Robert H. King Jr. is president
and chief executive officer of the Registrar Accreditation
Board in Milwaukee. RAB operates accreditation programs
for ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 registrars through the ANSI-RAB
National Accreditation Program. Independently, RAB operates
certification programs for quality and environmental management
systems auditors and accreditation programs for auditor
training course providers. King is responsible for enhancing
the strength of existing RAB programs and for responding
as markets demand expansion into new areas. His duties include
overall general management with a marketing emphasis and
The Registrar Accreditation Board was established
in 1989 by the American Society for Quality. Its original
mission was to provide accreditation services for
ISO 9000 quality management systems registrars. The
new organization was structured as an independent
legal entity. RAB is governed and operated independently
When RAB was created, it immediately sought to strengthen
the U.S. system for registrar accreditation by pursuing
a formal relationship with the American National Standards
Institute. In 1991, ANSI and RAB joined forces to
establish the American National Accreditation Program
for Registrars of Quality Systems.
The next year RAB introduced QMS course provider
accreditation and auditor certification programs that
were separate from the joint program with ANSI. Then
in 1996, with the release of new ISO 14000 environmental
management systems (EMS) standards, the ANSI-RAB National
Accreditation Program (NAP) was formed, replacing
the original joint program.
The ANSI-RAB NAP covers the accreditation of QMS
and EMS registrars. Separate from the ANSI-RAB NAP
are certification programs for EMS auditors and QMS
auditors and accreditation programs for course providers
offering QMS and EMS auditor training courses operated
solely by RAB.
RAB, headquartered in Milwaukee, is a not-for-profit
organization that is financially self-supported and
governed by a 16-member board of directors. Members
of the board represent both quality and environmental
stakeholders, including technical experts, business
executives, industry representatives, and employees
of registrar organizations.
RAB policy is established by the RAB board of directors
and, for those programs operated with ANSI, by a joint
oversight board populated equally by representatives
of each organization.
For more information about RAB, visit www.rabnet.org.
Before joining RAB in January 2002, King was vice president,
Supply Chain NAFTA, with Bayer Corp. He joined Bayer in
1985 and progressed to become a market manager, national
sales director and then vice president with the company.
Prior to joining Bayer, he was with Dow Chemical. King served
as a captain in military intelligence in the U.S. Army.
He earned a bachelor's degree in international studies from
the University of South Carolina.
QD: What is your personal mission as president
King: The only thing I have
to sell is integrity. My mission is to uphold the integrity
of the accreditation and registration processes and ensure
there's a balanced ethical approach to the business.
QD: Have there been problems in that area?
King: This is an ongoing mission.
Recently there's been increased scrutiny on auditor independence,
brought out first in the financial industry. The broad brush
really gets all auditors, so we're looking hard at auditor
independence and trying to ensure there's not even a suspicion
of impropriety. You can be squeaky clean, but if someone
thinks you're not, you can have a big problem.
QD: Only 13 percent of ISO 9000-registered
companies in North America have made the transition to ISO
9001:2000. Why do you think companies have been so slow
to make the transition?
King: First, there's really
a new process with ISO 9001:2000. When companies really
started to dig into this, they realized they'd have to make
some changes. I don't believe they realized that immediately
because the last transition to the 1994 standard was simpler.
But ISO 9001:2000 requires more work to be done up front
by the client. Second, there was a three-year transition
period, and I think there was a lot of procrastinating.
There's certainly been a lot of effort put forward by the
registrars to promote the change, and many are working this
into their surveillance audits.
QD: Some critics of ISO 9000 say that
the low transition numbers are due to the standard not being
an effective system. Is this a valid criticism?
King: I don't think there's
any validity to that. The IAAR [International Association
of Accredited Registrars] says that the small and medium-sized
registrars are going to be complete by December. The larger
registrars are going to be a little slower and will probably
have some customers that won't finish.
QD: So you don't believe there's going
to be any dropout in the number of registered companies
at the December deadline?
King: There'll be some companies
that have to fade into the first quarter of next year to
complete the transition, but I don't believe there's going
to be a significant number of companies that give up on
the standard altogether.
QD: What happens to companies that do
let their registration lapse and then find they want it
King: From RAB's perspective,
they would have to start over again. There may be some registrars
out there that would help them along if they've been a long-standing
customer, but that would be a business decision for the
QD: It's been said accreditation bodies
haven't been as diligent as they could have been with some
of the registrars that have a reputation for rubber-stamping
registrations. How do you answer that charge, and do you
believe the ISO 9000 process has been hurt as a result?
King: It's difficult for any
accreditation body to provide 100-percent oversight. We
can't look at every customer; there are just too many of
them. When we do have a complaint, we investigate it rigorously.
We don't let any complaint slide. If someone were to come
to me with a complaint that there was a rubber-stamp certificate
out there, we would investigate and call that registrar
to task on it. We do a lot of suspensions; in fact, we have
one withdrawal out there right now. We are tough on our
registrars when we have objective evidence to go on. Gathering
that objective evidence is sometimes difficult.
I think the ISO 9000 standard could have been hurt by
that sort of allegation. It's always easy to tear down a
system when you're on the outside looking in, and there
may be some of that going on, too. But I think, all-in-all,
it's our responsibility as an accreditation body working
with the registrars to make sure that doesn't happen.
QD: Some registrars have complained that
they don't receive enough support from ANSI-RAB and ASQ
in promoting the transition. Could ANSI-RAB have done more
to promote the transition process?
King: We have four communication
themes this year. One of them is the transition process.
We also promoted it through our auditor certification process.
We were pretty hard on our auditors to make sure they got
the training necessary to provide good transition auditing.
ASQ's theme for its national conference is the ISO 9000
transition process. We are promoting it as best we can.
It's been on our Web site and in our newsletter. If these
registrars have constructive criticism, I would appreciate
it, but I don't know what else we could have done. Early
last year we sent out a letter to the registrars asking
for their help and offering ours in whatever way they wanted
us to help in the transition. We continue to promote it
through our auditor certification process and in public
QD: ISO 14001 seems to be much more popular
outside the United States. Why do you think it's been adopted
more quickly outside the country than it has been here?
King: I don't know, but if
you take the growth curve of ISO 9000 in the early years
and lay it down over the growth curve of ISO 14001, ISO
14001 had a steeper growth in the United States than ISO
9000 did. It's leveled off in the past year or two, but
in the first five or so years of the standard, ISO 14001
actually grew at a faster rate.
QD: What do you think the future holds
for standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, and where
does ANSI-RAB fit into the picture of opportunities for
King: ANSI-RAB will always
look at consensus standards, ISO standards or national standards
for program or assessment. We won't look at any documents
that aren't consensus standards. For example, if there is
a new standard for medical devices, which there is right
now, we'll be issuing conformity assessment audits against
ISO 13485. If there is ever a national or international
standard for occupational health and safety, we will take
that into consideration as part of our business plan. We
don't go out and promote standards for conformity assessment
in order to gain business.
The first part of your question is a little more difficult.
I believe we're going to see a resurgence of interest in
ISO 9001 when people really understand what that standard
can do for them when it's properly applied within their
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