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Case Study – OptiConsulting

Formed in 2003, OptiConsulting is an Optical Testing & Consultancy company with headquarters in Buxton near the Peak District and operating all over the world.

This micro-company, with only four members of staff, specialises in optical testing of signalling and lighting products for the transport industry.

OptiConsulting provides a range of services to this sector, including testing of globally manufactured products for the purposes of certification; Research & Development for transport authorities; rail accident investigation work and the development of industry, national, EU and ISO standards.  In relation to the international work, Hugh Barton, Director and Principal Consultant, chairs a CEN committee which develops appropriate standards for trains, and a CIE committee working on LED Applications in Transport Signalling and Lighting. The OptiConsulting team supports a range of other technical committees at BSI, CEN, ISO and CIE levels.

Accreditation as strategy

Hugh explained that, while non-mandatory, gaining and maintaining UKAS accreditation was a key part of their strategy for positioning OptiConsulting as leaders in the field of optical testing of transport signalling products.

With 30 years’ experience, the staff at OptiConsulting have been carrying out this work under an ISO9001 quality system and took the decision to embark on UKAS accreditation last year, with their testing laboratory achieving a grant of accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2017 in February 2021.

When asked about the drivers towards accreditation, Hugh explains that a number of factors contributed to this important decision.

“We did not underestimate the amount of work that accreditation would involve, and so the decision was not taken lightly.  Firstly, we wanted to affirm our position as a specialist in this sector.  As the first accredited laboratory servicing this sector, we would be able to help British manufacturers achieve the new UKCA marking without having to go overseas for testing. This saves them money and reduces barriers to trade.”

Reaching new markets

Hugh also explains that accreditation helps OptiConsulting’s commercial strategy by helping them expand growth in new areas and reach new customers.

“Accreditation is definitely part of our commercial strategy and we are already planning to extend the scope of our accreditation to cover additional testing methods.  Also, as a micro business, accreditation reduces our reliance on our standards work, which could be vulnerable due to Brexit. Therefore, it is also an aspect of our Business Continuity plan.”

From previous experience working in partnership with a UKAS accredited organisation during their assessment, the OptiConsulting team wasn’t completely new to the assessment process and, due to the small size of this industry, was already familiar with their Assessment Manager.  In spite of this, he admitted that the experience of undergoing assessment themselves was more of a challenge.

“We had to step up and take ownership in a way that we hadn’t before.  Our Assessment Manager, Nigel Pearce, was very supportive throughout the assessment, and the remote process was effective.  I didn’t find the process stressful, however, because, if anything, we went overboard with our preparation.

A valued badge of quality

The journey from application to grant of accreditation only took three months in total, and we are very proud of that timeline.  Nigel was very accessible, and it was invaluable to be able to reach out to him during the run up to our assessment.”

When discussing the future for OptiConsulting, Hugh explains that as well as preparing to extend the scope of their accreditation, they are keen to get the word out about their accreditation in order to further build their business, as well as investing in calibration products and equipment for the laboratory.

“Ultimately, UKAS accreditation is an important badge of quality that differentiates us from competitors, allows us to provide a better service to our customers and shows that we are seriously committed to quality, competency and the accuracy of our testing services.”