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So this is for our ISO Show listeners that are already certified to ISO Standards, in some cases – not that often, some companies can get really fed up or frustrated with their certification body provider.

Now on the whole, accredited CB’s are great – however over the last 14 years we’ve come across the good, the bad and the ugly too!

So, this podcast is for those companies that maybe looking to switch, so we’ll cover…….

Why companies decide to change CB’s

  • Can’t get hold of anyone to help them – inform them of change in business and the CB is not adaptable.
  • Frustrated with lack of organisation – not keeping client informed, assessor showing up to audit the wrong standard.
  • Their CB is not listening to them
  • Not happy with the assessor – No really a hard reason – Just request a different Assessor
  • Lack of value – assessor shows up later and leaves at 2.00pm and you don’t get the report for another 2 -3 weeks after chasing.

Why switch?

Because you can – you have a choice

  • You are the customer – if you raise your concerns and are not being heard, go to another CB that will look after your every need.
  • You may get a more competitive service and costs – example clients grown through acquisition
  • You are expanding internationally – need a CB with an international presence

How to switch

  1. Here in the UK – If you are certified by a UKAS accredited certification body the switch is free of charge to another UKAS accredited CB.
  2. Establish your scope of certification and requirements – sites, services, standards.
  3. Review your timings – should it be before or after your next surveillance visit?
  4. Get three quotes from accredited Certification bodies – explain you’d like a quote for the period of certification including the recertification costs.
  5. Provide your requirements – also explain why you are looking to change CB’s as you want assurance that they will be able to provide you with the service you need.
  • Consider –
    • Costs
    • number of assessors for your standards on the payrole,
    • Continuity of assessors
    • Location of assessors and your locations
    • Support
    • Key Account Manager / customer services
    • Experience/reputation in your sector / standards
    • Any value adds i.e. webinars, whitepapers, events.

How we can help? – Free service to send an RFQ to CB’s so you can get comparative quotes. We don’t have an exclusive relationship with any 1 Certification Body, but we can help you gain a quote as a free service we offer. If you need help getting a quote, contact us!

Look out for our directory of recommended CB’s in 2021.

We’d love to hear your views and comments about the ISO Show, here’s how:Share the ISO Show on twitter or Linkedin

Leave an honest review on iTunes or Soundcloud. Your ratings and reviews really help and we read each one.

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Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.  If you don’t want to fail an assessment before you’ve even begun, be prepared.

I’m just going to take you through the top 5 mistakes companies make that can lead to stress and failure – now this isn’t a definitive list – there are of course many things that could go wrong, I’m just going to share with you my 5 favourite blunders that you can very easily avoid.

  1. Not informing employees

Yes – pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised to hear how many times a Management systems is just kept to one person and a communications plan has not been implemented to inform all employees.  The best informed employees make the best people to be assessed.

Imagine – you are an assessor and you rock up only to hear an employee when asked about their process say ‘What process? What Environmental Policy?

  • Business Continuity Planning – What’s the point in having a BCP if no one know how to how to respond to an incident?
  • By not informing employees – As it triggers bad vibes i.e nervous, wary, stressed
  • Communication plan – CEO, Champions, agenda of meetings, launch, newsletter updates, online comms i.e. slack
  • Not having access to the right people
  • The assessor doesn’t need to see every single person.
  • Does need to see the key process owners and some representatives from the leadership team.
  • Quality – operations, HR, key process owners i.e. heads of functions
  • Environment – Facilities Managers, an Environnemental Champion.
  • Information Security – IT, back-ups, incident reporting, HR (starters/leavers) and physical security i.e. Office Manager or if you are in services offices – give the person on reception the heads up.
  • Make sure you have the agenda for the visits well in advance – all reputable UKAS accredited certification bodies should send this to you weeks in advance – if they haven’t chase it.
  • This helps you to ensure that the right people are available at the right time.
  • Not having access to your management system

Sounds silly, but you’d be surprised.

  • We’ve even come across cases of rogue consultants where the Management system is owned (IP and all) by the consultant – not the company. Scary!
  • Make sure you have access to your policies, procedures, documents and templates
  • These can be online, displayed, hard copy or audio/visual
  • Nothing more embarrassing than missing a key document or you’ve got 3 versions of it, and no one know which is the right one.
  • Accessiblity is key – Sharepoint/intranet/wiki’s/dropboc
  • Not having access to your records.
  • Stage 2 Assessment is a ‘Show and tell’ –make sure the right people and have access to the right records.
  • Pre-empt any pitfalls  – a disorganised business will have records all over the place – because there is no structure.
  • Also, make sure your supplier records are compliant – one of the main causes of non-conformities in Environmental management and Health and Safety is lack of accurate supplier records
  • Waste records, Lift maintenance records, FGas records – most of these aren’t ISO Standards requirements – they are LEGAL requirements.
  • Legal register/due diligence

And last but not least……

  • Don’t make any assumptions
  • Don’t make any assumptions that that your assessor will know your business inside out – they won’t understand your culture, vision, values and USP’s.
  • Use this as an opportunity to showcase all the strengths of your business and how well managed it is.  With our clients we’ll always get the representative of the leadership in the room for the kick-off meeting –
  • Don’t worry the assessor doesn’t need to be glued to the assessors hip all day every day, 30 mins attendance at the kick-off meeting max is suffice. This shows the business is serious about their ISO Commitment and demonstrates that there is full leadership support and that employees are onboard. 
  • Likewise – don’t assume that your assessor knows nothing about your industry – in many cases, if you are in a sector, chances are that your assessor i.e. construction, engineering, manufacturing your assessor has seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Take notes, so you can refer back to these – as there can be some valuable observations that an assessor may make which you could take back to your continual improvement process.  Don’t assume that these will be captured in the report at the end of the assessment.

