RIng of Fire: New Jersey Company walks the line

Sunday, May 1, 2005

FARMINGDALE, N.J.--For some people, having your ducks in a row is not just an expression--it's a way of life. And the same can be said of Fire Security Technologies: this spring the company marks the one-year anniversary of its ISO registration, a process that took six years to complete.
Originally developed to assist engineers in product development, the International Organization for Standardization's guidelines evolved to include management processes for small to large organizations.
ISO 9001:2000, which Fire Security Technologies received certification in last year, addresses quality management issues involving customer satisfaction, internal management and regulatory compliance. In order to be recognized by ISO, a third-party auditor must review the company's policies. In this case Underwriters Laboratories worked with Fire Security Technologies.
Founded in 1986, the company handled approximately 50 installations last year, primarily retrofit contracts. Geographically, the company focuses on central New Jersey, working for local school districts, hospitals and the military base Fort Dix.
"The process of ISO allows you to make a blueprint of the company," said Carl Scipione, chief financial officer at the company. "That means when you add employees, you plug them into a script."
Fire Security Technologies has benefited from certification in a number of ways, according to Scipione. However, discussing financial savings or return on investment is a little fuzzy because you are dealing with mistakes that were not made, rather than the other way around, Scipione said.
ISO certification was first introduced to the company back in 1998, when Edwards Systems Technology, a developer of fire detection and building life safety systems, of which the company is a strategic partner, started promoting it to its distributor channel, according to Carl Willms, founder and president of the company.
Around the same time, the New Jersey Department of Labor offered local companies a $30,000 grant to help attain ISO 9001 registration. With the grant, the state intended to provide business owners with the means to better operate their companies, which in turn would help strengthen the economy.
Since the grant was awarded, company employees have received one-on-one training and classes on ISO standards. And, the company's headcount increased to 29 from 17.
"Without that grant, we would not have been able to survive and get certification," said Willms. The funds were used to help develop proper procedures and record keeping, as well as fine-tune internal policies.
Kris Sateesh, vice president of quality at the firm, who oversees EST's ISO program, said there are 200 EST strategic partners in the United States, and approximately 25 companies have completed training, although not all have been audited by a third party.