Metal West Blog

ISO Certification: What is it?

It all started with a piece of candy. I walked out onto the floor to complete my first audit. I knew I didn’t want to be labeled as “that auditor,” I wanted to be helpful, and I wanted to provide value. So, with these thoughts on my mind I walked up to the packager on the floor and handed him a piece of candy.

I asked how his day was.
I asked him to explain what he was working on.
Last, I asked what causes him the most frustration.

When it was all said and done our organic conversation turned into a completed audit where I was able to capture many exciting opportunities that I couldn’t wait to share.

Similar to the organic nature of my first audit experience, Metalwest has adopted and built a very simple yet effective Quality Management System (QMS). The evolution of our QMS has changed the perception of “ISO”. Audits are no longer a dreaded task; they have become an opportunity for us to show-and-tell what Metalwest does best! It didn’t change overnight, but the evolution has successfully shown that over the past couple of years when our external auditor leaves, we are left with only opportunities that will make us better.

So what is ISO? What is a Quality Management System (QMS)? Let me break down how Metalwest has been able to align our QMS with the ISO fundamentals by taking a simple approach and letting the people drive the work.

What is the benefit to being ISO Certified?

This is the most frequently asked question. Our ISO certificate gives our customers evidence that Metalwest will be able to consistently provide them with quality products and services. Some customers require their suppliers to be ISO certified. And for those that don’t require ISO certification, most still require proof that we have all of the ISO required elements in place. The best way to meet this need is to send them our ISO Certificate instead of spending valuable resources participating in multiple customer-specific audits. It’s like being a part of the Better Business Bureau, it gives us some street cred’.

What exactly is ISO 9001:2015?

It’s an international standard that outlines elements of an effective Quality Management System. The ISO 9001:2015 standard is separated into 10 sections listed below.

Sections 1.0 – 4.0: Scope and Context

Who are we and what do we do? Instead of mirroring the ISO Standard itself changing words like “you shall” to “Metalwest does”, we got straight to the point with a one-page Quality Manual capturing exactly who we are and what we do.

Sections 5.0 – 6.0: Leadership and Planning

This section gets into how a company plans on getting work done while managing risk. This is where we showcase our “Playbook” which captures all of our metrics, trends, notes and is a fantastic tool that we use to communicate from our parent company and throughout our organization on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.

Section 7.0; Support

Do we have the resources we need to conduct business? Trained People, Standard Processes, Maintained Equipment and Quality Materials – these are the heartbeat of the Metalwest Quality Management System. We use our procedures to document how we manage these parts of our business. We store how-to-guides, keystrokes, helpful information, forms and reference documents all in one neat package. Then we deliver this package to our employees to provide them with the knowledge they need to do their job.

Section 8.0 – 10.0: Operations, Evaluation, and Improvement

These sections oversee the process controls we have in place to ensure a consistent quality product delivered to our customer. Just as important, when something goes wrong how do we manage through it? Metalwest uses a Corrective Action system to capture problems and identify the root cause. We utilize our Corrective Actions and Internal Audits to evaluate our processes with the goal of preventing defects from getting to our customers. Overall Metalwest is constantly evaluating its processes through audits, reviewing trends in performance and deciding what problems we want to solve and what opportunities we can capture and share.

Metalwest has taken a unique approach to ISO by capturing what we do best and aligning it with the ISO standard. We utilize tools in our systems like Corrective Actions to capture gaps and find ways to bridge those gaps by developing simple approaches that work organically with our people and processes. Most importantly, we avoid using the ISO standard to push work, instead we use it to define what our people need to be successful. This has given us an even stronger foundation to continuously improve our products and services.

Post by: Rachael Watanabe, quality systems engineer for Metalwest.
Metal West Aluminum Sheet

5S System: What is it and what does it mean?

The 5S System is a technique used in Lean Manufacturing to achieve a safe, neat, clean arrangement of the workplace. Everything has a place and is in its place. Where problems in the workplace become obvious and visual.

What exactly are the 5S’s in the 5S System and what do they mean? Let’s find out!


Only the things needed by each area are present in that area. All other “stuff ” is removed.

This is by far my favorite activity. Removing unneeded items is very satisfying. You can see a work area and team transform during this process. It opens up the space and takes all the stress and clutter away with it. As you put away your holiday decorations and get ready to start off the New Year, think about how many items you have lying around the house that can be sorted out. I typically ask myself, “Do I need this? Does it serve a purpose?” And if the answer is no, it goes into a Goodwill pile. Getting into this habit has helped my keep my house “guest ready” with 1 husband, 3 kids, and a dog.


“We shine to inspect, inspect to detect, detect to correct and correct to perfect.” Yes that’s a mouthful but we SHINE to easily identify issues. Being able to easily recognize a leak can be critical to our machines and can determine a quick fix vs. total shutdown.

