Choosing An ISO 9000 Registrar: Key Information for a Difficult Task!

Implementing ISO 9000 has been occupying your time for many months. Your not insignificant effort is starting to yield real benefits and it is now time to crown your achievement by seeking registration from one of the many ISO 9000 registrars. But who to select? With nearly 100 registrars in the US alone how do you decide which is best? Like most things there are a number of factors to consider when deciding and with a methodical approach to these factors, the correct decision should be easy.

Accreditation agency

Each Country appoints a body responsible for controlling the activities of Registrars. These bodies ensure the registrars have their own ISO 9000 equivalent quality system and act responsibly, consistently and professionally. They maintain lists of accredited registrars and maintain surveillance to ensure they continue to meet standards.

In the UK the organization is the UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service), Holland has the RvA (Raad voor de Accreditation) and in the US the de facto body is the RAB (Registrar Accreditation Board). These bodies are worth mentioning in particular as they are the most common and oversee the most registrations. However, a registrar with accreditation in another Country might have benefits if, for instance, an important customer is resident in another Country.

Many registrars comply with the accreditation requirements of a number of different agencies. Thus when they conduct an assessment it is possible for them to do it in such a way as to provide you with accredited registration in compliance with the controls of two or more different countries.

Accreditation agencies accredit registrars to conduct assessments in particular market, industrial and commercial sectors. It is important, very important, to ensure that the Registrar has your SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) code within their accredited scope – for both/all accreditation agencies. Make certain of this one. Get it in writing and ensure that their interpretation of your business matches yours by checking and suggesting SIC codes. Sometimes registrars do not have the sector in their scope but “promise” to get it. This is not an unreasonable approach as registrars’ businesses are growing. However, discuss what will happen, discuss when they will get it, what can you claim in the meantime and what if they don’t!! And get it in writing.

In simple terms: Ensure your registrar is accredited. Do not even consider a registrar who is not accredited!

Profile of the Registrar

The profile of the Registrar is sometimes important. The profile of a registrar might be important for any of three reasons; they are perceived as the best in the industry, they are the one that an important customer knows and will recognize, they are one that relates to the industry sector.

The problem with the best is.. Who is it? The best means different things to different people and will the people that matter to you, your customers, have the same perception. An ISO 9000 Consultant might be able to help because of their greater exposure to and use of a range of Registrars. But it is the customers that are important.

Customers sometimes have no concept of what ISO 9000 is but they recognize the logo of the registrar who is noted for other issues. For instance, some product standards in the US are tested by Factory Mutual and their stamp and logo are found on products. Similarly the UL mark is often found on products. Although the registrar is a separate and different organization people in the right industry sector may recognize the logo and associate ISO 9000 registration with the same stamp of approval.

Finally, there are some registrars who are set up to service specific industrial or commercial sectors, such as The Ceramic Industries Scheme and Construction Quality Assurance. Using an industry sector registrar will bring with it some instant recognition.

Service

Quality of service is a difficult subject. Some registrars attempt to differentiate themselves by claiming better service. The important part of the service is conducted by auditors on the day of the assessment and all auditors are subject to professional controls to ensure they are suitable for the job. Also it is usually not possible for you to be involved in the selection of the auditor. The rest of the service is administrative in nature. The only way you can tell is from your own experience of dealing with the organization prior to selection. Ask such questions as; How long it will take to get the certificate after the audit?

Larger registrar organizations may have slick sales presentations but is their administrative operation as effective? Who precisely are you dealing with when negotiating for a registrar. Is it the President of the organization with whom you are forming a relationship or merely a representative? Who are you going to get to listen if you have problems.

There are some subtle differences in the actual service which may be questioned. Some registrars conduct surveillance visits every 6 months while others leave it a year and whilst an annual visit may sound appealing they are required to spend twice as long. Some registrars also require a full reassessment after three years. This can be a good thing requiring a full reassessment of your processes periodically. Other companies may find this intrusive and, of course, you have to pay for it. Some registrars will conduct a detailed review of documents prior to the assessment – even visiting your site to do so in some cases. Others will mere read the top level document. This prepares the auditor in different ways.

Smaller registrars are likely to be more approachable but profile might be important. Questions about specific service approaches might also be relevant in deciding.

Cost

Considering the similarities and differences of registrars, the issue often comes down to one of cost. The range of costs can be wide with the most expensive being twice as expensive as the cheapest. Some have schemes for smaller companies. Ask!

Be careful to ensure that when you ask for quotations that they are comparable. Costs may include, application fees, administration fees and document assessment fees before any auditor sets foot at your company. And be clear what they mean by “document assessment”. There will be fees for the assessment and there may be regular annual administration fees, sometimes called registration fees afterwards. There will also be a regular annual fee for the registrar to come back once or twice each year and continue to audit the system.

Be very careful as to whether the registrar will charge expenses or not. Sometimes just because they have a local office does not mean you will be without expenses. They might fly in an auditor from another location and expect you to pay for travel and accommodation. With registrars claiming local offices negotiate for no expenses.

In some respects the registrars are controlled in what they might charge. The number of days that they spend conducting the assessment is set by criteria, typically number of employees, defined by their accreditation agency. There are allowed to deviate for this if they can justify the situation. For instance if there are a lot of employees but they work outside of the scope of the assessment or the process is extremely simple e.g. warehousing, then fewer days can be spent on the assessment. Consequently it makes sense to compare the length of the audit proposed by different registrars and negotiate appropriately.

Summary

Consider accreditation scope, cost, profile, industry focus, locality and friendliness/helpfulness when selecting a registrar.

Key Questions about Choosing a Registrar

Having chosen, when should I commit to a Registrar?

You should commit to a registrar as soon as possible. It is important to start to develop your relationship with the registrar at the earliest point and once you have negotiated a deal the relationship can begin. Having committed to a registrar, it is more likely that the registrar will be willing to provide help and put time into assuring you of the processes involved.

What help can I expect from the Registrar?

The registrar should be able to explain the detail of the assessment and registration process and particularly point out their specific approach.

Also, in the development of the ISO 9000 system, there are likely to be some questions of interpretation that should be clarified before assessment. Whilst the registrar cannot and should not offer advice, carefully phrased questions about specific interpretation issues can be agreed. In this way the possibility of surprises during assessment can be avoided.

More Questions?

If you’ve any more questions about helping you select a Registrar, about Specific Registrars, or about ISO 9000 in general, call us at 303-480-0111. Or fax your questions to us at Denver 303-480-9000 or New England 781-431-7681.

Alternatively, click on this link to email your stories and questions: ISO 9000 Expert

We’ll be pleased to help you determine the truth about ISO 9000 and, at your request, to provide a free evaluation visit to establish exactly where you stand on the path to ISO 9000.