All our manufacturing sites are ISO 9001 certified, which provides a sound basis for our sustainable development initiative. This system helps us to continuously improve on our overall performance and customer focus. The Quality Management System is integrated throughout the various functions within our manufacturing sites (operations, plant quality, maintenance and repair/instrumentation, warehouse/shipping) and is regularly reviewed and audited internally. As part of the Quality Management System, each production facility has a Quality Assurance (QA) laboratory, which uses state-of-the-art equipment to test our products against stringent shipping specifications. These QA laboratories, along with the other functions, ensure that the material sent to our customers complies exactly with their specific requirements.
Improving our processes
We continuously seek to make our manufacturing processes better. In FY2017, following the requirements set by the International Automotive Task Force (IATF 16949), we started developing a system through which we can identify costs caused by poor quality. The system asks for tracking a series of items:
- Customer claims
- Complaint handling costs
- Returned material and associated freight due to complaints
- Internal standard and nonstandard inventory
Information on each of these is gathered from the relevant internal functions, including Accounting, Customer Service, Supply Chain and Operations, and is then tracked and analyzed by our Quality Management team. This data supports our management review process to monitor trends and develop actions for reducing costs, as well as improving customer focus and satisfaction.
Focus on product consistency
Birla Carbon customers expect a product that consistently meets the highest quality standards. For carbon black, these standards focus on three key areas:
- Colloidal properties – or those related to the carbon black morphology (microscopic physical characteristics);
- Physical form – referring to the bead quality (size and hardness) of carbon black; and
- Cleanliness – in terms of the purity of our product.
Birla Carbon rigorously tests its carbon black through internationally recognized test procedures and processes. Based on customer requirements, and regular reviews of the correlation between our customers’ laboratories and our own, we define Upper Specification Limits (USL) and Lower Specification Limits (LSL) for each test. Our products only leave our gates if all the required parameters are tested and the products are certified within these limits.
Our testing processes are validated through a process capability index (Cpk), which statistically measures their reliability. All our testing equipment in our quality departments is regularly serviced, checked and calibrated to guarantee maximum product quality.
Working with ASTM
Our laboratories are regularly audited by our Quality Technology group and assessed twice a year through an international proficiency testing program, the Laboratory Proficiency Rating System (LPRS). This program, organized by the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM International), provides us with an opportunity to internally compare our laboratories with nearly 100 industry laboratories worldwide. If LPRS identifies any anomalies or deviations, we conduct investigations, with support from our two central laboratories. This commitment to sharing best practice ensures our laboratories meet the very highest global standards.
Birla Carbon actively participates in the ASTM D24 Technical Committee, which develops internationally recognized and accepted test standards applicable to carbon black. The ASTM standards play a key role for our products in areas such as composition, properties, classification, nomenclature, analysis and quality assurance.