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Quality Control System: demanded by times

In today's business, quality control systems provide one of the most important guarantees of supplies' stable quality, which is determined according to the ISO 9000 international standards. The first quality control systems came into play in Japan, in the 1960s they were actively introduced in the U.S. and soon after that the process spread to countries of Western Europe as well.

That was the way that the system of the ISO standards emerged. As far back as 1996 seven of nineteen ISO standards of the 9000 series were adopted by Russia as national State Standard Specifications (GOST) with R added to the abbreviation ISO (the R ISO 9000 standards). At present, the ISO system is used in more than 20 countries and another 50 plus states follow requirements of the ISO 9000 international standards  in their national certificates. For Russian enterprises ISO has become especially  important after the European Union has accepted new members, including those East European states, which were our country's traditional foreign trade partners till the demise of the Soviet Union.

The certification of Russia's enterprises according to the ISO 9000 standards is  frequently called 'a tribute to the current fashion' that time and again does not recoup either funds or efforts spent. However, the actual reason is the fundamental difference between the current version of the ISO 9001:2000 standard and the previous ones: this time the focus of these standards has been shifted from the quality of products to the quality of business processes. There are managers in Russia, who realized that it would be neither possible nor sufficient to establish an enterprise's separate 'quality system' according to the ISO standards: to this end the whole management system should be reorganized so as to refocus it on a responsible leader.

General director of the Electron Production Assembly-and-Construction Enterprise JSC VАLERY NIKOLAEVICH KARMACHEV is one of such leaders. In 47 years of its operation both in Russia and abroad Electron has gained the reputation of the major enterprise in supplying electrical equipment and doing wiring works. It won the 'Gold Mercury' contest as the 'Best exporter in the field of mechanical engineering'. Electron is one of the key components of the concern SpetsAtomMontazh that incorporates the country's largest enterprises, which ensure an uninterrupted operation of nuclear power facilities. Being recognized as a leader and veteran of the nuclear power industry, Valery Karmachev, who played the paramount role in restoring the industry under the new economic conditions and advancing its products to world markets, is also the permanent president of SpetsAtomMontazh.

TECHNOPOLIS XXI asked Valery Karmachev to share his views on the trend that has become obvious lately: Russian enterprises are seeking not only to meet requirements of the quality standards but also to get an authoritative certificate confirming that they make products in accordance with these standards. Such a condition is regularly put forward by foreign partners and it can be more and more often heard at tenders. But the main thing is that there is much better understanding now: the changeover to the ISO system is not a mere formality; it is really needed to upgrade the efficiency of operation.

Practically all 22 joint-stock enterprises, which are integrated in SpetsAtomMontazh and which are located throughout Russia, from the Kola Peninsular to the town of Krasnokamensk, are steadily raising volumes of both assembling and start-up-and-adjustment works at facilities of the nuclear power industry, including the Kalininskaya NPP that is under construction, the Novovoronezhskaya NPP-1, Leningradskaya NPP. The concern is actively interacting with design organizations and customers' capital construction administrations on implementing projects of constructing the Bashkirskaya NPP and Beloyarskaya NPP. The Electron Production Assembly-and-Construction Enterprise JSC does assembling-and-construction as well as special works in all of the industry's closed administrative and territorial formations. In 2003 it did just wiring works alone for the amount of 1.2 billion rubles.

The second phase of reconstructing the water-supply system at the Tajoura Nuclear Research Center in Libya is nearing completion. All the industrial pipelines, tanks and electrical equipment for China's Tianwan NPP have been supplied. A contract has been signed to supply pipe units for the Kudankulam NPP that is being under construction in India.

The equipment for these production facilities should meet very tough requirements since it will operate in complicated seismic and climatic conditions. However, we are able to offer our customer the optimal combination of price and quality.

Products' quality is the most important parameter of the Electron activity because for already the fifth decade our enterprise has been working mainly at nuclear compounds where requirements of reliability and safety are exceptionally high.

