30 years of ISO at Mervielde: On pioneers, Windows 3x, and Christmas turkey

18 September 2023

Transport Mervielde ISO certified 30 years this summer. This is the perfect opportunity to look back with one of our ISO pioneers Christine Van Hoecke, who was there from the outset.

What does ISO stand for?

It is an abbreviation for International Organisation for Standardisation. It is a control system for all activities, processes and quality standards for companies. ISO standards are the internationally accepted standard for quality management.

Could you tell us how Mervielde got into the ISO story?

ISO is a demand from the market. Since we primarily work for chemicals companies, we thought that being able to demonstrate our business process are under control was crucial. This is because the ISO certificate proves that you as a company meet customer requirements and expectations, and that continuous improvement is guaranteed.

In the early 90s, the ISO story was still in its infancy. We could nevertheless count on help from the sector. I took a course at what was then the SAV (now Transport and Logistics Flanders) in 1992, to learn how we could prepare ourselves for a quality audit.

How did you then tackle this after following this course?

Well, based on the information from the course, I set to work and applied the instructions and procedures to the processes within Mervielde, in other words the working method was thoroughly scrutinised, and we then adjusted things based on a pre-audit.

The company still was not as large as now in ‘93, of course, but at that time we did not have a separate quality department that took care of implementation and monitoring the procedures. That meant the preparatory work for certification came on top of the standard work of transport activities, namely drawing up CMRs, accepting orders from customers, customer liaison, invoicing, etc.

That sounds like a real feat

It might be somewhat exaggerated, but the quality manual and corresponding driver manual was all rather primitive, as in typed out in Word. At that time there were fewer instruments to keep processes up to date, and PCs then ran on Windows 3x. So, you needed to muster the patience required to get things done.

Didn’t one of the first audits go ahead on a rather special date?

After weeks of intense preparation at the end of the year, we had an audit scheduled for early January, until it turned out the auditor was going to inspect us on Christmas Eve!  The audit literally went ahead between the Christmas turkey and dessert. But we passed with flying colours!

Were there many other transport companies focusing on this at that time?

We were among the first wave of transport companies in Belgium, and that is really something to be proud of. It was real pioneering back then. After our first successful audit, the federation invited us to inform the next wave of transport companies on how we set about doing it.

Our company also grew rapidly in those years. Did that impact on the ISO story?

That’s right, our company kept on growing, and the quality standard was also thoroughly revised and updated over the years. Whereas previously the emphasis was on written procedures and registrations, the focus is increasingly placed on process risks and continuous improvement. This was joined by the environmental and safety component at a later stage. Kristel Verstraeten took up the baton to manage all of these systems and procedures, and to this day is occupied full time with everything concerning quality, safety and environment. With great success, because we have now been ISO certified for 30 years.

Are all these efforts appreciated by our customers?

I am absolutely convinced they are!  The fact we have been continually collaborating for years with major international companies really demonstrates we still have an outstanding reputation in a competitive sector.

Thank you, Christine!

Mervielde holds the ISO 9001:2015 certificate. Our tank cleaning also complies with the ISO 22000 quality system. This quality standard focuses on cleaning tankers used to transport foodstuffs. In 2021, we obtained the ISO 14001 certificate by meeting the requirements of an environmental management system.

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