So to recap – the 5 mistakes to avoid in an ISO assessment are……

  1. Not informing employees
  2. Not having access to the right people on the days of the assessment
  3. Not having access to your management system
  4. Not having access to your records.
  5. Don’t make any assumptions

And don’t forget, these mistakes can easily be prevented if you prepare well before an assessment.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

If you need any assistance with ISO standards, contact us!

We’d love to hear your views and comments about the ISO Show, here’s how:Share the ISO Show on twitter or Linkedin

Leave an honest review on iTunes or Soundcloud. Your ratings and reviews really help and we read each one.

Subscribe to keep up-to-date with our latest episodes:

Stitcher | Spotify | YouTube |iTunes | Soundcloud

You’ve worked hard on creating all the necessary policies and procedures, systemised your way of working, informed the workforce and carried out internal audits to verify compliance.  Well done!  The next, and final stage towards achieving ISO certification is the so-called ‘dreaded’ assessment.  However, with the right approach and preparation, you may even enjoy your assessment!  Hard to believe? Read on…….

So what should you expect to happen?

The assessment, regardless of which ISO Standard you are implementing is split into two stages.  The Stage 1 Assessment is quite simply a Document Review.  This is where the assessor will expect to see all the key documented information that the standard requires.  So where the standard states that you ‘shall provide documented procedure/policy for XXXX’, this is what you need to have available i.e. a documented Environmental Policy if your assessment is for ISO 14001.  Make sure you have all of this documentation easily accessible on the day of the assessment.  Otherwise, you will be wasting your time and the assessor’s time if the information isn’t readily available either online (electronic information available on your server/intranet/Sharepoint), or if it’s easier for you, a hard copy (paper version of a Policy document).  It doesn’t matter if it is a hard or soft copy, so long as it is available and meets the requirements of the ISO Standard, and most importantly, your own business requirements.  If you have a small business the Stage 1 Assessment for one ISO Standard is likely to be just the one day. If you have a micro business, some certification bodies offer a remote Stage 1 Assessment, whereby you submit the documentation electronically.

Typically, by mid-afternoon the assessor is likely to be writing up the findings of the assessment, so by the end of the visit you will be provided with a Stage 1 report, which will outline the scope of certification, and the key findings for all the clauses within the standard/s.  The report will highlight any positive aspects of the documentation and will also raise any minor or major non-conformities which you will need to address prior to the Stage 2 Assessment.  Do not be worried to ask questions if some of the terminology may seem rather technical (ISO gobbledegook), your assessor will be happy to explain their findings so that you are clear on the next steps.  You may feel like your question is a bit silly, but don’t worry about this, they are there to ensure that you fully understand the findings and will be happy to explain the findings and recommendations in a slightly different way so it makes sense for your business.

Most Certification Bodies also provide ‘opportunities for improvement’ which can be very helpful in terms of identifying further improvements that can be made within the business.

The Stage 2 Assessment can be carried out anytime up to 3 months after the Stage 1. We would normally recommend booking this approximately 4 – 6 weeks after the Stage 1 Assessment to ensure that you keep the momentum going on continual improvement, yet still have time to address any improvements to your management system that need to be made.

The Stage 2 Assessment is carried out to simply demonstrate compliance that you operate in the way that you say you do in your Management System! In effect it is a ‘show and tell’.

So, for example if you have a procedure for training, you need to prove that it’s working.  How? Show evidence of your records i.e.  your company Training and Skills Matrix or individual training records.   If you have a procedure for internal audits, simply show your Audit Schedule for the year, and the internal audit reports.  It is basically proving how you are running a successful business.  This is your opportunity to shine, enjoy and be proud of your company’s operations – from Leadership to operatives.

If you’ve got a brilliant way of working for sales or operations, great! show it off!  The assessor will be shadowing you and individual process owners to listen, observe and make notes on how you operate your business.  At the end of the visit, they will provide you with a report on their findings and all being well, you will be recommended for certification.  Worst case scenario if there are any major non-conformances at the end of Stage 2, you will be given time to provide a corrective action plan.

At Blackmores I’m proud to say we have a 100% success rate at helping our clients achieving certification, so if the thought of an assessment is still daunting, we can be there to give you a helping hand and act as your ISO ambassador to support the management team if needed.

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Photon Lines Ltd

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Kingsley Napley

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