Tips for Selecting a Certification Body

Did you notice the title of this article refers to “Certification Body” instead of “Registrar”? The new ANAB web site (http://www.anab.org) uses Certification Bodies (CBs) like the rest of the world, not Registrars as previously used by the RAB. This terminology change took place when the ANSI-RAB National Accreditation Board became the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB).

On the ANAB web site, they have a section titled, “Tips for Selecting a Certification Body”:

 


As with most of life’s major purchases, it pays to shop around for an ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 certification body (CB). Investigate, ask for and check references, and request the resumes of the CB’s proposed audit team. You’re the customer and the CB provides a service to you. Make sure you get what you pay for, but don’t let price alone be the deciding factor. Look for added value.

Things to consider when selecting a CB:

  • Accreditation by a reputable body
  • Industry experience, background, and expertise
  • For ISO 9001 CBs, approval to work in the appropriate scope category
  • Recommendations from your clients or customers
  • References provided by the CB
  • Scheduling issues and ability to meet your time frame
  • All aspects of the CB’s fee schedule
  • Your comfort level in establishing a long term relationship with a CB

In addition to these ANAB tips, our Implementing ISO 9001:2000 course also offers advice on selecting a CB:

Registration Process

After narrowing your search to a few Certification Bodies (CBs), you can provide them with the information necessary for them to give you a price quote for their services. After considering several selection factors, you will choose the best CB for your needs and submit the application.

You then need to reach agreement on the audit objective (pre-assessment or registration audit), scope of registration, and preferred dates for the visit(s). The CB will review your quality manual in advance of their visit and assess other documents at your request (for an extra fee).

The optional pre-assessment visit is recommended to confirm your readiness for the registration audit. It also provides an opportunity for the audit team to learn about your system and to become acquainted with your organization.

After undergoing the registration audit, the audit team will either:

1) recommend your system for certification unconditionally (no nonconformities; not the typical case),
2) recommend your system for certification based on acceptable corrective action plans (minor nonconformities to be closed at the next visit), or
3) be unable to recommend your system due to one or more major nonconformities (or too many minor findings).

If the CB is unable to recommend for certification, a special follow-up visit or another full audit will be required (at your expense in both cases).

Selection Considerations

A number of factors can influence your choice of a Certification Body. First, ensure the CB is accredited for your industry sector. What have you heard about the CB? Consider their reputation and experience as a CB. Check local references.

If you arrange for CBs to make sales calls, evaluate their attitude and cooperation. See if their interpretations of requirements agree with yours. Compare the costs, but be sure to make fair comparisons. Some CBs include travel expenses in their fixed daily rates. Others may charge separately for travel expenses, or even charge an hourly rate for their travel time.

Know what is included in the quote. For example, does the registration audit fee include the document review, or is it a separate fee? See if the CB has a local office or local auditor. Determine who would be assigned as the audit team and identify their travel locations.

Another consideration is the level of confidence in the CB and acceptance by your customers and the marketplace. Of course, your parent organization may require you to use a CB already selected for other sites.
Information Questionnaire

The Certification Bodies will need information from your organization to prepare a price quote and plan the registration audit. They will want to know the key contacts for the organization; for example, the senior manager and appointed management representative. They will also need to know your preferred dates for the document review, pre-assessment, and registration audit.

They will ask about your industry sector and product line to ensure they have the applicable scope of accreditation. The CB will want to understand your proposed scope of registration in terms of the sites and products to included, as well as, any exclusions from the scope (refer to ISO 9001:2000, clauses 1.2 and 4.2.2).

The CB will want to know the size of your facility and may even ask for a floor plan to help them understand the physical layout. They may ask about the principal equipment used in the manufacture of your product, if applicable, and the number of employees and shifts of operation.

Let them know if you perform any work at the customer’s premises or use off-site warehouses (if applicable to the scope of registration). Inform the CB of any outsourced processes or the use of subcontracting.

Let the CB know if your organization is subject to any statutory or regulatory requirements as a result of your product offerings. They will want to be aware of any software components included in your product line in order to assign the appropriate auditors.

If you are using a consultant, inform the CB. They will want to avoid a possible conflict of interest (in case the consulting services were from part of their parent company). They will also want to advise you on the role of a consultant during the audit.

The CB needs to know the primary language used within the organization to assign fluent auditors. A translator may be used for other languages. Advise the CB if there are any special safety requirements or the need for special clothing to be worn during the assessment.

Cost Factors

 

The cost of the Certification Body’s services will depend on the size of your organization and its business complexity. Cost factors include the scope of registration (scope of the quality management system), permissible exclusions, and the number of locations to be included.

CB Costs

 

The fees charged by Certification Bodies may vary widely. Be sure you know what is included in the price quote for their services. Some CBs may charge a one-time administration fee. Some may charge separately for the quality manual review.

All CBs charge for the optional pre-assessment, but the costs will vary depending on the number of days involved and their daily rate. The initial registration audit will be included in the quote, but be aware of the additional cost if a follow-up visit is needed to close out any findings (before the certificate can be issued). If a major nonconformity is found during a surveillance audit, a special visit may be required to verify closure of the finding (prior to the next scheduled visit).

Some CBs may include a fee for listing your organization in their registry (most do not). If you postpone too late a scheduled audit (read your agreement), there will be a postponement fee (since auditors cannot be reassigned at such a late date). One CB includes an annual fee increase based on the consumer price index.

If you want extra copies of the registration certificate for display, or with extra accreditation marks, there will be extra charges. If you decide to cancel out of your agreement before the contract period ends, you can expect a cancellation fee. Most CBs charge separately for travel and living. A few offer to include it in their fixed daily rate for the audits (which helps budget the fixed expenses).

Most organizations will be visited every six months (smaller organizations may be audited annually). These surveillance visits will be charged at about 1/3 of the cost of the registration audit. The newly required recertification audit every three years will be about 2/3 of the cost of the registration audit.

Scope Statement

 

The scope of a quality management system is described by the standard, organizations, sites, products, and supply-chain. The scope of the registration statement must be agreed to by the CB and is expressed on the registration certificate.

From a “truth in advertising” view, you must be careful to accurately reflect the scope of your business on the certificate and in other public documents. Consider any outsourced processes that your organization “manages” instead of directly performs.

CB Policies

 

Review the policies of the Certification Body. Understand its appeals process in case you ever need to dispute a finding or the severity classification. Be aware of situations that could cause suspension of your certificate, such as, actions not completed within the agreed timeframe, misuse of the registration mark, or other certificate conditions not being met. Certificate cancellation could occur if a suspension is not cleared, serious findings are unresolved, or you fail to pay the CB.

The CB will be pleased to provide camera-ready artwork for their registration logo (it’s good advertising for them). However, you must use the logo in the appropriate manner. The logo cannot be cropped or edited and must not be used in relationship to your products (since it is a system certification, not a product certification). You can use the logo on business cards, company stationery, promotional literature, and advertising materials. Check with the CB on the rules.