Standardisation and Accreditation are two of the cornerstones of an effective Quality Infrastructure. They work hand-in-hand, complementing each other so that end-users and the market can have confidence that industry consensus is being implemented in a uniform way.
ISO CASCO has a key role to play in this, developing international consensus with respect to conformity assessment which helps to underpin international trade. UKAS, like other accreditation bodies, is very supportive of the work of CASCO, and actively participates in its Working Groups where these have a direct impact on accreditation of conformity assessment bodies. We recognise the considerable amount of work undertaken by CASCO in recent years to update the CASCO Toolbox (i.e. those standards used in accreditation and conformity assessment), which has enabled the conformity assessment industry to develop its practices and continue to provide a service that meets the demands of the modern marketplace.
In particular, the CASCO standards have moved towards the need to take a risk-based approach, and to embrace new technologies enabling, for example, activities to be undertaken remotely. Both of these have been key in enabling accreditation and conformity assessment bodies to continue providing valuable and reliable services during these unprecedented times.
This has been reflected in a recent CASCO Statement on COVID-19, that highlights how its Toolbox has been able to meet the challenges and demands introduced by the coronavirus pandemic. UKAS fully supports the message within this Statement and would draw attention to how the accreditation and conformity assessment communities have been able to refocus their processes at short notice as a consequence of the proactiveness now included within the Toolbox. In years gone by, we would have struggled to change the services that we offer in a way that continued to meet industry demands and that allowed industry to continue operating with confidence. However, the way that we have developed in response to the current standards is a testament to the successful direction that CASCO has moved over the last 10 years.
With only minor teething problems in the early stages, UKAS has now been undertaking its assessment very successfully using remote techniques over the last three months. The feedback sought from our customers with regard to their experiences of remote assessments and the effectiveness of this approach in providing continued confidence in their ongoing competence has been extremely positive. In addition, a broad spectrum of our customers have been able to continue providing valid conformity assessment services without the need for wholesale change.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a major challenge to us all over recent months and shall continue to be for several months to come. With the economic strain that this is placing on national, regional and global economies it is vital that we can kick-start our economy as restrictions start to lift with as little hindrance as possible. Certainly, accreditation and conformity bodies want to be recognised as enablers rather than inhibitors, and I believe that the work of CASCO has ensured that we have been able to achieve this.