Conversation on quality: Customers seek Biodiesel from BQ-9000 accredited producer

By | June 01, 2006
To Kyle Gaither, being a BQ-9000 accrecdited producer does not mean filling out extra paperwork, incurring added expenses or even altering the operations at his biodiesel plant. To him, exceeding even the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) specification for biodiesel is about giving customers something they can rely on-batch-to-batch, with no questions. Gaither and the biodiesel production team of Eastman Chemical said they wouldn't have it any other way than stepping up to offer customers the best quality product.
That's because Eastman Chemical's staff, which includes Production Supervisor Gaither, said they have offered the best quality product in everything they manufacture. "I don't even know if you'd call transitioning to BQ-9000 biodiesel a 'transition' for us because our culture for 25 years has always been making sure we have procedures in place to meet our stringent specifications. It's a way of life here at Eastman."

The National Biodiesel Board member-company, based out of Batesville, Ark., manufactures over 30 products, from paint-related and photographic items to, as of last year, biodiesel.

Becoming BQ-9000 accredited was a natural next step for quality assurance, according to Gary McDonald, manager/administration. "It seemed natural because of the culture for quality we have established. We anticipated that quality-and BQ-9000 accreditation-would be important in the marketplace to customers. Several entities, particularly petroleum distributors provide fuel to government and private fleets, have expressed interest in discussing biodiesel supply arrangements since we achieved BQ-9000 accreditation."

In fact, deciding to become BQ-9000 accredited was almost not even a question at Eastman Chemical. The company's certification and ISO project leader researched the program and presented it to administration, and the process was almost immediately underway.

Carolyn DeFries, quality assurance, said that with ISO procedures in place, additional BQ-9000 requirements seemed commonplace in Eastman Chemical's implementation. "BQ-9000 was a natural fit because we were already ISO-9001:2000 registered and had a lot of the procedures in place. To add additional requirements for BQ-9000 was not burdensome at all. It was very easy for us.

"We had a quality manual in place and were asked to add some BQ-9000 and biodiesel-specific items to it," she added. "Eastman had to establish a sale specification, but that system was already in place, so really only minor revisions to our existing quality plan were needed." In both ISO and BQ-9000 accreditation, the emphasis on controls and procedures is similar, DeFries said.

"We found the certification process to be very well organized, and the people to be very helpful, easy to work with and knowledgeable," McDonald added.

"Besides the obvious benefits of becoming accredited, we also gained the ability to showcase our talents by helping our customers in ways like troubleshooting issues things that really go beyond the requirements of ASTM," said Cindy Butler, senior analytical technologist at Eastman Chemical.

Has BQ-9000 paid off for Eastman Chemical, and been worth any extra effort? "There are customers in the marketplace who really want to source from BQ-9000 producers, and we have found that to be an opportunity for us," McDonald said. "We have had numerous customers call us to say they prefer to source from BQ-9000 producers."

Gaither added, "BQ-9000 is an additional system to ensure we're providing good quality product on a consistent basis to our customers, and we believe that will ultimately lead to additional customers for us."
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