The phrase, “You’re being audited,” can strike fear into the heart of anyone. As I write this post, I am personally recovering from our latest lab audit, or, more accurately, our latest surveillance assessment. Perhaps “recovering” is too strong a word – let’s say I’m decompressing. Unlike an IRS audit or something equally painful, the audits we undergo as an accredited third party are not at all unpleasant; in fact, they’re very beneficial. But they do take a big commitment of time and energy, and involve a certain amount of stress as our company’s credibility relies heavily on the value imbued by our accreditations.
So, what is a surveillance assessment? It’s an audit of our quality management system and records as part of our accreditation to specific ISO standards. Home Innovation Research Labs is accredited to ISO 17025 as a testing laboratory, ISO 17020 as an inspection agency, and ISO 17065 as a product certification agency. Accreditations are important to the credibility of the work we do, and the associated quality management system development and reviews are essential to ensuring that the work we do is consistent, accurate, and appropriate.
We undergo separate surveillance assessments for each of our ISO accreditations. This most recent assessment was for our accreditation as a product certification agency. It also helped us make the transition from our previous accreditation to ISO Guide 65 to our current accreditation to ISO 17065, the newest set of requirements for product certification. This assessment lasted a day and a half with two assessors from the International Accreditation Service (IAS) on site in our laboratory facility reviewing records and interviewing staff. But wait, there’s more – the assessment is not yet fully complete as an upcoming product certification inspection at a factory needs to be witnessed by IAS, as well. (Perhaps providing fodder for my next post!)
I mentioned before that I feel the audits we undergo are beneficial. What, you may ask, is so beneficial about taking on the stress associated with someone poking through your records and looking over your shoulder at what you do and how you do it? First and foremost, it strengthens our corporate culture of quality work as an independent third party. It ensures our quality management system is always relevant and active for our staff – it’s a day-to-day part of our cultural make-up; not just a document we drafted that now sits on a shelf gathering dust. Second, it provides an objective, outside perspective on our systems, which fosters an atmosphere of continuous improvement and keeps what we do from getting stale or outmoded. The assessors are very knowledgeable of the standards for which we are accredited, and experienced with their practical implementation. Their feedback on our systems is always very practical and actionable.
As a result of this audit, and as part of our transition from Guide 65 to ISO 17065, we will be making a number of minor revisions to our quality manual to ensure we fully comply with all the detailed requirements of the updated standard. ISO 17065 has a major emphasis on ensuring impartiality, a quality for which we’ve got a long-standing reputation. While the assessment found no fault or anything lacking in our existing protocols to maintain impartiality, we did learn about new opportunities to further strengthen our related safeguards, which we plan to implement.
Now that this phase of our assessment is over, I am catching up on emails and other day-to-day stuff involved with running our lab. I am also grateful, as strange as that may sound, for the scrutiny to which our facility and our staff was just subjected – it always bolsters my confidence in our internal quality system and the independence and objectivity of our work. Interested in that same reassurance for your business and/or product? Get in touch and let’s discuss how we can help.***