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A small Rock Island company will celebrate today an achievement more often sought by larger operations.

Seaberg Industries, Inc., 8301 W. 42nd St., Rock Island, has achieved QS-9000 registration, a quality standard for the automotive industry that may be moving into the agricultural and construction equipment markets as well.

"What's so unique about what we're doing here is that the QS-9000 system was designed for people making millions of pieces and we're making hundreds," said George Seaberg, president and chief executive officer of the 30-year-old business, which makes parts for construction and agriculture equipment, truck engines, and power generation equipment.

He said the 70-employee company, which he believes to be the second QS-9000 registered company in the Quad-Cities, after Alcoa, sought the designation at the encouragement of its largest customer, equipment maker Caterpillar.

"We got a letter last October or a year ago saying this is the direction we're going," he explained. "To go from an ISO 9000 registration, which we were for three years, to a QS-9000, is huge."

He credits his son, Thomas, vice president of quality and engineering for Seaberg Industries, with shepherding the company through a process that involved creating a paper trail of every production activity and involving hourly workers in monitoring progress. Det Norske Veritas Certification, Inc., of Houston was the outside company that registered the business' achievement.

"It's a big commitment, believe me," the elder Seaberg said of the 10 months of intense preparation for the designation. "Computerization made it possible."

The extra work has paid off in the form of better internal communication and fewer returned products.

"Returned goods go through, in a small company, 11 steps, and each one of those steps has costs associated with it," he said.

Although the company has suffered from the economic downturn — decreasing in size from about 110 employees to 70 in the past two years— it remains profitable, even with 30 percent fewer orders, he added. And with QS-9000 registration, company officials hope to see business increase.

Two Caterpillar executives and an official from Det Norske Veritas, as well as a number of local dignitaries, will attend a ceremony today commemorating the registration, which was complete in July.

The company will not spend too much time savoring the accomplishment, however. Seaberg said Seaberg Industries has already turned its sights to a new credential, the higher TS16004 standard.

"We've already met some of the prerequisites," he said.

Chris Youngquist can be contacted at (563) 383-2360 or cyoungquist@qctimes.com.

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