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101MFG wants region recognized ‘on a world-class stage’NORTH BAY – A consortium of manufacturing companies was set today to launch an unusual drive to make the North Bay what it says would be the world’s first “100 percent ISO-certified” manufacturing region.

101MFG, started as an arm of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and spun off to serve manufacturing companies throughout Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties, wants each of its 200 members – and potentially 500 members and non-members in the greater North Bay – to obtain the industry’s highest stamp of approval for quality.

“We want as a region to operate on a best-in-class, world-class stage, to go toe-to-toe with the world’s most productive and successful firms,” said 101MFG director Dick Herman. ”To do that we have to step up to the levels of quality, performance and financial strength that major U.S. and foreign manufacturers demand.”

Many of the group’s members – vendors to the aerospace and federal defense industries or European companies – are already ISO-certified and testify to the market-broadening as well as process-improving effects of the standard.

But smaller component makers and metal shops sometimes shy away from the complex certification and auditing process, fearing expense and lost time.

“What they really lack is understanding, not money or time,” said Debra Cabrera, director of quality for Icore International, supplier of sophisticated electronics for the aerospace industry.

“The expense is minor, and with someone experienced to walk them through the process it’s very doable.”

Icore would love to source more local shops for components and materials, she said. The company spends a lot of time seeking out small, ISO-certified suppliers all over the U.S., she said. Icore sources everything from chemicals to electronics from 172 suppliers.

“Sourcing locally is much better for everyone involved. We’re very supportive of 101MFG’s effort,” said Ms. Cabrera.

To make things easier on local companies, Mr. Herman has worked with Tim Landerville of Isocert Solutions to develop a low-cost and faster process.

An ISO auditor whose company implements the ISO quality-assurance program, Mr. Landerville has both beginners’ and more advanced ISO packages and a willingness to work through them with manufacturers.

"We can get certification in order in as little as 10 weeks. Then training and information gathering is relatively simple,” he said.

There are five steps to the process: needs assessment, an implementation plan, training, a pre-certification audit and a certification audit.

The rewards are many.

“For us it opened up a $20 million market in Germany and Europe that we had no access to without it,” said Jim Happ, CEO of medical supply maker Labcon in Petaluma. “We’ve already pulled $3.5 million from that market.”

In Asia, ISO certification currently means less than it does to the giant American and global companies that operate there, he said.

“But it will matter in Asia, very much. And that’s where the future lies,” Mr. Happ said.

Mr. Happ said an unexpected boon to the ISO certification was his company’s improved corrective reactions to customers’ concerns.

“We learned how to document them, hold meetings to develop solutions and bring them back to the client. In all, we’ve become a more disciplined company and a more productive company,” he said.

Regarding 101MFG’s effort to ISO-certify North Bay manufacturers, he said, “You won’t persuade all of them to take the trouble. But I applaud the effort. There’s no doubt that each company would better itself significantly and the region as a whole would benefit.”