of their quality management. This not only refers to a company's ability to manufacture products that meet customers' requirements and comply with relevant regulations. On the contrary, the focus on production has been shifted to a view of all processes in a company - covering the entire product life cycle, from the capturing of market expectations through to disposal.

Companies that want to become or to remain accredited to ISO 9001 need to undergo audits by independent certification authorities at regular intervals. Every audit involves high expenditure: A company's processes are systematically examined and their efficiency and further development is tested.

In August 1986, when HBM was the first German company to be accredited to ISO 9001, the situation was still more complex: A lot of pioneering work was required because there was only very limited experience of others to draw upon. Certification was even based on a draft of the ISO 9001 standard - the final standard having been approved by the global ISO committee only by the beginning of 1987.

The certificate number "000001" still bears witness to this pioneering achievement. At that time, HBM's first quality management manual was carefully drafted step by step; it has been continuously developed since then and has been the main guideline for all corporate processes until today - from development through sales and customer communications.

Why has HBM focused on the ISO 9001 standard at so early a stage? There have been several reasons for that: First of all, the company has been driven by the passion for quality from its foundation in 1950. Sensors and amplifiers from HBM have enjoyed an excellent reputation on the market - for their precision and reliability. However, quality is more than a product's reliability - quality is an overall performance to increase customer satisfaction.

HBM had recognized at an early stage that the time for accredited quality management had come: Ongoing globalization resulted in an increasing number of trade relations across national borders. The companies' supply chains became increasingly complex and, at the same time, higher quality standards were required.

Corporate processes need to adapt to changes in markets and customer requirements. Successful quality management needs to be dynamic and to consistently work on, rethink and adapt its objectives and processes. The objective is continuous improvement.

It is for this reason that ISO 9001 certificates always have only limited validity. Since the first accreditation in 1986, HBM has undergone nine major certifications and 14 monitoring audits - all passed successfully!

Over the years, 4 additional QM system certifications were achieved, e.g. per 94/9/EC (ATEX) and, in particular, the certification of the environmental management system per ISO 14001 whose 15th anniversary HBM celebrates at the same time. The quality management system has continuously developed into an integrated management system including auditing elements involving quality, environment, (work) safety, risk and compliance.

Increasing auditing experience of all parties involved has also changed the way the a company can benefit: "The switch to focused and distinctly more open interaction - away from formal inspection toward coaching for a continuous process of change - has provided many useful ideas," states Andreas Hüllhorst, HBM CEO, explaining the development of ISO 9001 certification over the years. One thing has become obvious: "Certification has supported us in establishing HBM as the market leader and as a synonym for high-quality precision measurement technology."