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Bringing Clarity to Certification: Follow Our Simple ISO Roadmap

12 April 2021 Return to news articles

Bringing Clarity to Certification: Follow Our Simple ISO Roadmap

Taking the first steps towards certification can be a daunting task for an enterprise looking to confirm standards and awareness of the products and services it offers.

Finding the most appropriate means of raising that awareness often opens up further challenges – not least the natural caution Executives and Quality Managers will have in identifying the right Certification Body (CB) to work with in pursuit of formal certification.

Now, the body charged with setting globally critical quality standards in a vast range of commercial and industrial sectors, the Geneva-based ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has developed its own simple checklist to assist those poised to begin this journey towards priceless recognition. CARES is anxious to ensure those looking to take the initial important steps towards certification are able to follow the ISO’s guidance.

CARES understands that simply knowing where to start the approval process can be daunting given the limitless – and often confusing or contradictory – online information provided by various entities, including CBs that may not be the right body to work with on your journey to certification. By following the clear guidance offered by the ISO in its simple checklist, set out in full below, the scale of challenge you face can become more manageable – and the team here at CARES stands ready to assist you with further information if there is anything you need once you’ve worked through the ISO checklist.

How to Secure Product Certification – the ISO’s Guidelines:

“So, your organization has decided to obtain an ISO Certification, perhaps to ISO 9001:2015 or ISO 14001:2015. You have already taken the necessary steps to implement the system into your organization, either through your own Quality Manager, hiring a consultant, or are in the process of doing so. Now what? Now is the time to start seeking quotes for accredited certification to ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 or whichever standard you are striving towards. How should you choose a Certifying Body, and more importantly, how do you choose the best Certification Body for your organization?

The process of becoming ISO certified involves an independent or third-party auditor visiting each of your company’s sites and conducting a site audit annually.

When employing a Certification Body, it is essential you make an informed decision as you will be working closely with the CB you choose over an extended period, and trusting their work is essential.

Accreditation:

Ensure you are looking for this distinction when you are selecting your CB. Accreditation to ISO/IEC 17021 is the minimum standard you should consider when selecting a CB, without it your certificate cannot be considered valid in the marketplace. Consider accreditation like your government-issued photo ID; while you may have a library card or another piece of photo ID, only the government issued photo ID is accepted when you are travelling or being verified for your identity, as it is regulated and trusted. Accredited certification is the same concept.

Reputation:

Consider your CB’s reputation in the industry when you are selecting your quotes. Referrals from other companies you trust or published customer satisfaction testimonials are a great way to understand the company’s reputation in the industry. Reputable organizations will also have a proven track record and experience in your industry. Consider asking your suppliers who they are currently certified with as you can access a lot of new avenues for future business growth through these connections, and it can aid in linking you to similar companies or even potential clients or business partners. Remember that the reputation of the CB that issues the certification is also reflective of your company, and it is in your best interest to employ a CB that has a strong reputation for success.

Specialization:

Look for a Certification Body that specializes in, or has experience with, auditing your niche of services or goods. Most CB’s who have been in the industry for a number of years have vast prior knowledge of how a certain type of organization is meant to operate. This can save you time during your audits from having to explain the processes to your third-party auditor.

Important Note: Auditors are curious by nature though, so prepare for your audits to have curious questions, meant to help understand your specific interpretation of the standard, not to prove non-compliance with the standard. Auditors are not in the business to ‘catch you’. They should be auditing to establish conformance, not non-conformance. If you feel your auditor is not auditing in this way, speak with your CB to resolve the situation, and they should be more than willing to accommodate your request.

Compatibility:

It is important to look for Certification Bodies and auditors whose values align with your organization. As per ISO standards, recertification is required every 3 years and you will have to work with your chosen CB over an extended period of time. For example, scheduling your audit each year may be a lengthy process of communication with multiple departments within your organization, and your CB point of contact, with multiple back and forth conversations.

Research each CB on their company policies and ensure their key business model aligns with what you consider the highest value to meet your needs. You are their client and should be treated exactly as such. Establish open and clear communication with your CB and your auditor in order to fully reap the benefits of the services they provide. The CB you work with can quickly become third-party supports allowing you to improve consistently. While a CB cannot act as a consultancy service, most offer a range of workshops, training and valuable guidance via online resources should you require.

Cost:

The cost of an ISO Certification should also be considered, but also weighted in comparison to the benefits offered by your chosen CB. Do your due diligence in researching various rates around you and conduct a simple cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the services they’re offering are indeed worth the price they quote. Your cost-benefit analysis should include Accreditation, Reputation, Specialization, Location, Compatibility, and Cost, as well as any other criteria you deem important for your organization.

Ensure you are quoted for both the 3year certification period costs as well as the initial charges and ask about the services that are included or excluded from the quo.

FINALLY:

Do remember, there is no such thing as a ‘wrong question’ when looking for support in taking the steps towards all-important certification for your enterprise. CARES is proud of its reputation built over four decades by our expert teams working with colleagues across the global construction sector and we stand ready to assist if there are any points on the ISO checklist that are unclear, or you simply have a further question about the range of services provided by CARES.

Please email: general@ukcares.com with any issues you may have.

CARES is grateful to our colleagues at the Association of British Certification Bodies (ABCB) for highlighting this ISO Guide.

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