Quality is one of our strengths. However, that didn't just come out of nowhere of course. QESH Manager Ruud tells us how he was at the forefront of a major transition 33 years ago as a quality assurance officer.
"After my mechanical engineering studies I went straight into military service. I ended up staying with the Army for almost 10 years. Due to announced reorganizations, I started applying for jobs anyway. That's how I ended up at Vostermans Alu Foundries 33 years ago as Quality Assurance Officer. The foundry still had a very authoritarian work atmosphere at the time. This was something that suited me well given my past in the military. However, I can now say that the foundry doesn’t bare much resemblance anymore to how it used to be in the past.
I was hired in the late 1980s to set up a quality assurance system to secure the quality aspect in the organization. At that time, obtaining ISO certification seemed like a hype. We obtained our first ISO certificate in 1993. This enabled us to show the outside world that we had the quality aspect of our business in order, and were continuously improving. And we still do that continuous improvement, but much more efficiently than back then.
In 33 years, my job has taken off. From reactively assessing products which were already casted, to proactively assessing whether a product can be properly made at all. We do this by working with our team to look at the requested end product from the process with the customer. This is now much more than just casting, as customers usually want to receive a casting product that has already been post-processed so that it can be assembled directly. This keeps us in control of costs and prevents mistakes being made during the production process at our location, or at one of our partners. In addition, the increasingly strict certification requirements ensured that my job kept changing. Meanwhile, in addition to quality, an environmental and occupational health and safety aspect were added. And so the well-known Quality Environment Health and Safety combination came into being. Next week, for example, the labor inspectorate will be visiting again. It always gives me a satisfied feeling when external people confirm that we have things in order. We also have a positive image within the foundry world. I regularly hear this from colleagues and industry partners. But we did not get this image without effort, it took more than the 33 years of my work to get us this far.
About 30 to 40% of my time now goes to environmental issues. In 1997, under my leadership, the first environmental permit was issued. In the meantime, a lot has changed and more and more is involved in this permit process. They are complex subjects with strict requirements, which are rightfully becoming more and more strict. We are well on the way to obtaining an environmental ISO certification as well. The basis for the environmental management system is in place; all that remains is for it to be implemented and absorbed in the organization. That does not mean, by the way, that we have not previously paid attention to it. For example, we buy green aluminum and use green electricity. But obtaining an environmental ISO certificate requires more than just environmentally conscious actions.
I still have several years until retirement. Before then, I’m sure we will get that environmental ISO certificate. I am also going to work on securing my QESH management function even further within the organization. Colleagues on the shop floor will then work on the issues themselves. And that also fits in with the transition we have gone through. With about 50 employees, our foundry is not particularly large. But we all feel involved in the end result. It has become a close-knit team. And to think that we come from an authoritarian organization in which one man pushed orders onto the shop floor through a kind of Chinese conduit. Looking back, I feel proud that we have taken these steps as an organization."