UKAS speaks to NSI’s Director of Certification Services, Max Linnemann about the value they place in accreditation.
The drive for accreditation
The National Security Inspectorate (NSI) is a not-for-profit certification body operating in the fire and security sectors.
Launched in 1971, NSI began its journey under the name National Supervisory Council for Intruder Alarms. 50 years on, NSI has evolved considerably as an organisation. The now longstanding arrangement between the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), formerly ACPO, and the private security sector originally stemmed from the significant problem of false intruder and hold-up alarms due to technical faults, which cost the police excessive time and resource by attending alarms, and impacted crime prevention and response.
Back in 1992, NACOSS (as the organisation was then known) was accredited by NACCB (UKAS’ former iteration) for the delivery of BS 5750 Quality Assurance, at the start of what would prove to be an enduring relationship.
Today NSI certificates over 2000 companies delivering more than 3700 audit days across a diverse range of security and fire safety certification schemes and is accredited by UKAS for both product conformity ISO/IEC 17065:2012 and quality management systems ISO/IEC 17021-1:2015.
Pragmatism and robustness – the balancing act
Speaking to Max Linnemann, Director of Certification Services, we find out about how the assessment cycle is managed today. Max describes the challenges faced by an SME certification body.
“Within the three main strands of our business (electronic security, guarding and fire safety) there are many standards, and we value being accredited to deliver certification to all of them. Witnessed audits for every single standard would be, to say the least, heavy-handed if not impossible to achieve, so pragmatic thinking was required.”
“One of the key things we sought was to work with UKAS to understand the areas of commonality of competence across our product offer, to allow us to arrive at a sufficiently robust assessment programme, whilst avoiding an unwieldy layering of audit.”
Flexible accreditation for an agile business
In the five and a half years that Max has been with NSI, both the business and the accreditation has grown and evolved.
“A key focus for our growing business is the flexible scope of accreditation. We were one of the first certification bodies to achieve flexible scope for product certification having worked collaboratively with UKAS to achieve this.”
“It means when we want to audit to newly introduced or updated standards, we can avoid the need for an initial assessment each time, or an additional application to UKAS, and so expedite our development process. It greatly reduces our administrative burden associated with evolving accreditation and makes us more agile as a business, improving our speed to market in the interest of serving our clients quicker.”
Rather than just viewing the assessment process as a ‘box-ticking’ exercise to be completed by NSI to allow them to operate their business model, Max finds the quality management framework and the fact they are regularly audited by a third party to be a useful quality benchmark.
“Like any other business, we are often pressed for time and resource. We put significant efforts into constantly honing our processes and procedures, and the UKAS oversight certainly assists us. It supports maximising our efficiency and effectiveness in meeting our targets for quality, supports our goals and ambitions in driving us forward as a business.”
Faith in UKAS
Max was also clear that while the topic of accreditation may not be on everyone’s lips at all times, it is something that remains accepted as an undisputed mark of quality and commitment to competence.
“At NSI we have complete faith in UKAS as the experts in auditing and assessing Certification Bodies, as well as the management of schemes. Our credibility as a Certification Body in the security industry is entirely underpinned by our UKAS accreditation.”
A future of confidence
One of the very latest innovations to come out of UKAS is the free, online CertCheck database that allows end users to quickly and easily check the validity of accredited certification for management systems. Max sees NSI’s listing on CertCheck as a positive move for the industry.
“My understanding is that there are plenty of instances where people want to check a certificate is real – that it has not for example expired, and CertCheck provides for this in a centralised system. It is also something that is really good for the UK as in this database it is mandatory to enter management system certifications. It provides users with complete confidence in the accuracy of the results provided and strengthens the value of the approval provided by Certification Bodies, giving an additional layer of assurance to the end-user.”
Looking ahead to the future, NSI is well-placed to take their business from strength to strength, building on their strong position within the sector. They continue to consider new opportunities with a commitment to broadening their certification remit for the benefit of the security and fire safety sectors, their customers and the wider public whose safety and security they indirectly oversee.