Certification, or registration, to a standard is the outcome of a successful assessment by an independent third party such as CBS – Certification Body.
Whether it is certification of a management system, a product or a project, it provides evidence to customers of your compliance according to national or international standards. But where should you start my road to certification and a more sustainable business performance?
The certification process will vary slightly for different services, such as certification of management systems or products. To walk you through the road to certification, we have chosen certification of a management system as an example.
How do I prepare for accredited certification?
• After having decided on the management system you wish to implement, there are certain steps to get you started. Some simple tips have proven invaluable to companies seeking certification. As you set out, keep these in mind:
• Make sure you begin the process with the right attitude.
• Have a complete understanding of the concept set forth in the standard, and use the standard as a guide template to define your management system.
• Know what application and implications of the standard will mean to your company.
• Use the standard as a tool for improvement.
• Have an understanding of the risks and processes that affect your organization’s ability to realize its business strategy.
• Select your partner (certification body/registrar) carefully.
What steps should I follow?
Below you will find 10 general steps that will take you down the road to certification:
• Obtain a standard
Obtain and read a copy of the standard to familiarize yourself with the requirements, and decide if certification/registration to this standard makes good sense for your organisation.
• Review literature and software
There is a large amount of published information available that is designed to assist you in understanding and implementing a standard.
• Assemble a team and define your strategy
The adoption of a management system needs to be the strategic decision of the whole organisation. It is vital that your senior management is involved in the creation process. They decide the business strategy that an efficient management system should support. In addition, you need a dedicated team to develop and implement your management system.
• Determine training needs
Your team members responsible for implementing and maintaining the management system(s) will need to know the full details of the applicable standard(s). There is a wide range of courses, workshops, and seminars available designed to meet these needs. We provide a number of public training courses around the world.
• Review consultant options
Independent consultants will be able to advise you of a workable, realistic, and cost-effective strategy plan for implementation.
• Develop a management systems manual
Your management systems manual should describe the policies and operations of your company. Through the manual, you will provide an accurate description of the organisation and the best practice adopted to consistently satisfy customer expectations.
• Develop procedures
Procedures describe the processes of your organisation, and the best practice to achieve success in these processes. These procedures should answer the following questions about each process: why, who, when, where, what, how
• Implement your management system
Communication and training are key to a successful implementation. During the implementation phase, your organisation will be working according to the procedures that were developed to document and demonstrate the effectiveness of the management system.
• Consider a pre-assessment
You can choose to have a preliminary evaluation of the implementation of your management system by a certification body/registrar. The purpose is to identify areas of non-conformance and allow you to correct these areas before you begin the accredited certification process. Receiving a non-conformance means that a particular area of your management systems is not compliant with the requirements of the standard.
• Select a certification body/registrar
Your business relationship with the certification body/registrar will exist for many years, as your certification has to be maintained. To have an efficient management system, continual improvement is key. CBS will help you get maximum value out of the certification process, evaluating strengths and improvement opportunities.
How do I become certified by CBS?
A successful management system is one that is improved on a continual basis. Both your management system and certificate have to be maintained. Therefore, accredited certification consists of two stages: The primary certification and maintenance of the certificate thereafter. We apply our Risk Based Certification approach to both stages.
1. Input dialogue
To the audit, we need to know what is important to your organisation. We have to get a clear understanding of your business strategy and conditions that affect your ability to reach said strategy. Subsequently 1-3 focus areas on which the audit will focus are identified. The focus areas should be linked to the management system and reflect the risks or opportunities that are most important to you. Agreeing on focus areas is a collaborative effort, and our auditors can help suggest focus areas if necessary. Top management should be involved at this stage.
2. Documentation review
Our lead auditor evaluates your management system manual. The documentation review report summarizes any findings from this process.
The report indicates if your organisation is ready to proceed with the certification audit. The documentation review can be performed prior to or conducted as part of the initial visit.
3. Initial visit
Before the actual certification audit, we will make a preliminary visit to your organisation. The initial visit can be combined with the documentation review. The purpose of the initial visit is twofold:
To check your readiness for the certification audit, i.e. to review your manual, check procedures, to see your facilities, and briefly check the implementation of your management system.
To review focus areas input and agree on three to five particular focus areas upon which the audit will focus.
Based on this, the scope and audit plan are agreed upon.
4. Certification audit
The certification audit consists of informal interviews, examinations, and observations of the system in operation. During this process, we assess your management system’s degree of compliance with the requirements of the elected standard and performance in identified focus areas. When found compliant, we issue the certificate. Findings related to the focus areas will be presented at the end of the audit in a closing meeting and included in the audit report. At the closing meeting, you can also provide input regarding the focus areas, i.e. should any new focus area(s) be included in future audits.
• Maintenance of certificate
at this stage you have completed the initial certification and can move on to maintenance of your certification.
5. Periodic audits
Each issued certificate has a one-year life period. Upon certification, we will create a periodic audit schedule for regular audits over the one-year period. These audits confirm your company’s on-going compliance with specified requirements of the standard while re-evaluating performance in focus areas. At least one periodic audit per year is required.
6. Re-certification audit
After the one year is up, your certification will be extended through a re-certification audit.
Suspension or withdrawal of certificates
What happens if an organisation fails to maintain their management system and certification?