Adrian Steel's long history of providing customers quality products dates back more than 54 years. Over the years, the company had sensed a growing barrier between having a formal quality system and effectively delivering quality products in a timely fashion.

In 2006, Adrian Steel management restated its focus, changing perspective from providing systems for vehicles to providing customers with cargo management solutions for commercial vehicles.

As their formal QS-9000 certification neared its end, Adrian company executives knew they wanted something better — something focused on the customer, something that made common sense, something that would drive management and staff to become a better company. They wanted to be a company that customers found easy to do business with.

Adrian chose to pursue TS16949, a quality initiative driven by a formal business management system focused on the company's customers. Automotive Fleet recently talked with key Adrian personnel about the TS initiative and its impact on the company’s expanding business. Dick Rose is Adrian Steel's VP of engineering and quality; Jeff Warnecke is VP of sales; and Anthony Roark serves as corporate director of quality.

AF: Why did Adrian Steel choose to become TS16949 certified?

Rose: We examined our options and chose to pursue TS16949 and ISO 9001:2000 certification. We believe it will drive our company to achieve our vision and goals. We like the TS16949 focus on our customers. Also, while QS was an element- and department-based approach, ISO/TS focuses on processes and continual improvement. TS supports our vision of lean, a perspective that QS lacked. This quality management system allows us to establish, document, implement, measure, and continually improve the effectiveness of our business management system.

AF: What did a process approach do for Adrian Steel?
Warnecke: We became TS-certified in March 2007. During the implementation, we were able to align our business processes with our organizational goals. What really intrigued us was the focus on customer-oriented processes. Whether in sales or engineering, at our manufacturing facilities, or related to installing the product into vehicles, this quality system is all-encompassing.

We are forced to determine how all areas of our business link together. For example, how different departments are communicating within the organization about their respective functions. The TS approach makes the organization focus on all of those connections, which leads to better business decisions.

AF: How do you determine if you are meeting your customers' needs?
Warnecke: One of the key aspects of our business management system is the requirement to measure the effectiveness of our processes and their results. We measure our key processes monthly. We implement action items focused on driving improvements to the process. While we are always striving to meet our goals, this quality initiative is really about continuous improvement.

The TS business management system allows us to focus on the customer, from the point of initial contact through the point at which the vehicle is delivered to the end customer. Even after delivery, we can determine how to best follow up with a customer to ensure ongoing satisfaction.

AF: Was there much change at Adrian Steel to support this initiative?
Warnecke: Yes. As a company, many of our people had focused on fulfilling the requirements of their jobs. TS taught how each of our job functions affected the job functions of our teammates and, ultimately, the customer. Rose: Once we understood the relationship between the customer and our job functions, we were able to develop the infrastructure to reach our corporate vision of offering cargo management solutions. It is also important to note that as we started down the path of implementing the TS system, it became apparent that we needed a corporate champion. And so Anthony Roark, corporate director of quality, joined the team to support the system’s effective implementation and monitor our continued success. He is our quality champion and our coach.
Roark: Part of my role is to help facilitate continual improvement within the company to TS standards.

Each month, I review our measureables with executive management, looking for areas of improvement, seeking to drive our commitment to success as we strengthen our position as a market leader.

AF: You talked about commitment to quality. How does that support your goals?
Roark: TS involves our people, supports the manufacturing and installation of superior products, betters our programs, and drives us to continually improve our processes. The fact that this certification covers every aspect of our business means our commitment to quality can be seen at every level.

We are constantly driving for standardization and monitoring results through auditing our processes. We must do what we say we are going to do, and we do that by driving waste out of the process.

AF: How has TS supported Adrian Steel’s new focus on cargo management solution?

Warnecke: TS supports cargo management solutions in many ways. TS requires us to constantly think of our customer. Our customer-oriented processes within TS demand solutions. This is how we develop our customer base, determine their needs, and fulfill their expectations. This strengthens our business relationships.

It helps us determine how to roll products out to the marketplace. It helps us develop processes that get all areas involved from concept to delivery. Living TS within our organization is vital. Just waving a flag is not enough. We live and breathe this culture every day. Basically, we look at the marketplace and supply solutions for our customers.

AF: How do you measure the success of TS at Adrian Steel?

 Roark: By monitoring our processes, we have provided data to validate concrete results. So far, we've seen improvements in customer relations, quote turnaround time, and first-time quality in our manufacturing and install processes. Our decisions are made with the focus on the customer.

AF: Does TS allow you to adapt to a changing market?
Warnecke: Absolutely. The OEM side of the business continues to change on a rapid basis. For instance, we're seeing a lot of crossover vehicles. As we see the customers’ vehicle choices increase, we're confident we have the infrastructure in place with TS to offer cargo management solutions for the changing market.

AF: Is TS implemented only at Adrian Steel? Warnecke: No. Our Road~Redi program is a prime example. With Road~Redi, the company utilizes our distribution network to do upfits in the field, helping us respond to changing customer needs and providing a solution. This process eliminates the time it takes to order a vehicle, have the vehicle built, plus transportation time. This could save about eight to 10 weeks, depending on the manufacturer.
Roark: TS also requires that we evaluate our business partners to ensure we meet our customers' expectations. Vendors and subcontractors are subject to achieving our requirements.

AF: How will Adrian Steel continue to build momentum for next year?
Warnecke:We will continue to embrace finding solutions to customers' problems and needs. This approach will allow us to offer the right solutions for our customers and to build momentum moving forward for years to come.

Adrian believes in our four P's: people, products, programs, and processes. These four areas will help us improve our success and sustain our growth in the future. Team Adrian will continue our focus on offering cargo management solutions for our customers' commercial vehicles.