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snopes 25 September 2009 07:34 PM

Cement life jackets
Comment: I've heard a rumor that students (possibly from MIT) got ISO 9000
certification for a process to manufacture cement life jackets.

I've done a google search on cement (or concrete) and life jackets (or
life preservers) and found a lot of references to getting certification
for a process to manufacture cement life jackets, but nothing that says it
actually was ever done.

Has it ever actually happened, or is this another example of a cautionary
tale grown to urban legend proportions?

llewtrah 25 September 2009 08:38 PM

I can't comment on that actual case, but as a quality assurance engineer I can say it is perfectly feasible, albeit absurd. ISO 9000 series accreditation is based on assessment of processes and adherence to processes and not on assessment of product. Basically you can manufacturer crap (or cement lifejackets) and as long as you have a documented set of processes and you follow those processes, you can get ISO 9001 certification.

The cement lifejackets example was quite possibly a way of teaching students the weaknesses of ISO 9000 accreditation - a hypothetical example rather than an actual event. My mentors were a bit more blunt "you can be ISO 9000 accredited and make crap as long as you have and follow procedures for making it". Bottom line is just because you buy a product from an ISO 9000 accredited company, doesn't meant the product is any good.

If so, it won't be the first teaching example to migrate into the realms of UL. A teaching example turned UL is that of sedating a cat with morphine so the owners can take it on a car journey, and the cat becoming a maniac (because morphine has that effect on cats). The traumatised owners later thank the vet "he was a nightmare, but just think how much worse he'd've been if you hadn't sedated him". This is told as a UL (and as a joke in veterinary circles) these days, but when I discussed it with a vet at a cat show, it turns out to be a memorable way of the vet school teaching vets about drugs affecting species differently.

jimmy101_again 25 September 2009 09:32 PM

What llewtrah said.

Many people think ISO 9000 (or the sub certification ISO 9001) is something like an Underwriters certification that the product does what is supposed to and is safe.

All ISO 9000 really means is that the process is documented and the product was made following the procedures in the documentation. Excellent documentation of a crappy process or product is ISO 9000 certifiable but is still a crappy product.

ISO 9000 just means a crappy product will be consistently crappy. :D

ISO 9001 is supposed to include "continual improvements" and quality monitoring but in many cases that's just BS since the product isn't made for long enough and it isn't possible to get the long term testing needed to judge overall quality. Many modern electronic devices are like that. That cell phone you just bought might only be manufactured for a couple months. There really isn't any way to feedback product reliability into the manufacturing process.

Edit: Back to the OP. May have happened. May not have happened. It certainly could have happened and I'm sure there are many examples of crappy/stupid products that are ISO 900X compliant.

BTW a concrete life jacket might actually be possible. There have been many concrete ships made ...

babs 26 September 2009 07:12 AM

sounds like something like the mob would do if they document anything that they do

Insensible Crier 26 September 2009 02:44 PM


Originally Posted by jimmy101_again (Post 1056222)
BTW a concrete life jacket might actually be possible. There have been many concrete ships made ...

Someone call the Mythbusters.

Richard 30 September 2009 08:33 PM

22nd Annual ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition 2009The Committee on National Concrete

Well, that certainly did not copy well. It is or was the link to the American Society of Civil Engineers rules on a student competition for building concrete canoes.

Cyrano 02 October 2009 10:57 AM

Cement life jackets could sell like hot pancakes with a good marketing campaign. To quote Dilbert:

"Don't improve your product - find dumber customers".

Cyrano 02 October 2009 03:13 PM

BTW, I have worked in a company that underwent an ISO 9000 qualification in the mid 90's, and I can tell by experience that this thing is the biggest swindle of the late XXth Century.

All it did was create a large hole in the budget (I speak of the CHF 250'000.00 that went into the consultants' pockets, of course - at least, someone was happy).:D

Singing in the Drizzle 02 October 2009 04:54 PM

There are several examples of floating bridges made from concrete pontoons here in the Puget sound area. So concrete can easily be made to float for long periods of time on water.

There are light concrete mixture that are not structural were the rock and/or sand is replaced with foam, perlite or other light weight stuff. Some of these mixtures are less dense than water and therefore float. So, yes a life jacket could possibly be made from them. The problem would be that they would still be heavy compared to other materials.

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