Every service company says it wants to put customers first, but doing so and then having it verified by a third party is another story. In fact, it’s the story of ENLASO—a leading provider of enterprise language solutions. This industry leader not only puts its customers first, but it has been documenting those efforts for a decade.
Recently, the nearly 40-year-old company celebrated its 10th anniversary of becoming certified to ISO 9001. The scope of certification covers the company’s two domestic offices in Boulder, Colorado and Boise, Idaho, which employ a total of 40 people.
“Our ongoing ISO 9001 certification reflects our dedication to quality system processes that provide our customers with consistent, high quality localization services,” said Yves Lang, ENLASO’s Chief Sales Officer, in a company news release.
“As a professional services company, our customer deliverables require contributions from various disciplines,” stated John Watkins, President and COO of ENLASO, in the same release. “Optimizing the quality of the contributions of each discipline requires the simultaneous collaboration of all of our professionals within each of those disciplines. Our quality management system establishes processes that make that possible.”
ENLASO Corporation is a translation provider for several industries including: the life sciences, medical, pharmaceutical, biotech, IT, legal, financial, gaming, aerospace, automotive, advertising and telecommunications. In addition to translation, the company localizes software, websites, marketing materials, technical documents and more.
When the company earned ISO 9001 certification, it was one of the first to do so in its field. For more information about the company, visit:www.enlaso.com.
ENLASO provides services to various customers spanning the globe. Many of those clients require external verification of ENLASO’s quality management system (QMS) as a baseline for doing business. For example, it is paramount for clients in the medical devices industry to receive external validation of their vendor’s quality system for the translation and localization services they receive because those devices are used for consumer products ranging from home glucose monitoring systems to complex, multi-million dollar machines used in hospitals.
So, ENLASO has to take its verification of the company’s quality processes seriously, Watkins said.
“I come from a background in which we had adopted total quality management principles a long time ago,” said Watkins, who took over the reigns at ENLASO three years ago when the company changed ownership.“ It is fundamentally the way I work. I like ISO 9001 because it is almost like a carrot dangled on a stick in that it keeps everyone working together for a common goal – the company mission and the quality objectives.”
Certification to the international standard not only keeps employees working toward the quality mission, but also demonstrates to customers that ENLASO meets global best practices when it comes to quality management. ISO 9001 helps provide employees tangible goals and processes for “working faster, better and cheaper,” providing documented improvements and quality for customers, Watkins added.
In addition to meeting customer requirements, certification to ISO 9001 has yielded many benefits to ENLASO in at least four quantifiable areas. The greatest benefit of certification is simply the ability to demonstrate to the outside world that its QMS focuses on customer service and that ENLASO is working to exceed customer expectations.
The company is able to measure the benefits of certification in a quantifiable manner because of its relationship to the world’s leading certification body, BSI. In the process of working together to prepare for audits, BSI recommended to ENLASO that it establish concrete benchmarks to measure the impact of the QMS. BSI pushed the company to quantify ENLASO’s effectiveness in serving its customers.
The company established four pillars – customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, gross margin for services and net profitability – as essential areas to measure.
Watkins stated that ENLASO customers have always been happy with their services and felt there was little room for improvement in customer satisfaction. To make sure of this, the company implemented, as part of the QMS, periodic customer satisfaction surveys. The latest customer survey indicates that 95 percent of their customers feel ENLASO is able to meet or exceed all of their vendor expectations.
ENLASO did have tremendous opportunity for improvement in the area of employee satisfaction. Employee morale was low because of multiple turnovers in company ownership, with three different owners in the past several years. To rectify this situation, the company implemented an employee satisfaction survey, and the results in 2007 were encouraging. The survey instrument measures 15 different areas of the company, and 97 percent of the employees indicated they feel they are treated fairly by ENLASO. Another 97 percent reported their supervisor understands them. The lowest area involved a question regarding work and personal life and whether the company allows employees to balance the two. Just over 70 percent of the people noted there is the flexibility to permit balance in their lives. With 12 out of 40 employees who are not completely satisfied, “We take that seriously and have implemented appropriate changes to address the work/life balance,” Watkins said.
The third measurement is the gross margin for services provided. As a professional services company, ENLASO measures the cost of providing those services against the revenue generated by the sales. The gross margin that remains when the cost of services is removed from revenue is what is left to pay for general administrative costs and the final net profit. The company’s current target is to have its gross margin at 40 percent. When it started measuring this pillar, the gross margin was 31 percent and now it is 39.8 percent, 0.2 percent from the corporate target.
The last major area of measurement is the net profitability of the company. Watkins said he had to speak vaguely about that, as ENLASO is a privately owned company. But he said the QMS has helped make the company “profit focused” with a net increase in profitability since the acquisition three years ago. This increase resulted in stakeholder approval of the company’s profits.
The external auditors have helped the company to improve its QMS because “We learn something about our system from every audit,” Watkins said, adding “ENLASO is very happy with its relationship to BSI.” Even after a decade of ISO 9001,Watkins said the audits are valuable – the company almost never gets nonconformances because it has so much experience, but “good observations come out” of the audits that help the company improve.
In all the years of working with BSI, Watkins said he’s only experienced one, brief “hiccup”. It occurred when an auditor left the company, and for about one month, the communication with BSI was not what it should have been. He called the main office, and BSI issued a corrective action report and promptly fixed the problem.
“They handled it very appropriately, just like we would,” he said. “Every company has problems, but a good one can be measured in how it solves those problems.”
ENLASO tapped BSI as its certification body because of its stellar reputation for reliability.
Reflecting on his ISO experience, Watkins added, “I think it is easy for people to think their quality management system is just a bunch of hoops they have to jump through. But to me, if you address the core areas of your company, then high quality deliverables and customer satisfaction are achieved.”
What is unique about ENLASO’s system is that every employee does not just give lip service to the quality management system; rather, each one of them plays an integral role in its implementation and its maintenance. The typical corporate environment usually taps a quality manager to be responsible for the QMS, but at ENLASO, the QMS is everyone’s responsibility. The company achieves 100 percent participation through the use of cross-functional quality teams. “Nobody Works in a vacuum,” Watkins said.
For example, the sales staff does not implement any quality process without involving the production and executive management staff, and vice versa.
“This approach has created a tightly knit group, and in effect, it is away of ensuring empathy for one another among the employees. It works really well.”
Over the past decade, the QMS has evolved. Initially, quality was important to the company, but the system was not necessarily understood by everyone. But now, the involvement of everyone through the cross-functional quality teams has produced a company where the system is not only understood, but also devised by the employees.
“Instead of pushing a quality system down from the top onto the employees, the people push out and make the quality system, letting employees contribute to it,” Watkins said.