My husband keeps our garage floor at home in pristine condition to be able to easily identify when our cars have a leak. This habit recently saved us from a major issue when my car was leaking the smallest amount of antifreeze. Needless to say, I would have not seen the issue if the floor was not clean.

Set in Order

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” Making our workplace visual. Knowing where tools go, having tools stored where you need them, and visually being able to know when tools go missing. The goal of this at Metalwest is to save our employees time and motion looking for the tools they need to do their jobs.

Most households have “Set in Order” tools already in place at home. For example do you have a utensil organizer, shoe mat, coat rack, toy boxes, or how about a specific place to put your remotes? These are great ways to keep your house Set in Order. How many tools do you have in place in your home to help keep it “Set in Order?” If you want to take your home to the next level pull out a label maker and go to town!


Having everything in a state of readiness! To Standardize is a “condition” not an activity. The goal with standardization is making sure anybody who walks into the area can understand how the system works and can keep the area in 5S shape. Also scheduling time to conduct daily housekeeping tasks such as emptying trash bins, sorting out what doesn’t belong, and returning tools to their position; weekly tasks such as sweeping and wiping down the machine; and monthly tasks to achieve a deeper clean as part of our Preventive Maintenance program.

At home before bed, I typically do one last round of tidying up to get everything back to a Standard State. A Standard State for us means that all walkways are clear, kitchen is swept, trash cans are empty, and most importantly, backpacks, clothes, and lunch boxes are laid out and ready to start the next day as smooth as possible.


This step is management driven. We schedule times for a manager/supervisor to provide feedback through an observation. “What management inspects, employees respect.”

In our household this is “Mom” driven and the goal is not to yell every night about picking up toys but to get them in the habit of playing and putting away their things as they go. At my house, the sustain piece has become easier over time, but I am always on the lookout for ways to rearrange our home based on what toys the kids play with and giving them the tools they need like bins and baskets.


5S Before organization


5S After














Our Metalwest 5S System journey is ever changing and evolving with our employees and processes. 5S is only a small step into a variety of techniques used to improve safety, organization, and productivity throughout our facilities. 5S provides the foundation on which other Lean methods can be executed.

When an organization (or household) has the discipline required to maintain a 5S environment, this will set you up for success when executing other Lean principles such as Process Mapping and Single-Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) Events that are geared towards improving efficiencies. More to come on those topics in our next quality blog post.

Post by: Rachael Watanabe, quality systems engineer for Metalwest
Metal West Lean Manufacturing

LEAN Manufacturing: What is it?

LEAN Manufacturing value-added

LEAN Manufacturing

LEAN manufacturing has many definitions. Here at Metalwest, we define LEAN as, “The systematic method to identify and eliminate waste by flowing the product at the pull of the customer.”

Let’s look at these underlined elements:



Systematic Method

Everything in LEAN is a system – a system that can be analyzed, measured, improved upon, and repeated with expected results.


As humans, we have an innate ability to adapt or work-around obstacles in our environment. You cannot improve something, if you can’t see it. Our managers and supervisors provide observations of our critical processes on the floor. This allows our employees to see their process from a different perspective.

Eliminate Waste

If you can remove waste from your process, you will also remove cost. Waste comes in many forms. At Metalwest, we use the acronym DOWNTIME to remember the most common wastes: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Value Added Processing, Transportation (of product), Inventory, Motion (of person), and underutilization of Employee knowledge, skills and abilities. We’ll talk more about these in our next post!


Henry Ford wanted to manufacture a car that the everyday person could afford. He understood to achieve this goal, he needed to FLOW the Model ‘T’ through his warehouse in less time. Less time meant less cost and the innovation of the assembly line allowed him to achieve this goal.


Your customers determine your demand. You should only replenish what your customers are buying (or “PULLING”) out of your store.

In the world of LEAN, most manufacturers will tell you that only 5% of their effort is spent adding value. Value is defined as any activity that changes the form, fit, or function of the product. At Metalwest, we add value when we cut-to-length, level, and slit-to-width carbon and non-ferrous steel. We change the form of the coil to cut, leveled sheet or slit coil. This is where we add value for our customers. It must be done right the first time and the customer must be willing to pay for it; otherwise, it’s one of the eight wastes listed above.

So if 5% of our time is spent cutting, leveling, and slitting, what is the other 95%?

The other 95% is non-value added activities. It’s packaging, loading a truck, invoicing, collecting money, entering sales orders, maintaining our equipment, buying steel, and the list goes on! Clearly, we couldn’t provide our manufacturing services for our customers without these other activities, but it’s important to streamline them as much as possible, reducing costs and increasing speed to market along the way.

Lean manufacturing is a systematic method that helps Metalwest stay focused on value-added activities.


Guest Post by Andrea Trevino, director of performance for Metalwest