In March this year, IANZ hosted our four-yearly re-evaluation by the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC - formally the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Programme, APLAC). The APAC evaluation team comprised five members from the USA, Thailand, India and Malaysia and were here for six days to evaluate whether IANZ's signatory status to the APAC (and ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) should be continued for another four years.
Overall the evaluation went very well, and IANZ would like to thank all those accredited clients across several programmes who generously hosted our evaluators while they witnessed our assessment of your organisations. We could not have done it without you, and all the IANZ-accredited community will reap the reward of your generosity.
IANZ was satisfied with the outcome and we are on track to have our international recognition continued. But we were not perfect and the evaluation team, like all good assessors, did identify a few areas for improvement, resulting in four nonconformities (yes, we get them too!). As a result, you will see a number of changes in the coming weeks and months. We are grateful to the evaluation team for their assistance in improving the service that we provide to you.
Two of the nonconformities were a bit of housekeeping for IANZ– one relating to putting some rules (or up-dating existing rules) around IANZ endorsed ‘conformity assessment labels’. Clients in our calibration laboratory, inspection body, and reference material producer accreditation programmes are able to place labels (in addition to issuing reports) on the items they calibrate, inspect, or certify. There are rules around such labels carrying the IANZ endorsement, and these can be expected to be published by IANZ in the near future (once the APAC evaluation team has signed off on our response).
The other ‘housekeeping’ nonconformity related to more clarity around “metrology” versus “calibration” in our Metrology and Calibration Laboratory Accreditation Programme. Quite technical, but technically correct nevertheless. This will affect only small number of laboratories, which will receive revised scopes of accreditation in due course.
Medical testing laboratory scopes of accreditation also prompted a nonconformity. Post-evaluation analysis suggested existing scopes already comply with a liberal interpretation of the international standards, but IANZ has nevertheless welcomed the opportunity to instigate further improvements in this area. Medical laboratories can expect (again, once the evaluation team has signed off on the IANZ proposals) procedures for greater discipline in the maintenance of their scopes of accreditation to ensure international norms are maintained.
Probably the most significant finding – from an IANZ point of view, in that it has provided the richest opportunity for improving our overall service – related to the classification of findings by our IANZ assessment teams. The bottom line was there were instances where IANZ teams classified their findings as ‘recommendations’ or ‘strong recommendations’, when the evidence clearly supported a ‘corrective action request’ or ‘nonconformance’ finding.
IANZ has taken this opportunity as chance to reset. Over the coming weeks, IANZ assessment teams will be classifying their findings as ‘nonconformities’ (with the accreditation criteria) and ‘comments’. ‘Corrective action requests’ (CARs) and ‘recommendations’ will no longer be used. Where an assessed organisation does not demonstrate it complies with the accreditation criteria, it can expect a ‘nonconformity’ to be issued, and the organisation will be required to address the finding. ‘Recommendations’ will be a thing of the past, and ‘comments’ will be restricted to those observations that still comply, but may add value if actioned by the organisation.
Where conformity with accreditation criteria is not demonstrated, and there is justification for the need to correct the same, IANZ will continue to work alongside its accredited clients to ensure the necessary improvements will add value to their operation.
The APAC evaluation also made a number of comments, which IANZ have considered and have, in most instances, adopted to further strengthen its accreditation processes.