NORTH SMITHFIELD – A town-based machine manufacturer used pandemic-related down time to get ISO certification, a verification of quality standards that has allowed the company to not only save local jobs, but grow the business.
R&R Machine Industries, Inc., a full-service, CNC contract machine shop, sets itself apart, according to the owners, by providing clients with a complete part, not only milling and turning, but also guiding outsourced elements of the job through other manufacturers for heat treating or other work.
The company achieved the certification with the help of Polaris MEP, a statewide nonprofit that aims to help grow Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry, according to a release from the organization.
Founded in 1980 by Roland Legare and his wife out of their home basement, the manufacturing business now operates from a warehouse at 147 Industrial Drive, employs 17 people, and serves a variety of industries including fire suppression, automation technology, metrology and wind energy.
CNC – or computer numerical control – is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery.
“We deliver the complete part,” explained Vice President/CFO Renay Legare Curran.
Curran said R&R’s quality system always followed the international quality standards published by ISO.
Still, “Even though you follow the standards of ISO, not having that certificate can close doors,” she said in an interview with Polaris. “They won’t even recognize you.”
During the summer of 2020, many doors were closed for a different reason: the COVID-19 pandemic. Existing business had been put on hold and R&R’s workforce had reportedly been reduced.
Wanting to build back better and expand the business, the team says it set its sights on ISO 9001:2015 certification. Curran and sister/teammate Diane Legare Ranslow contacted their industry association, the Rhode Island Manufacturing Association, for recommendations, and were introduced to the non-profit Polaris MEP.
“Changes can be scary and you have no idea if extra work is going to come from changing processes. But, we all knew that this was a path we wanted to go down,” said Curran.
She notes that when Polaris Project Manager Chris Cinieri joined the effort, it didn’t seem as scary.
“The Polaris MEP process meant we always knew what was the next step to be prepared for, what was the next step that had to be achieved,” Curran said in a release.
Polaris MEP reportedly implemented an ISO 9001:2015-compliant quality management system that would pass registration audit and begin opening doors to more sales.
The client and the manufacturing consulting team first worked remotely via web-conference and later in on-site meetings that followed COVID safety protocols. Polaris MEP walked the client through a document review and Gap Analysis of their existing quality systems. The MEP assisted in writing a Quality Manual, associated procedures and work instructions to ensure conformance with ISO Standards, according to the release.
Polaris MEP also helped R&R secure grant funding from the state of Rhode Island for training for all 15 employees. Finally, Cinieri reportedly conducted an internal audit to ensure R & R was on the way to success.
R&R passed their ISO certification audit on their first attempt, and immediately began promoting the achievement to current and prospective clients.
“From the moment Polaris MEP stepped into our facility, the way Chris explained the program, we felt confident in the support,” Curran said. “Of course the financing – the grants that made it reachable. We were going through a time during the pandemic which could have been like, ‘geez, we really need these funds for other things.’ But we had to also look at what direction we needed to go. We were locked. There were certain doors we couldn’t open that Polaris MEP and NQA helped us open.”
As business has recovered, the team leveraged another Polaris MEP program – “Machine & Marine” funding through the CARES act – to train and hire additional skilled workers.