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Paula Oddy

Standards

The Value of Registration

The basics and beyond

Published: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 13:42

Organizations pursue registration to international standards for a variety of reasons, but in the broadest possible sense most agree that the goal is to improve business operations and reap financial rewards, either by saving money through increased efficiencies or in making money by getting or retaining more customers.

For those who are unfamiliar with standards registration, there is a basic six-step process to confirm that your management system complies with a specific standard. These six steps are universal and apply to pretty much any company seeking certification to pretty much any standard.

Step 1: Research

Selecting your certification body (also known as a registrar) is the first decision you will make, and likely your most important. You want to go with a partner that understands your industry and your place within it. The registrar should be sensitive to the needs of your business, and it should understand exactly why you are pursuing registration and what you hope to accomplish. Many times, working with the registrar to explore these answers will help you better understand your own motivations, too.

Once you pick your registrar, you will be assigned a lead auditor to help guide you through the steps to follow.

Step 2: Pre-assessment

This step is optional, but it can be extremely helpful in identifying potential problem areas and improving the likelihood of achieving a successful registration on your first attempt. In the vast majority of cases, opting for a pre-assessment represents a small investment that can pay big dividends later, especially if it helps you avoid the time and money required to perform a second audit. The pre-assessment is most commonly performed during the review of your documentation and management system implementation, so this step also helps familiarize employees with the process ahead of your formal assessment.

Step 3: Stage I audit

At this step, your lead auditor will confirm that your management system has been designed to conform to the requirements of the standard and achieve the organization’s policy objectives. During this audit, your auditor will evaluate the capability of the management system to manage compliance with statutory, regulatory, and contractual requirements. At the end of the audit, you will be informed of the results; if they are acceptable, you will receive confirmation to proceed with the Stage II audit. You will also be given a predetermined amount of time to correct any nonconformities that are found.

Step 4: Stage II audit

At this step the registrar’s assessment team, supervised by the lead auditor, will review your management system with a fine-tooth comb, without being disruptive to normal operations. The objectives of this audit are to confirm that the management system conforms to all the requirements of the standard, and that your organization has effectively implemented the system so it can achieve the organization’s policy objectives. Once again, you will be given a predetermined amount of time to correct any nonconformities.

Step 5: Certification

This is the moment of truth. Assuming that the auditor is satisfied that your management system conforms to the requirement of the standard, and that those systems are implemented accordingly, you and your organization will be considered to have achieved registration to the standard. When you receive your certificate, you (and more important, your customers) will have physical proof that your organization can deliver on its promises for quality, reliability, and compliance.

Step 6: Follow-up evaluations

Regular annual or semi-annual surveillance visits (performed according to your preference), followed by triennial reassessments, ensure ongoing conformity to the standard in question.

So much for the basics. The broader question, of course, is how anyone and everyone, even standards-savvy organizations with decades of registration experience, can wring the maximum value out of this process in working with organizations such as Intertek.

The answer to that question, I believe, can be found in steps one and five of the above process. In step one, you must ask yourself some challenging questions about the purposes of standards registration for your organization. In step five, once you’ve realized your goal to achieve registration, you must again ask yourself what it is all for, and where you go from here.

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of organizations pursue standards registration for financial purposes. However, all finance is not created equal; in other words, some gains are more far-reaching and effective than others.

It has been said many times, but it bears repeating: Achieving registration to a management standard merely for the purpose of fulfilling customer requirements, or to be able to say, “We are XXXX-registered” on marketing materials, suboptimizes the entire process, and actually creates waste for you and your organization. Why? Because all the time, money, and effort allocated to achieving registration will not pay off in the biggest and most effective way—in helping your organization better organize its operations and achieve greatness. And isn’t that the goal of any work structure?

Pursuing standards registration for the “right” reasons, on the other hand, present nearly limitless advantages. Yes, those customers that demand registration will be satisfied, and you’ll have an extra line-item benefit suitable for marketing. In addition, however, you will also get the more far-reaching benefits that come from providing a framework to help everyone in the organization better serve customers, reach sales goals, waste less time, enjoy greater efficiencies, and the innumerable things that great companies do just a little bit better than their not-quite-as-great competition. Registration to standards provides the framework to achieve all those lofty goals, and companies that pursue and achieve registration with this in mind will always reap the biggest rewards.

Registering and maintaining that registration to a standard doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Understanding the real motivations and potential rewards for doing so may take a bit more time, but the payoff can be huge for organizations that do it right. The value of registration is that it helps you see what you can do and where your organization might go—and in that light, few if any management undertakings offer a better return on investment.

Paula Oddy is the technical and quality management system manager of Intertek, a Quality Digest content partner.

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About The Author

Paula Oddy’s picture

Paula Oddy

Paula Oddy is the technical and quality management system manager at Intertek’s business assurance group. She has more than 25 years’ experience in the auditing and certification industry, with extensive quality management system experience with Entela and Intertek. Oddy is responsible for overseeing the technical review of audit files, qualification of auditors, and ongoing training. She holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Grand Valley State University with a concentration in quality science from Grand Rapids Community College.

 

Comments

Registration is almost exclusively to check a box

I dont agree with, believe or see evidence that registatration is more than being able to state an organization complies with a customer requirement. Seeking registration to a standard for either saving money or making money sounds like a wonderful idea. Maybe a customer checking a complaince box and placing more orders is the same as "making money". I think 99% of all registrations are attained becasue it is a compliance requirement of the customer and a meal ticket to possible future orders. When was the last time a customer or your organiziton used the structure of a standard to resolve a business issue? Or does your organization send e mails, voicemails, reports, conference calls, management meets with managment and verbally resolve the issue, etc. As an after thought, a corrective action is written down or logged for credit, maybe an FMEA or control plan is updated after the customer asks for it, etc. 

Business improvement used to be the reference model for the US TAG to ISO/TC176 related to management system standards. In my personal opinion, now the reference is more likely the auditability of text. What does auditability have to do with using a standard for business improvement?