A pre-assessment is an informal visit prior to initial assessment, it is used to determine how ready you are for accreditation. A pre-assessment visit is optional, but it can be a valuable step in the process to reduce delays in gaining accreditation.
UKAS recommends a pre-assessment visit by the UKAS Assessment Manager (and possibly a Technical Assessor).
This visit is attended by your UKAS Assessment Manager (and possibly a Technical Assessor) to addresses the scope of accreditation requested and will normally involve between 1 and 4 man-days work. It is designed to confirm your organisation’s readiness for full assessment.
The Assessment Manager will provide you with a quotation for the work involved and a report on the findings of the pre-assessment following the visit.
The value of a pre-assessment visit
Your organisation will have spent time and money to understand the accreditation standard, develop a management system and maybe even employed a consultant to guide you through the process. You may have experience of an ISO 9001 or similar audit and may feel very prepared for an assessment from UKAS. However, applicants that have not had a pre-assessment or previous extensive experience of accreditation assessments are often under-prepared for the initial assessment.
Common problems include:
- Misunderstanding of some requirements within the standard and/or sector schemes;
- Missing requirements within the standard or incorrectly determining a requirement does not apply to the organisation;
- Missing requirements from IAF (International Accreditation Forum), ILAC (International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation) or EA (European Cooperation for Accreditation) mandatory documents;
- A lack of implementation of processes and policies;
- Practice not matching documented policy and process.
These problems can lead to increased cost and/or timeframe for gaining accreditation. For example, misunderstanding the requirements of the standard can lead to the need for significant rework on policy and procedure. Day-to-day operations not relating to documented procedures may require UKAS to repeat some or all of the initial assessment in order to observe the activity and be in a position to assess its suitability.
What is involved in a pre-assessment visit?
During the visit, UKAS carries out a review of your management system documentation in order to identify any significant gaps or misunderstandings, and to determine that it is applied throughout the organisation and translates into everyday practices. The visit will also highlight any specific requirements that fall outside of the standard that may have been overlooked and identify areas where the organisation may have over complicated its implementation where a more efficient approach may be possible.
It also provides the opportunity for discussion between UKAS and the customer on the requirements of the standard, the assessment process, and best practice in the sector.
A pre-assessment visit does not guarantee that there will be no nonconformities raised at an initial assessment or that the initial assessment will have a positive recommendation. However, applicants that opt for a pre-assessment visit, and subsequently act upon the issues raised, are in a better position for the initial assessment.