Interview with Per Bjällmark, Quality Manager

Quality is something very fundamental and extremely important at Sigma Technology, and we recently appointed a new Quality Manager, Per Bjällmark. We decided to speak to Per about his new role and what it means for him and the company as a whole.
Per, you started a new role in November, but could you tell us about your background?
My first encounter with Sigma Technology was in 2001. I worked at another company that had several consultants from Sigma Technology. From time to time, they were telling stories about the employee seminars, so, a couple of years later, I sent my application to Sigma Technology…

I started working for Sigma Technology in August 2004. My first assignment was at a company in the automotive sector, and my task was to write service manuals for trucks. Since then, I have had various assignments at companies in many industries.
You have had experience with our ISO management systems as a consultant and as a user for many years, in different assignments. What is your experience?
My experience as a consultant is that the amount of day-to-day administration has been decreased. For a consultant our new main interface towards the Sigma Technology Management System is an improvement from the previous system. I remember how we were supposed to enter a lot (and I mean a LOT) of information that was never used, in the old system.

However, in the new system, there is a minimum level of information that is required for each project. The problem I have experienced is that you make an effort in the system during start-up and then the activity decreases, and the information in the system soon becomes outdated. We must strive to use our system on a regular basis to keep the information up to date.
Our ISO management systems cover three different ISO standards. Tell us briefly about our certificates at Sigma Technology.
The Sigma Technology Management System consists of three parts, and the system is ISO 9001-, ISO 14001-, and ISO 27001-certified.
ISO 9001 is a global standard for the management of quality in organizations of all sizes. The standard is fundamental, and it is designed to help organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers.
ISO 14001 is a standard that covers environmental management, and helps us to identify what we can do to minimize our operations that would negatively affect the environment.
ISO 27001 is an information security standard about the management of our own and our customers’ information, which is a critical part of our business.
As you already know, it is always a matter of balance to find the best solution between the ISO requirements and the real implementation. In your view, what has improved the most in the past years?
As I said before, from my perspective as a technical writer, the most important improvement is absolutely the change from the old system to the new one.

However, a newer change that I appreciate is the conversion of the Sigma Technology Management System to a Wiki page. The ISO standard requires the management system to have control over the included documents. For example, the Sigma Technology Management System has the benefit that it is easy to update and has an automatic built-in version control. This generates a solution that makes it easier for the user to observe and control content, and also meets the ISO requirements. Solutions like that are what I will continue to strive for.
How will you share your time between the on-going work and implementing new ideas in the system?
In the near future, I will prioritize the on-going business, and focus on the upcoming activities. I want to deepen my knowledge in the Sigma Technology Management System in order to understand it better. Later, I hope I can identify some areas of improvement and strive for the management system to become a natural support to day-to-day business.
What do you think the biggest challenges will be in your new position?
The difficulty lies in that there are many preconceptions about quality and environmental work. It is partly about misinterpretations of the ISO standard. The challenge is to communicate and implement quality and environmental work in a way that everyone can see the benefit of and that it is perceived as something positive.

Another challenge is to create commitment among the management, to find commercial use, and to communicate it clearly. Further challenges are, of course, also in the different improvement projects.
You will manage the development and the direction of the ISO management system in the future, what is your vision?
My vision is to eliminate unnecessary costs and administration. A fairly new thesis from KTH (the Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm shows that it is quite easy to find unnecessary costs up to 15% of a company’s turnover. To clarify, I will present an example. Assume that we have a company with a 100 MSEK turnover. The profit margin is 10%, which is quite normal. Saving 15% of unnecessary costs will produce a 2.5 times larger profit. If I can identify and remove some unnecessary costs, I will both be able to reduce administration and increase the company’s profit.
Sometimes, each Sigma Technology site has to be measured for the ISO standards, and have different ones to the other sites; how does that affect your job, ensuring you can keep each site adhering to the same standards so that they can earn the ISO certifications?
The ISO certificates are issued per site and reviewed once a year. One certificate is valid for 3 years and after that it requires a re-certification.
The Sigma Technology Management System is based on a common ground and on top of that there are some local differences. The differences can for example be environmental regulation and legislation.
On a practical level, the common ground enables employees, rather simply, to transfer between different sites.
What is more important to you: quality or innovation, and how can we find a balance?
From my point of view, I do not see that quality and innovation is an opposite. Innovation is a pre-requisite to obtain adequate quality, both today and tomorrow. Without the innovations we will lose quality and thus competitive power and eventually our business.  
What other areas of quality within the day-to-day work of most of our employees would you like to improve?
For our day-to-day work, I think we can improve our customer focus. The customer focus should be a part of everything we do. We should always ask ourselves what value we are creating for the customer.
We would like to thank Per for taking the time to share his thoughts with us, and hope to hear more exciting news about quality improvements in the near future.