This is the third and final part of a series of articles about the “Good Practices: Experience in the Market Surveillance of ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems” report, which was published in October 2016 by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Read the first part of the series here, or the second part here.
The report found notable differences in the performance and level of confidence in organizations certified by different certification bodies and under accreditation from different accreditation bodies.
Organizations certified by some certification bodies performed well during the market surveillance visits, suggesting that the accredited certification process had been successful in achieving its intended outcome. On the other hand, visits to organizations that generated doubts about the effectiveness of the certification process were concentrated in organizations certified by a relatively small number of certification bodies.
A similar phenomenon was found with accreditation bodies, with some organizations with certificates accredited by accreditation bodies generating concerns about the overall effectiveness of the accredited certification process.
The market surveillance visits also highlighted the relatively poor performance of organizations that had been certified by local franchises or foreign certification bodies compared with local certification bodies or brand offices of international certification bodies. An IAF Task Force is currently looking at how to address this problem.
The report defines a market surveillance visit as typically being a one day visit to a certified organization to determine the level of confidence in the conformity of the management system to specified requirements and the effectiveness of the accredited certification process.
It is important to note that a market surveillance is not a repeated audit, nor is it intended to identify or document specific nonconformities.
The objective of the visit is to establish the level of confidence in the certification bodies’ certification process through direct observations to sample of its certified organizations. The results would then be used to define appropriate levels of surveillance of the certification bodies’ activities and improve the overall credibility of the accreditation certification.
The methodology for market surveillance visits could also be used by certification bodies, regulators, customers of certified organizations, and sector schemes/scheme owners.
The use of market surveillance visits by accreditation bodies and certification bodies could be on a voluntary basis, by mutual agreement, or be initiated to investigate specific situations triggered by adverse trends or market feedback such as:
- A change in the number of certificates issued by a certification body.
- A certification body that raises a few or no non-conformances in a long period of time.
- A crisis that calls the credibility of accredited certification into question (e.g. product recalls, or safety incidents).
- Customer complaints concerning the effectiveness of the certification bodies’ certification process.
- Negative publicity.
- Unilateral intervention from regulators, or negative feedback from regulators.
However, before initiating a program of market surveillance visits, the report suggests that it is important to define:
- The contractual basis under which the visits will be completed.
- The objectives of the visit.
- The sampling criteria to be used.
- Who will participate.
- The competence needed by the assessment team.
- Who will arrange the costs of the visits.
To ensure consistency across market surveillance visits, these items would be assessed against a checklist, with each item given a score to correspond with five distinct confidence levels, as mentioned earlier.