AKRON—How are a commercial truck tire service center and a fast food restaurant alike?
"Whether you're in Ojai, Calif., or Meridian, Miss., the (customer's) expectation, just like McDonald's french fries, should be fairly consistent," said Barry Petrea, marketing manager for commercial tires at Goodyear.
Consistency is one of the goals Goodyear has for its 131 company-owned Truckwise commercial truck tire centers and Goodyear-owned Brad Ragan locations. To that end, the Akron-based tire maker is expending a lot of time and money to attain ISO 9002 certification for these facilities.
ISO 9002 certification is issued by the International Organization of Standards, based in Geneva.
"ISO certification says this organization subscribes to a set of standards that others have not," Mr. Petrea said. Goodyear's commercial tire centers and Brad Ragan locations hope to use this certification to differentiate themselves from the competition, he added.
Many manufacturing firms in the U.S. and around the world have attained ISO 9000 certification—an assurance of quality in design and manufacturing a company receives after thoroughly documenting procedures and passing the muster of independent auditors.
ISO 9002 is a similar certification for installation and service businesses—a commercial truck center for example.
Earlier this year, Maine Commercial Tire Co. in Hermon, Maine, received ISO 9002 certification claiming it was the first independent tire dealership or retreader in the U.S. to do so.
Goodyear's U.S. commercial truck tire centers are following the lead of the Truckwise stores in Canada, which sought certification for legal reasons, Mr. Petrea said. The Goodyear stores in Canada even helped the ISO write standards for commercial tire outlets, he added.
When the process is completed in Goodyear's U.S. stores, "the border should be transparent," Mr. Petrea said. "When a fleet sees the Truckwise shingle, they should be able to get the same benefits, north or south of the border."
"We were looking to ensure that we had a consistency across the country to deliver services and products to the customer," said Brent Copeland, sales and marketing manager for Goodyear commercial tire and service centers.
The procedures and performance of Truckwise and Brad Ragan outlets will be audited by experts from outside the company to ensure compliance, Mr. Copeland said, and ISO certification will give Goodyear a "leg up" on the competition.
Attaining the ISO 9002 certification is a three-phase process, Mr. Copeland said. First, all employees at Goodyear's Truckwise centers and Brad Ragan outlets have completed a program to learn about the certification and how it will help.
Employees are now in the second phase, Mr. Copeland said, writing a quality procedural manual that details expectations in 19 different elements. Subjects to be covered include: product appearance (retreads and new tires), adjustment rates and how the company will meet its goal of responding to commercial service requests in two hours or less.
In the third phase, due to start in September, a mock audit will be held, and the service centers will determine if they are in compliance or need to make changes to meet certification standards. Goodyear hopes to complete this phase early next year, Mr. Copeland said.
After that, the ISO will conduct audits of about 25 of the 131 locations to determine if the Truckwise and Brad Ragan centers should be certified. Once the chains are certified, a rotation schedule will be set up so all other locations also will be audited over time.
Goodyear also plans its own internal audit of each location about twice a year, Mr. Copeland said, "to ensure compliance and conformity to the ISO 9002 standards."
Goodyear is seeking separate certification for the Truckwise and Brad Ragan chains because of different product and service mixes. Brad Ragan centers provide more off-the-road tire and retreading service, Mr. Copeland said, and it was easier and less costly to write separate manuals.
ISO certification doesn't come cheap, Mr. Petrea said, without providing any specific figures. Some independent Goodyear dealers in the Detroit area researched the expense involved with attaining ISO 9002 certification, he said, and came up with a cost of about $40,000 per outlet.
So far, there is no formal program to have Goodyear's independent Truckwise dealers in the U.S. attain ISO certification. The company-owned locations will lead the way on certification, Mr. Petrea said, like the hood ornament on a car.
"Can we create a differential advantage, a sustainable differential advantage for our outlets?" he asked. "Enough of an advantage that permits people—fleet managers or operators alike—to really want to come in and do service under that shingle or umbrella?
"That's the kind of thing that we're testing."
Asked whether ISO 9002 certification will help Goodyear garner more fleet accounts, again Mr. Petrea was unsure. Although many fleet operators may be familiar with the ISO 9000 manufacturing standard as it applies to their equipment, he said,"not many fleets understand what ISO 9002 means when it comes to service."
Goodyear plans to promote the certification through its network of Truckwise and Brad Ragan locations, he said.