North Lanarkshire Council have had ISO 9001 accreditation for various parts of their organisation since the mid-nineties. Having come to the end of their existing contract with another accreditation body to audit their ISO 9001 (and ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001) certification, they put the new contract out to tender in 2014 under mandatory public procurement rules.
Exova BM TRADA won the bid in February 2015, scoring well overall on the basis of, among other measures, their technical competence and cost, and carried out their first assessment in April the same year.
As one of the biggest local authorities in Scotland, several of North Lanarkshire Council’s services are within the scope of the contract, with about 2,500 personnel involved. These public services are typically very tightly regulated, carry significant risks, and often under intense scrutiny.
Needless to say, getting their highly complex systems right is extremely important. As Marion MacPherson, North Lanarkshire’s Business Intelligence Officer, says, “Some of the issues we deal with have very serious implications if things go wrong. They can easily end up in court. What Exova BM TRADA brings to the table is the reassurance of external, third-party approval of our procedures.”
Exova BM TRADA’s three-year contract involves surveillance audits to check compliance with ISO 9001. They are committed to using the same two-person team of auditors for each visit, providing welcome continuity that avoids waste and builds a stronger relationship. As well as desk- based work, their visits involve going out to talk to frontline staff at, for example, the Council’s waste recycling facility or on site with environmental health officers.
Marion MacPherson says, “Exova BM TRADA of course has experience of other organisations in our sector, and so they go in as knowledgeable independent pairs of eyes. Their input is invaluable.”
So far, Exova BM TRADA’s impact has been good and has led to improvements across a number of service areas.
Inevitably, there were some initial teething problems but Exova BM TRADA’s head office was, according to Marion MacPherson, very helpful. “With a couple of conference calls we were able to iron out a few relatively minor glitches. I’d have no hesitation in recommending them.”
North Lanarkshire are looking to extend the scope of their contract to other services, and hope to transition to the 2015 revision of ISO 9001 this year with Exova BM TRADA’s help.