The Number 1 Question to Ask When Selecting a Certification Body
What to know about your Certification Body and Accreditation
When selecting a Certification Body (CB) to oversee your company’s Management System certification, it’s really important to ask if they are accredited by an International Accreditation Forum (IAF) recognized Accreditation Body (AB). You may be surprised to learn that there are organizations that are not. SimpleQuE’s auditors have come across situations like this and companies aren’t aware of the differentiation and importance of a legitimate certification.
We know of several organizations who claim to be accredited and will issue certificates, sometimes with a minimal audit and no onsite time to evaluate their clients’ systems. Basically, send some paperwork and money every year, and get your certificate without any audit. This may save the company money in the short term, but strips them of the true relevance of accredited management system certification and the tremendous value of outside audit scrutiny. More importantly, this type of certification may not be recognized by some customers, especially in the automotive and aerospace industries where safety and quality are critical from their suppliers. For some customers and industries, properly accredited certification can be a contractual requirement.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is based on conformance to ISO/IEC 17021 which consists of principles and requirements for the competence, consistency and impartiality of the Accreditation Bodies (AB) and Certification Bodies (CB) providing audit and certification of management systems. The largest oversight body that accredits CBs in North America is ANAB (the ANSI National Accreditation Board). The International Accreditation Forum (IAF) was established to promote cooperation and consistency among Accreditation Bodies globally, so one certification is recognized around the world. This group is committed to promoting sound, rigorous and consistent accreditation processes internationally.
How do I know if my certificate is issued by an accredited Certification Body?
- Accreditation by ANAB, or other IAF-recognized ABs (such as UKAS, RvA, DAkkS, CNAS, etc.), ensures the impartiality and competence of the CBs to audit and certify organizations conforming with management system standards. Every CB follows internationally accepted criteria with strict oversight and audits by the AB to assure compliance. There are currently 80 Accreditation Bodies worldwide that are recognized under the IAF Multilateral Recognition Agreement. IAF MLA signatories have been recognized by IAF as complying with the relevant standards and IAF requirements for the scopes they’re recognized for.
- If you are already certified, your certificate should have the ANAB symbol, or that of an IAF recognized accreditation body, along with the symbol of your CB. Some CBs in the US may be accredited by a foreign accreditation body such as UKAS, RvA, DAkkS, CNAS, etc. (See the example of simpleQuE’s ISO 9001:2015 Certificate)
ANAB provides a searchable CB Directory as does the IAAR (Independent Association of Accredited Registrars) in the IAAR directory, so you can verify if a CB is accredited.
Note: While it is not illegal to use an unaccredited CB or AB, it deteriorates the credibility of those certified companies that go through the strict outside scrutiny and onsite audits to maintain their certification.
ANAB also offers these helpful tips to consider when choosing a CB:
- Are they accredited by a reputable body?
- Consider their industry experience, background, and expertise
- For ISO 9001 and other standards using scoping (industry experience), do they have approval to work in the appropriate scope (industry) category?
- Do your clients or customers have any recommendations?
- Check the references provided by the CB (Is their accreditation body an IAF MLA Signatory Member? You may even want to see their Accreditation Certificate.)
- Do they have the ability to meet your schedule and time frame?
- Review all aspects of the CB fee schedule (does it include 3-year cycle – Stage 1 and Stage 2 certification audits and 2 Surveillance Audits)?
- Are you comfortable in establishing a long-term relationship with the CB?
- Is the majority of audit time onsite?
Keep in mind that a certification body auditor cannot offer consulting or be involved in the development and implementation of the system being audited. That’s where an independent consulting firm, like simpleQuE, can provide services to ensure your management system complies with the requirements and that you are ready for certification. When selecting a consultant, whether it’s for internal audits or assistance with implementing or maintaining your QMS, many of the guidelines above could be used. You want to be sure that your consultant has experts familiar with your industry, with qualified auditors, and it helps if those experts also have 3rd party auditor experience. SimpleQuE has been ISO 9001 certified since 2006.
See our article The Quality Connection to understand the important connection between an organization, consulting company and certification body when establishing a quality management system.
SimpleQuE is not associated with the IATF®, IAOB, ANAB®, IAQG®, and is not a certification body. SimpleQuE is an independent consulting, training, and second-party auditing service provider that assists a company on a path to obtain and maintain certification through accredited certification bodies.
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