CASE STUDY

How Will-Burt was able to implement remote quality audits during COVID-19

4 MINUTE READ

Learn how The Will-Burt Company’s quality team was able to cut out 95% of their in-person interactions during compliance audits during COVID-19.

“We can probably do 90-95% of our audit without stepping into the Tulsa location”

Director of Quality

About The Will-Burt Company

The Will-Burt Company is an employee-owned, 350 person manufacturer for the military, communications, commercial construction, general fabrication, and aerospace segments. The company is over 100 years old and does approximately $100m in revenues. In addition to their headquarters in Orrville, Ohio, they also have a number of subsidiaries in the US, UK, Germany and Singapore.  

Will-Burt manufactures telescopic towers, mobile command centers, integrated trailers, light towers, and storage equipment for the US military, border patrol, oil & gas, marine, telecom, and broadcast industries.  Their customers include companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin & BAE Systems.

Apart from maintaining ISO 9001:2015 certification, they also have to comply with a variety of other external standards given the high expectations and diversity of their customer base.  

In 2017, the Will-Burt leadership decided to upgrade their quality management systems from a variety of home grown Excel sheets and in-house databases.  Their existing system had become cumbersome and painful to manage. Specifically, they faced the following problems:

  • Impossible to drive accountability across different collaborating teams.
  • A lot of wasted time trying to tie different systems together.
  • Hard to get visibility into the quality processes and data.
  • Difficult to retrieve data and prepare for management reviews.
  • Low engagement between teams needed to complete audits and corrective actions.
  • Too much daily firefighting resulting in there being no time to spend on longer term strategic objectives.

Ultimately, they were unable to meet their continuous improvement objectives as an organisation, increasing the risk of unhappy customers and the cost of rejected or reworked product and materials.

“One of the major issues we faced was with ownership and accountability…for example, a non-conformance would get written and be distributed to everyone on email….basically everyone on the email became the owners, which meant the no-one was the owner.”

Remote audits during COVID-19

Will-Burt’s quality team went live with Unifize at the beginning of March 2020.  As the COVID-19 virus swept across the world over the next few months, Will-Burt was affected like every other manufacturing company.  In particular, travel had become impossible between the company’s various locations around the US and Europe.

This meant that Tedd Carr, Will-Burt’s Director of Quality, and his team had to rethink how they were going to complete their internal audits and remain in compliance with ISO 9001 and AS 9100.  Historically, they had always conducted face-to-face audits and were uncertain if there was any other way.

Fortunately, they were able to turn to Unifize for help.  Since their team had adopted the quality management solution so quickly and easily, Tedd became convinced that the tool could be used to manage these audits.  In a matter of hours, they were able to configure the relevant process for managing compliance audits in the cloud.

Furthermore, by using Unifize’s email integration, will burt has not had to rely on a company wide adoption of a new software. Audit participants could, therefore, just interact from their inboxes.

Ultimately, using Unifize enabled them to plan, prepare, execute, review and follow up on audit findings remotely, including identifying non-conformances and corrective actions.  This resulted in a 95% reduction in in-person meetings required to complete their audits and stay in compliance.

 

What made Will-Burt choose Unifize?

Tedd Carr spent two years researching over 30 of the most popular eQMS systems on Capterra, G2 Crowd and extensive Google searches. Tedd ultimately found all the solutions he evaluated be ‘too complex, too boilerplate, or too expensive’. 

He was introduced to Unifize late in 2019 and quickly realized that it would be a better fit than anything he had evaluated for the following reasons:

  • The simple, easy-to-use interface meant that his team was able to pick up how it worked almost instantly.
  • Unifize was quickly able to map to his processes rather than forcing him to change his system to fit a new software.
  • Unifize’s pricing model was completely transparent and eliminated his risk until after it was proven to work.
  • Unifize was cloud-based, meaning Tedd and his team could manage the implementation entirely on their own without the need for involvement from their overloaded IT team.
  • Unifize offered support throughout the onboarding process, and would help him make any changes he required on an as-needed basis at no extra cost.

What were the results?

In March 2020, The Will-Burt Company went live with over 90 people in the organisation.  The results were almost instantaneous.  By using Unifize, The Will-Burt Company was able to:

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Conduct up to 95% of their audit processes remotely

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Reduce quality process cycle times by 75% in less than 30 days

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Implement & adopt in less than 1 day with no involvement from the IT team

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Achieve single point accountability across 8 collaborating teams

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Increase engagement on quality processes from 5 people to 90+ people

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Increase visibility into 6 core quality processes by bringing everything into 1 place

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