Certification and accreditation

Certification and accreditation
See also

Certification is a process aimed at verifying and confirming the organization's compliance with the requirements set out in the standards. The main stage of the audit is a certification audit, during which the external auditor performs a verification of the entire scope of the company's activity in terms of meeting the requirements. The effect of these activities is the issuance of a certificate (Quality Management 2004, p. 111).

According to ISO/IEC 17000:2006 accreditation is third party attestation of a conformity assessment body to formally demonstrate its competence to perform specific conformity assessment tasks. Therefore, accreditation is the formal recognition by the authorized accreditation body of the competencies of organizations operating under a given the area that is subject to conformity assessment, i.e. certification and inspection bodies, also laboratories designated for performing specific activities.

Why organization need certificate

The reasons for applying for a certificate are: marketing benefits, improving the company's image, increasing employee motivation, confirming compliance. It should be noted that in recent years, due to the lack of legal restrictions, there are companies that issue certificates of compliance with standards without being accredited. Such cases are dangerous due to the low awareness of customers in this regard.

The certificate concerns the management system, not the product, hence the effectiveness of advertising campaigns informing about receipt of this document addressed to retail customers is negligible. The situation is different for institutional clients who increasingly, as one of the criteria, certify compliance with the relevant standard. Enterprises with a certified system of the same expect from their suppliers, which means that having "ISO" is already a standard in business life. Currently, having a quality management system does not give a competitive advantage, but only allows to keep pace with leaders on the market.

Obtaining a certificate

Obtaining a certificate causes economic consequences for the organization. Thanks to him, he can apply for contracts that have hitherto been out of reach. It is primarily about tenders and investments implemented from EU funds. Fig. 1 presents a diagram of conducting a certification audit applied by the majority of units.

Proces of certification

The process starts when the organization applying for the application form receives the certificate. It contains information about the company: address data, the number of employees broken down by changes, the scope of the system, etc. On the basis of tables prepared by accreditation units, the number of audit days is calculated, then dates and auditors are set. If the organization expresses such a wish, it is possible to conduct a trial audit, which should detect the majority of significant deficiencies in the management system. This is followed by a detailed examination of the system documentation, followed by a proper certification audit. The effect of the audit is a report containing non-conformities and recommendations, the removal of which determines the obtaining of a certificate. If the corrective action taken will bring about the intended effect, the certificate is usually awarded for 3 years. During this period, the certifying company performs supervision audits (on average once a year), which is aimed at ensuring the application of standards requirements and continuous improvement of the system (T. Wawak, 1995 p. 141).

Supervision of certification bodies

To ensure the correctness of the certification process, entities authorized to issue certificates are under constant supervision. This supervision is carried out by the IQNet network and accreditation units.

IQNet is an organization of certification bodies. The purpose of its creation (at that time as EQNet) in 1990 was to unify requirements and mutual recognition of certificates. Currently, about 40 companies belong to this organization, which cover most of the countries. As part of the network, the principle of mutual recognition has been adopted, which means that the organization receives two certificates - one certifying company, the other one - IQNet. On this basis, it has the right to request the issuance of a certificate by any company affiliated to the network without conducting additional audits. This makes business much easier, as many enterprises trust only selected (usually national) certification bodies. The adoption of this principle was possible thanks to the prior development of a number of common procedures for conducting audit tests, including the preparation of the mentioned conversion tables.

The second method of supervision are accreditation bodies, which operate on the basis of European Union standards and directives. They issue accreditations for laboratories, personnel certification bodies, as well as companies issuing certificates of management systems (Quality Management 2004, p. 117). The main accreditation bodies include those associated in EA and IAF organizations, e.g. Polish Center for Accreditation (PCA). Accreditation is voluntary, but its absence prevents the widespread recognition of issued documents2. The awarding of accreditation takes place under a similar procedure as in the case of issuing certificates, with the difference that the basic standard is EN 45012 - General requirements for entities conducting assessment and certification / registration of quality systems (Description... 2003, p. 5.

Accreditation goals

The main purpose of accreditation is to build and strengthen trust in the results of tests, calibrations or inspections, certified products and services, as well as certified management systems, as well as qualifications of certified persons.

Accreditation rules

The principles on which the accreditation is based are included in international standards and guidelines. They contain information for both accreditation and accredited bodies.

Accreditation body conducts supervision and accreditation processes for such conformity assessment bodies, such as:

  • research laboratory
  • calibration laboratory
  • product certification bodies
  • person certification bodies
  • inspection units
  • EMAS verifiers
  • GHG verifiers
  • organizers of proficiency tests