CSIA members find the value in certification, audits

"Certification is not an event; it represents a culture of quality and continuous improvement," said Ed Diehl, chairman of the board of CSIA and president of Concept Systems in Albany, Ore.


Association certification can be seen as an association benefit. The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) members who have earned certification see their customers and their business getting the greatest benefit from certification.

“Certification is the driver for value in our organization,” said Ed Diehl, the outgoing chairman of the board of CSIA and president of Concept Systems in Albany, Ore. “Certification is not an event; it represents a culture of quality and continuous improvement. Certification makes sense whether your customers are asking for it or not. If your customers are not asking for it, they will be.”

According to its website, the CSIA Certified member program began in 2000. To become a CSIA Certified member requires passing an audit that includes 76 criteria in the CSIA Best Practices manual.

“I’m continuously improving our certification score. Our goal is to be audit-ready at any time,” said Diehl. “I look forward to the auditor and there are at least 10 things I get out of that audit. It’s an independent evaluation of what we’re doing right and wrong.”

Among the issues Diehl said the audit helped identify were ways to implement a training program for new employees. “We’ve cut down on our hiring mistakes,” Diehl said. “The productivity of our new hires has increased.”

Bill Pollock, CEO of Optimation Technologies in Rush, NY, said he first learned about CSIA certification in Control Engineering magazine. Now it is a core part of his system integration business.

“There are places where CSIA certification is in the spec. If we do it correctly, certification has huge value.”

He cited five ways CSIA best practices and audits are of value to his organization:

  • Best practices should be a way of life, a company culture, not just an every-three-year event
  • Live it daily
  • Have internal audits monthly
  • Have external audits annually
  • Include a continuous improvement cycle that drives it.

It has helped his business in tangible ways, too. “Our EMR (Experience Modification Rating) dropped from 1.1 in 2007 to 0.77 in 2011,” Pollock said. “Our workers’ compensation premium dropped from over $700,000 in 2009 to just over $200,000. There’s a $500,000 savings leveraged in CSIA audits.”

But the question was asked directly during the meeting on certification—what’s the real value of certification? CSIA members said the cost of the audit and certification has been more than made up in making their own business better, making themselves more attractive to potential customers, and in creating value that can be sold to new clients.

“It’s not about brand power; it’s about getting better performance out of your company,” said Ray Bachelor, president of Bachelor Controls in Sabetha, Kan. “It looks like it’s a daunting task, but don’t be afraid to fail. We are a better company today because of the audit. If you do crash and burn the first time, you’re not going to be the first company.”

“I don’t think I ever had an audit where I didn’t learn something,” he said. “We want to raise the bar for system integration. You find yourself competing with people who don’t have a clue what they’re doing. We want to promote our value to the end users.”

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