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We were joined by Natalia Larrimer, the Engagement and Program Development Manager for ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB). She gave us a big picture overview of the accreditation system, explained its importance to both your individual labs and the greater global community, and described the typical accreditation process for a lab.

Natalia delivered an exceptional amount of detailed information, so we encourage you to watch the full webinar> For those short on time, we will gladly share some of Natalia’s main points.

There are 3 key players in accreditation:

  1. Standards Development Organizations (such as International Organization of Standardization [ISO] or International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation [ILAC]),
  2. Accreditation Bodies (ABs), like ANAB
  3. Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs)

These are in descending order of size. ILAC, for example, is an international organization, while a CAB is a specific industry, like a laboratory.

Accreditation works through multiple layers of accountability and oversight. Every part of the system is held accountable by another part, and vice versa, mainly through accreditation. For example, a lab is ISO 17025 accredited by ANAB. ANAB is, among other things, ISO/IEC 17021 accredited through ILAC. So both the lab and its accreditor must be accredited in order for the accreditation to be real.

Even those organizations on the same levels are overseen by their international counterparts. Through the ILAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA), signatories agree to recognize the others’ conformity standards. Meaning your lab’s work can be accepted and respected in another country, provided you were accredited by an MRA signatory.

ABs must go through a similar accreditation process (and consistent re-evaluations) in order to become an MRA signatory. So not only does it confirm that, yes, your lab is up to the international standard, but it ensures those accrediting bodies are also in line with international standards.

Now that we understand the structure of the system, we can understand why accreditation is so important.

Accreditation demonstrates to your customers, contractors, and clients that “all aspects of operations relevant to consistently producing accurate and dependable data are verified,” as Natalia said. Being accredited assures both external and internal individuals that you produce accurate, traceable, reproducible, and cost-effective data.

ANAB states Labs that are not accredited don’t carry the same weight of authority and trust, because you cannot be sure that its operating to international standards, or has demonstrated competency in technical requirements of its services. Further, data received from an unaccredited lab will not be accepted in many industries, and some contracting bodies–like the US government–will not use non-accredited laboratories. As Natalia said, “no one goes to a doctor who isn’t certified in their speciality, of goes to a college that isn’t accredited.” A laboratory is no different.

In short, the risk of forgoing accreditation can be as severe as losing business and being unable to demonstrate integrity and competency. Yikes! This is why accreditation is so important. And Qualtrax is here to help! Workflows, for example, can automate necessary processes like corrective action, customer feedback, and internal audits to help ease your pressures of compliance and create conditions for successful ISO accreditation audits.

Thank you, Natalia, for giving us an inside look at the systems and processes keeping our labs safe, competent, and integritous! And if our team and product can help you as you strive to promote conformance within your organization or company please don’t hesitate to reach out!

Categories: Quality Managers, Testing Labs

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