Originally published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in ISO Focus+, its monthly magazine.
Ellen began her career at DuPont in 1988. In 2006, she was named executive vice president with responsibility for three business platforms and several functions including marketing and sales. In 2008, she was chosen to lead the company's focus on growth in emerging international markets.
Ellen is a member of the board of directors of United Technologies Corp. She is also on the board of trustees of Tufts University and serves on the board of overseers at Tufts University School of Engineering. Ellen became a member of the board of Change the Equation, a national coalition of more than 100 CEOs committed to improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning for U.S. pre-K-12 students.
ISO: Standards were once mainly perceived as tools solving problems for engineers. Today, as the CEO of one of the world's largest multinational companies, how do you view their importance?
Ellen Kullman: Standards have become an essential part of daily business, not just in terms of quality but also in terms of occupational safety, environmental management, and other disciplines. International Standards enable operational excellence and standardization across our complex global company. They are also key to our relationships with partner companies since they build a foundation for mutual trust and common understanding based on clear specifications and performance expectations.
ISO: With products like nylon and Teflon revolutionizing industry, innovation is a key priority for DuPont. Do standards help or hinder innovation - and how?
EK: The innovation process is complex and can vary by product and market. At DuPont we strongly believe that the power of innovation resides in collaboration with our partners. International Standards help create more seamless collaboration across borders, thus further enabling the process of innovation. DuPont participates in, and contributes to, standards development and committees around the world. This is important for new product technologies and helps ensure strong product stewardship.
ISO: Some 20 years ago, DuPont was among the first multinationals to take up the ISO 9000 approach to quality management. What is the extent of DuPont's implementation of ISO 9001 and other ISO management system standards today? What contribution have they made and are they still making to the company? What would you like to see in the next revision of ISO 9001 in 2015?
EK: The development of ISO 9001 has helped us to considerably improve our processes, both for our customers and our full value chain. We also use the requirements of ISO 9001 to develop our own control processes, including appropriate key performance indicators which help us stay focused in daily business activities. The DuPont Production System in place at our global operating sites incorporates all aspects of manufacturing and continual improvement in a holistic, standards-driven approach to operational excellence. We utilize the ISO 14001 system as part of our global environmental management system, and we take a standards-based approach to the management of occupational safety. This disciplined process has led to a trend of continued long-term improvement.
ISO: DuPont experts participate in 10 or more ISO technical committees developing standards on subjects as diverse as nanotechnologies, road vehicles, fire safety and agricultural machinery. What's the return on investment for this engagement?
EK: DuPont is a 21st century science company with global markets and opportunities. By working together we can find new and better ways to solve global challenges and provide for the food, energy, and protection needs of the world's growing population. Collaborating with other companies, stakeholders and innovators through the work on ISO technical committees is just one example of what we mean by Inclusive Innovation - no one organization alone can solve these complex issues.
ISO: Today we are living in a fast-paced, constantly evolving world. ISO's portfolio of 19 500 standards on everything from nanotechnologies to social responsibility reflect this. Do you ever think: "I wish there was a standard on that!" If so, could you share some ideas?
EK: DuPont believes that in order to encourage innovation and investment and foster sustainable global economic growth, increased consistency of standards is critical. If the same standards are similarly recognized by regulatory bodies around the world, then new products and technologies will develop and commercialize more rapidly to help us meet the challenges of a growing world population.