You’re Certified—So What?! (Part 1: The Basics of Certification)
Following Tembua’s annual quality audit, I chatted with our auditor about some of the ins and outs of his industry. I was interested to learn the view from inside.
First, he gave me a short vocabulary lesson on ISO and the bigger world of certification.
ISO stands for the International Organization of Standardization. Since 1947, they have been writing standards to help pave the way for cross-border trade. Certification lets buyers know that what they’re buying meets certain conditions.
According to ISO.org, Certification is the provision by an independent body of written assurance (a certificate) that the product, service or system in question meets specific requirements.
Tembua is certified to two international standards: ISO 9001:2008 and EN 15038:2006. The independent body that certifies us is TÜV SÜD.
Even before our initial audit, Tembua had developed a set of procedures governing all office processes. In preparation for the first audit, we intensively reviewed the requirements that ISO 9001 puts on every company, no matter the industry, and made the necessary changes and additions.
EN 15038 codifies a manner of working that we were already using. For that standard, it was a matter of revising our written procedures to clearly address the requirements.
The advantages of set, published procedures are obvious: every staff member follows the same steps every time. Workflow is smooth, and our clients see consistency in our processes and our deliveries.
Every year, TÜV SÜD sends out an auditor trained in both standards. During a 2- to 3-day visit, the auditor rigorously investigates whether we are following the processes and procedures as originally certified. I’m always impressed with my staff’s dedication and work ethic, which resulted in a successful recertification again this year.
I was under the impression that every time I see a sign reading Certified to ISO 9001, the company displaying these words has gone through the same procedure. Apparently not.
(To be continued…)
Tembua: The Precision Language Solution
You’re Certified—So What?! (Part 2: Certification, Registration, and Accreditation)
In the previous post, I discussed the basics of Tembua’s quality certifications: EN 15038 and ISO 9001. Not every company displaying a sign reading Certified to ISO 9001 has gone through the same process that Tembua has.
Some companies self-certify to a quality standard. Their processes may be tight, and they may follow them religiously, but they have no certification to show that an outsider looked at their procedures.
There are instances where self-certification to another criterion is the only option available. In this case, all it takes is a form stating that a business fits in a certain category. Some municipalities and a number of groups promoting contracts for certain affinity groups, for example, require only a signed statement that a business is minority owned.
Other non-quality certifications
Some certifications require significant documentation. Tembua is certified as an EDWOSB (economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business) with the federal government. The government’s definition of economically disadvantaged relates to the purchases made in our category. We have provided all the documentation to prove we are what we say we, are but an outside certifying body was not involved.
Tembua is also certified as a woman-owned business by WBENC (the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council). That certification requires documented proof that a female owns, manages, and controls a company. A site visit is also conducted before certification is issued.
From our auditor, I learned about consultants who assist companies as they prepare for quality certification. These consultants can be a great help with a complicated process. However, some of these consultants also issue their own certifications to the standard.
When I popped off a smart comment about maybe saving money next year with a consultant, our auditor looked thoughtful and told me about a lawsuit filed against a company that was certified to ISO 9001 by a consultant. Defective products caused the company’s client to ask to see the procedure handling the same. The company had none, even though the standard requires it. Their consultant just didn’t mention the requirement. An auditor from an accredited certifying body would have.
Having noticed the ANAB Accredited seal on our certifications, I next asked the auditor about accreditation.
According to ISO.org, Accreditation is the formal recognition by an independent body, generally known as an accreditation body, that a certification body is capable of carrying out certification.
Our auditor, TÜV SÜD, is accredited by the ANAB (www.anab.org) by demonstrating competence to audit and certify organizations conforming to management system standards. This body is the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board. The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and ASQ (American Society for Quality) come together to form this board.
According to ANAB’s website, Accreditation is the means by which an authoritative body (such as the ANAB) gives formal recognition that an organization (such as a CB or certifying body) is competent to carry out specific tasks. Accreditation provides assurance to a CB’s customers that the CB continues to operate according to internationally accepted criteria.
A certificate is probably valid if it was issued by an ANAB-accredited certifying body. The certificate should display both the certifying body’s mark and the mark from the accrediting body. In Tembua’s case, this is TÜV SÜD and ANAB.
So what is registration? I asked the auditor. That, at least, had an easy answer. In North America, registration and certification are used interchangeably. Either term is OK.
Too much certification?
As a nation, are we over-certifying? As Buddy, a character in The Incredibles, smirks, “If everyone is special, then no one is.” Will we need to keep piling on yet more certifications to set us apart from our competitors? We have been asked to certify to ISO 13485, the standard that relates to the design and manufacture of medical devices. After careful consideration, we made the necessary changes to our Quality Manual and state that we are compliant with but not certified to this standard because only one small section relates to linguistic services.
Does everyone need quality certifications? Probably not. Where price is the primary buying concern, and particularly for single-use or consumable products, the cost of certification may not be justified.
Not all certifying organizations are created equal. While TÜV SÜD and ANAB (and many others) are reliable bodies whose approval can add significant value to a company, some organizations may just be out to make money by bestowing official-looking but useless pieces of paper. It’s important to check the credentials of any issuing organization before pursuing certification with them.
Certification aside, quality is something every company can strive for. At Tembua, we say quality is our primary operational objective.
— Steve Jobs
Tembua: The Precision Language Solution