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Since February 1991 South Shields based Solar Solve Marine has been supplying solar protection products and services to the marine industry that have been totally Quality Assured. Their world famous SOLASOLV roller screens for ship’s wheelhouse windows reject glare, heat and uv light.

In the beginning Solar Solve’s Quality System was to British Standard BS5750 but after 10 years it changed to the International Standard ISO 9002. However, in March 2003 it was felt that the focus ISO wanted to concentrate on was moving away from quality of product and production methods to less important aspects of running a business.

By then the company had 12 years of successful internal audits and an outstanding 100% record of external audits by the British Standards Institution (BSI) without any Non-Conformities being raised. At this point, because of the disillusionment with the direction that the Standards authorities were moving into, which was expressed at the time by a significant number of their manufacturing customers, Solar Solve’s directors decided they had the capability, the knowledge and the right attitude towards Quality Assurance, to ‘go-it-alone’.

Straight after parting company with BSI, the Solar Solve Marine Quality Assured (SSMQA) system was set up, is still in effect today and continues to be very successful. There are 2 Internal Quality Audits every year and because Solar Solve’s main products are Type Approved by a number of marine classification societies they still get a least one external audit every year, during which the SSMQA is assessed. As always, the external auditors are very complimentary of the excellent way the system is run as well as the attitude and enthusiasm all of Solar Solve’s employees have for it.

John Lightfoot MBE, company chairman says, “This all began as a result of a seminar in Sunderland Polytechnic that I was invited to all those years ago. I don’t think any of the delegates had ever heard of BS5750 or even Quality Assurance. However, the presenter was very enthusiastic as I recall and very convincing. I was diversifying into the marine industry and it seemed exactly the right way to go, which it obviously was. Initially the motivation for me was the possibility of increased sales but I soon realised that there were much, much greater benefits to be had.”

“Once the System had been in place for a few years, our effectiveness and efficiency improved dramatically and suddenly we were accountable to an outside assessor who was effectively a customer representative. It made a huge difference to the business, not so much with increased sales but very much in every other respect.”

“I’m pleased I went to the seminar and delighted I took the guy’s advice. We have never looked back. I am proud that I have always been the chairman of Solar Solve’s committee that annually reviews the SSMQA and that 8 people, 45% of our employees sit on it.”

Top Image – John Lightfoot MBE, chairman of Solar Solve Marine chairs the company’s 20th Annual Meeting to Review the Quality System, in February 2011. As part of the team are staff members representing the directors, managers, production and administration.