GRAND RAPIDS — Most of us think of ISO 9000 as related to heavy manufacturing, but an old-line local firm has received just such certification and may be the first company of its sort in the nation to do so.
Achieving ISO 9000:2000 registration was Art Optical Lenses Inc., a family firm that has been in operation here seven decades. The company manufactures, services and sells rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses.
According to a spokesman for the firm, Mark Troyer, the company may be the first exclusive manufacturers of RGP lenses in the country to receive such certification.
Conferring the registration was Perry Johnson Registrars Inc. The step came in January after the company underwent an extensive weeklong audit.
The firm’s owner and president, Thomas E. Anastor, said that, all told, the ISO implementation and registration process took about 18 months. He indicated that it went slowly at first because Art Optical had some difficulty finding the right consultants to guide the first phases of the project.
“But once we had the right people,” he said, “it really went pretty fast.”
He said the company is the largest single-facility independent RGP manufacturer in the country.
He explained that Art Optical has more than 100 employees working in three shifts 24/7 in its 36,000-square-foot building on Three Mile Road in Walker.
The company sells lenses to optometrists and ophthalmologists throughout the United States and to some clients overseas.
“And now with our ISO 9001 certification, we’ll probably be selling to even more international markets.”
The company was founded in 1931 by the late Charles J. Anastor, the current owner’s father.
The firm moved to its current site at 3175 Three Mile in the 80s and has constructed two additions since then. Anastor said that thanks to the firm’s experienced workers and the use of CNC equipment, Art Optical routinely turns around its orders in 24 hours.
“We have good people,” he told the Business Journal.
“A lot of them have been with us a long, long time. And we don’t call them ‘employees,’” he added. “They’re our associates — and we wouldn’t have been here 71 years without them.”
“All of our people put in 100 percent on this project,” he added.
The firm’s general manager, Mark Troyer, said the company sought ISO 9001 registration to enhance its quality systems, to standardize all its processes “… and to position the company to pursue international business opportunities.”
“Art Optical always has had an outstanding quality system,” Troyer said, “ so this was primarily a process of documentation and standardization.
“While doing so, we took the opportunity to enhance our corrective and preventive action systems.”
Like many managers who have been through the ISO registration process, Troyer said it has had a positive effect upon the company’s operations.
In fact, he said, it has had a positive impact on all aspects of the company.
“We are now much more intentional about training, record keeping and looking for trends and improvement.”
Troyer noted that Art Optical is one of the few RGP manufacturers to be honored annually with the trade association’s Seal of Excellence Manufacturing Award since the award’s inception in 1994.