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April 2007

An ATAC Client Success Story

Montgomery, Ala.-based Curtis Company recently achieved ISO 9001-2000 certification and now stands among top companies who practice a business culture of excellence in product delivery, customer service and quality management. Shown from left to right are Curtis Company General Manager Brent Dickey; Accounts Payable/Payroll Manager Laura Lawrence; Service Department/Purchasing Manager Al Pierce; Customer Service Representative Wilene Corbin; Shipping Manager Jeff Wiggins; Customer Service Representatives Maria Wiggins and Joy Coon; Henry Burdg, director of the Auburn Technical Assistance Center at Auburn University; and Curtis Company President Larry Huffstetter. The Auburn Technical Assistance Center – part of the AU College of Business Outreach program and an affiliate of the Alabama Technology Network – assisted Curtis Company in attaining its ISO certification.

Montgomery AV firm attains ISO 9100-2000 What does a small Montgomery, Ala. audio visual equipment supplier have in common with such corporate giants as Hyundai or Microsoft Corporation? Each represents operations that follow high-end quality standards as members of an elite international group of ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certified companies. Curtis Company, an audio visual equipment supplier located on Plantation

Way near Montgomery’s Lagoon Park, recently attained ISO 9001-2000 certification after more than a year of intense quality systems implementation effort with facilitation and guidance from the Auburn Technical Assistance Center – part of Auburn University’s College of Business Outreach program and an affiliate of the Alabama Technology Network. As an ISO certified company, Curtis Company stands among firms that operate under a business culture that practices the process approach to quality management systems -- excellence in such critical areas as product delivery, customer service and continuous improvement. Presently, there are less than 1,350 ISO certified companies in the state of

Alabama, and only about 50 in the immediate Montgomery area. Curtis Company began operations in the mid 1980s primarily as a mailorder supplier of A/V equipment to educational organizations. The firm grew from one employee occupying a small rented room, to moving into its own new 10,000 square-foot facility by 1992. Presently, Curtis Company employs eight and conducts more than $5 million in sales annually. “We decided to pursue ISO certification because our business volume was growing,” said co-founder and owner Larry Huffstetter. “With more volume and more employees interacting with our customers,

we wanted to ensure that our customer service and the quality of our operation were top among the industry. Moreover, ISO certification enables us to bid on certain projects that before, we were not eligible to participate in.” Huffstetter learned about the Auburn Technical Assistance Center, which helps business and industry develop and implement strategies to improve efficiency and profitability through customized training programs and other services. “We talked with ATAC’s director, Henry Burdg, and they organized a program that helped us throughout the entire ISO certification process,” Huffstetter said. ATAC secured a quality systems specialist, worked with Curtis Company to design a certification program specific to its objectives, and then worked in partnership with the firm throughout the process. “The first thing is to conduct a front-end analysis to evaluate the company’s present activities as they pertain to your reference standard, which in this case, is ISO 90002000,” said quality specialist Chuck McPherson, who over the past decade has conducted more than a dozen quality management system implementations in the manufacturing and aerospace industries. “Then, a plan is developed to take the firm through the needed quality system improvements, documentation, and audit steps to close the gap between its present system and the ISO standard.” McPherson said the program implemented by Curtis Company is a web-based management tool modeled around the theoretical framework established by the field of Human Performance Technology (HPT). “The Curtis Company system is unique in that it is a paperless process for monitoring and managing their quality system,” McPherson said. “Everything is right there: All the tools necessary to manage and monitor the internal audit programs,

customer satisfaction measurement, and corrective and preventive action, are integrated. We’ve even incorporated tools for tracking on-time delivery performance and employee training.” Within just more than a year, the company’s objectives were accomplished. “We wanted to improve our order processing and turnaround times on orders,” said General Manager Brent Dickey. “We also wanted to develop a customer service program in which all of our employees were knowledgeable and able to respond effectively and efficiently to customer needs and requests.” Curtis Company officials say the ISO certification process helped them in every area related to quality and service. “We have seen improvements in our marketing and sales, in our employee morale and effectiveness, increased participation by all of our employees in

the customer service areas, and we are seeing our own costs improving,” Dickey added.

Curtis Company projects sales to increase by some $500,000 over the next year as a result of the improvements developed through the ISO certification process. “We have already seen a return on our investment,” Huffstetter said. “And we only anticipate improvement.” ISO standards are created by a 91-nation organization to define the basics of a quality system for manufacturing, business, and industry. ISO certification is one of the primary measures used worldwide to gauge a company’s quality management, customer service and business performance. Companies must undergo re-

certification every three years.

Auburn Technical Assistance Center was established in 1976 and is an affiliate of the Alabama Technology Network and an Economic Development Administration University Center. As an arm of the Auburn University College of Business Outreach program, ATAC provides business and technical assistance, customized training, and consultation in implementing value-added strategies to manufacturers and other businesses, not-for-profit organizations and government agencies in Alabama and the Southeast.

Auburn Technical Assistance Center 147 Lowder Business Building Auburn, AL 36849 1-800-446-0386 (334) 844-4659

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What does a small Montgomery, Ala. audio visual equipment supplier have in common with such corporate giants as Hyundai or Microsoft Corpora...

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