What is a certified business?
By its basic definition, ‘certification’ refers to a formal confirmation that certain characteristics of an object, person or organisation meet select criteria. In the business world, certification is very common and can be used to verify that a company’s products or management systems meet a standard worthy of accreditation.
This article explores the concept of certification in the business world for both products and management systems, and explains when certification might be required. It also includes Sync or Swim’s recommendations for implementing certification standards into a business in the most cost effective and beneficial manner.
Product certification means that a particular product has passed specific performance and quality assurance tests as stipulated by various criteria such as “Australian Standards”, government regulations or professional body specifications.
A good example of prominent product certification in the market is bike helmets. If you look inside your bike helmet you will probably notice a little silver and red sticker with 5 ticks on it.
Essentially, what the abovementioned sticker means is that the manufacturer’s product has passed 15 or so key performance criteria that need to be met in order for the helmet to bear that sticker. The criteria include elements relating to absorbing energy during an impact; distribution of load and appropriateness of the mechanism used to ensure the helmet stays on the user’s head in an accident.
By putting the products through such a stringent testing system, consumers can be confident in the products they are purchasing. This is particularly important for products such as helmets, which could literally save someone’s life.
Management system certification
Management system certification is the process of confirming that a company’s internal management systems meet the criteria set by government legislation, professional bodies or an international standard certification organisation such as JAS-ANZ.
The most recognised certified management systems are quality management, environmental management, health and safety, information security and food safety. An organisation, which has successfully implemented the elements of these systems against the established criteria is then able to market to the world that their organisation operates in that particular manner by using an approved label like that shown below. An organisation may use the logos on their website, marketing material, contracts and letterheads.
There are a number of companies within Australia who are able to certify whether an organisation has implemented the above systems in accordance with international standards. Some of the larger certification companies in Australia are:
- SAI Global.
- Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA).
At what point does your business need to consider certification?
The certification process can be an expensive exercise for a business and is not something that should be entered into without careful consideration. Having said that, there are instances were an organisation will need to seriously look at obtaining certification in order to grow. Examples include:
- A situation where an organisation must have management system certification in order to tender for government or large private contracts. This is particularly common where government departments make health and safety, and quality management certification a requirement for organisations submitting tenders for large construction and engineering projects. This helps to provide certainty for the government department that those companies submitting for tender have sufficient internal processes in place that they can handle the job they are tendering for and have appropriate risk management systems in place.
- A situation where market forces demand it. This is particularly the case for products such as helmets where consumers require certainty that the product they are purchasing will be able to perform to the level it designed for.
- A situation where the supplier of a product or service is required to obtain certification in order to supply its product or services to another company. For example a manufacturer wishing to supply its products to a large commercial supermarket chain may be required to obtain certification as part of the supermarket chain’s internal supplier qualification process.
- A situation where government legislation requires certification in order for an organisation to operate.
If your organisation is in a position where it doesn’t necessarily require certification but you have identified benefits for your business associated with implementing a system or certain aspects of it, Sync or Swim recommends taking internal steps to align the organisation’s products or management system with the criteria as provided by a certification body without going all the way in terms of obtaining external certification. This will mean that down the track if the organisation does wish to obtain external certification, it will be much easier process, as the company will be already operating towards that framework.
In order to obtain certification, an organistation must first implement the elements of the criteria it wishes to obtain certification for. This will either be in terms of internal management processes (management system certification) or, its product development and manufacturing process (product certification). The organisation will then undergo an external audit by a qualified auditor to confirm that the organisation meets the relevant criteria.
Once an organisation has attained certification, it must undergo periodic internal and external surveillance audits in order to retain its certification.
Implementing a new system into an organisation can be a complex process. Depending on a variety of factors such as capacity, experience of an organisation’s team members and available time, an organisation may wish to either utlise its own staff to lead the development and implementation of a new system, or engage an external provider such as Sync or Swim to assist with the process.
When assisting clients with implementing new systems into their organisation with the aim of attaining certification, Sync or Swim prides itself on ensuring that the new system not only meets the relevant required criteria but also meets the unique needs of the organisation and helps to improve all aspects of the business. We offer supportive assistance for all staff members to help them understand the certification requirements and ensure that any new system developed is done so in close consultation with the organisation to ensure it makes the organisation better and stronger than it was before. We explain the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ when implementing a solution whilst at the same time ensuring it meets the ‘what’ in terms of certification requirements.
Article by: Paul Bright, Business Development and Compliance Specialist.