Ascendant Technologies Ltd (Case Study)

Mike Wainwright, Managing Director:

“We embarked on ISO 9001 certification in 2009 because we supply the oil and gas industry and that’s what they require as a minimum. Following implementation, I soon found that it brought a great deal of value to the business itself in terms of benefits.

“We used ISO in a Box™ but over the following three years, the business grew very rapidly and we could see how their web-based Activ would suit us better and give more functionality. Our own management system is Cloud based so part of the rationale was that we could have a management system plus quality system that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. This is a real bonus as we also have an office in Qatar.

“Our consultant, Mark Pendleton, has become an integral part of the company and every month he comes in and chairs our quality meetings. He’s regarded as part of the team and I have no hesitation in recommending Mark and Equas to my contacts – and have done so.”

The Company

Set up in 2003 with five staff, Ascendant Technologies supplies automation valves for oil and gas installations. It now operates across five continents with ambitious plans for further growth and the head count has increased to 14.

It builds seriously large pieces of kit as a finished assembly such as the perhaps inappropriately named ‘Butterfly’ valve that is around 1.5 metres in diameter with a hydraulic actuator on top of that plus associated control gear. And that isn’t the largest valve by any means. This equipment is bespoke to customers’ individual and complex specifications and since much of its work is in the Middle East, transport and freight costs are high.

The Challenge

Although ISO 9001 certification had initially ticked the right boxes for customers, the business was growing so quickly, getting more sophisticated and the market place had become more demanding. Sales tripled in just 3 years and the business was struggling to keep pace.

The pressure meant that instances of customer generated non-conformance rocketed and were very expensive to correct as it involved sending an engineer out to the customer’s site, which could be anywhere in the world. In extreme cases, kit had to be returned back to base for attention. Mistakes were being repeated and this had become a major problem.

Methodology

Equas consultant Mark Pendleton recommended that the company migrate its quality systems over to its web-based Activ as it had additional features that would address the non-conformance issues. It would also be easier to maintain, freeing up valuable time. The company runs its operation using an online Materials Requirement Programme and since they were already very familiar with web-based systems, Activ was seen as being an excellent fit. Mark ran an in-depth audit of its existing systems and identified areas for improvement and new procedures and processes that should be included. More robust systems were brought in to ensure that all components from external suppliers were arriving on schedule and orders would be delivered to customers on time. Improvement logs ensured that mistakes were not repeated and automatic version control ensured there is never an out of date document. Regular quality meetings were put on the agenda. Activ went live 15 months ago and is now regarded as being central to the business.

Benefits

Non-conformance is now almost zero, which has saved significant amounts of money. The company has the certification it requires to operate in the market place. It took some time to fully develop the use of the system, but the framework is now in place for the company to realise its ambitious plans for growth.