At the same time we regard the quality control system as an indicator of functional profitability that contributes to the reputation of Electron as a reliable partner. The introduction by the world community of the ISO 9000 standards, which set uniform principles of arranging an enterprise's management with an emphasis on quality, has created a common base making it possible to compare potential partners so as to avoid subjectivity and ensure compatibility of assessment results. That is why providing compliance of an enterprise's quality control system with requirements and norms of the ISO 9000 standards in contractual relations is a top-priority task.

The second task is the certification of quality control system, which today is considered a necessary and mandatory condition for participating in auctions and tenders as well as for getting insurance and obtaining licenses.

The task of bringing the quality control system in compliance with the norms of the ISO 9000 standards was not that simple for the Electron Production Assembly-and-Construction JSC with the structure that includes 10 assembly-and-construction administrations geographically dispersed from the Urals to Transbaikalia, the start-up-and-adjustment works administration, four plants, the mechanization and transport administration, the trading house and the design division.

In 1999 the lack of the certificate resulted in Electron's failure to win the tender for shipping to China industrial products that were earlier supplied to the nuclear-and-fuel complex of Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy. After that we worked out a program of the stage-by-stage establishment on the basis of CSCPQ a quality control system for the assembling and industrial production facilities that was to be certified. Under this program quality control systems at our plants ZAMY-2 (Ozersk) and ZAMY-3 (Seversk) have already been certified in accordance with the ISO 9001:2000 standard listed in the R State Standard Specification system. Preparatory works for certification of the quality control system have been finished at ZAMY-1 (Novosibirsk).

A special program to ensure products' quality has been developed, coordinated with the customer and is now being implemented for shipping supplies to the Tianwan NPP in China. This program conforms to not only the norms of the ISO 9000 standards but also to requirements of the Code of Security Provisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has ensured the fulfillment of the contract's requirements with respect to the quality of electrical equipment being supplied by the Electron plants. It includes pressure zone equipment for the VVAR-1000 reactor as well as components produced by our subcontractors: the Minsk Transformer Plant, Electrical Plant (Moscow), Vibrator Plant (Saint Petersburg), Teplocontrol Plant (Kazan), Teplopribor Plant (Ryazan), Manotom Plant (Tomsk), ABB group of companies, Schneider Electric company and others.

At the end of 2004 a tender is expected to be held for constructing the third and fourth blocks of China's Tianwan NPP. To us this project is important because our participation in it will help Electron further consolidate its positions in the world market of electrical equipment supplies, above all, equipment for nuclear power complexes and nuclear power plants.

In 2003 after analyzing results of the program that was adopted earlier  the board of directors of Electron JSC decided to seek an international certification of the enterprise's quality control system with respect to its compliance with the ISO 9001:2000 standard. The key business plan of Electron has a complex nature: designing – production – delivery – assembling – adjusting. Legally the plan is backed up by licenses of the state controlling organizations Gosstroy and GosAtomNadzor, certification by experts from Gostechnadzor and Gosenergonadzor. The whole process takes place within Electron itself: we can independently design any needed facility and under a general contract we ourselves  assemble electrical units and equipment being supplied from our plants. We ourselves do start-up-and-adjustment works and commission facilities on the turnkey basis.

However, the actual state of preparedness and compliance with the ISO 9001:2000 standard of quality control systems at each Electron division varies. And this makes us use the two-level approach: the management personnel level and the division level. The inspection of Electron, which has been conducted in 2004 by the International Certification Service SGS-ICS (Zurich, Switzerland), has proved the expediency of such a two-level approach by the enterprise. We have worked out a plan, which is based on results of this inspection and which provides for improving the quality control system in accordance with the requirements of the ISO 9001:2000 standard. An outside auditing is planned for October 2004 and the application for certification of the system is set for November.

There are all reasons to consider the certification of an enterprise's quality control system to be a significant factor that results in better organization and discipline. It helps formulate a clear, understandable and practically realizable concept of continuously upgrading the quality of operation, products and services as well as reducing costs and raising labor productivity. The certification also contributes to using new ideas as a priority as well as to providing motives and incentives to personnel. In the end all this leads to improved competitiveness and expansion of sales markets, the severest rivalry notwithstanding. It is the most important prerequisite not only for a survival but also for a further steady growth of enterprise.

Valery Karmachev, General director of the Electron Production Assembly-and-Construction Enterprise JSC


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