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Quality Champions at UKAS: joined up thinking for continuous improvement

As the UK’s National Accreditation Body, UKAS is a vital element of the UK Quality Infrastructure and plays a part in the assessment of quality and competence of each our accredited customers, comprising 2,614 conformity assessment bodies in the UK.

With this as our remit, quality is always on the agenda in some form or another. The conformity assessment bodies that UKAS accredits include certification bodies, inspection bodies, testing laboratories, calibration laboratories, medical laboratories and validation and verification bodies, as well as Proficiency Testing providers, Reference Materials producers, along with Imaging and Physiological services. They serve an incredible array of industries and sectors from farming to digital forensics, from steel testing to microbiology. Furthermore, the network of our 600 Technical Assessors (in addition to our Assessment Managers) cover every conceivable specialism required to conduct suitably robust assessments.

This broad variety is possible due to the process of accreditation, which uses a set of internationally recognised standards to assess the competence of all CABs, no matter the diversity of activities. However, when it comes to quality, this diversity also poses a challenge. With a wide range of disciplines and industry sectors under its umbrella, we must still strive to foster a culture of continuous improvement and excellence in customer service and operational service delivery. This is where our Quality Champions come into play.

The role of Quality Champions

UKAS’s Quality Champions have been appointed to act as the driving force behind continuous improvement initiatives, embedding the quality management system at a local level. Their primary responsibility is to foster effective communication between different departments within UKAS and ensure the dissemination of information related to quality issues, improvement opportunities and the sharing of best practice.

The Quality Champions are led in their activities by Quality Manager, Tracy Pia, and supported by the Process Improvement and Feedback Manager, Jackie Burton. They meet quarterly to discuss quality topics, share insights and brainstorm solutions. Their role is pivotal in bridging the gap between the various sections of the organisation.

A network of expertise

The Quality Champions come from each section of UKAS, ensuring comprehensive coverage across the organisation. Each operational section (Forensics; Healthcare; Engineering, Construction and Physics; Corporate; Agri-Food, Life Sciences and Asbestos) along with our Development team has a Quality Champion. Supporting services within the business such as Finance, Commercial and Customer Service are also represented, ensuring a truly holistic approach.

The diverse backgrounds and wealth of experience of these individuals contribute to a well-rounded perspective on quality management, enabling them to address sector-specific challenges effectively. This network of experts serves as a valuable resource for sharing knowledge, identifying trends and driving improvements.

Facilitating continuous improvement

One of the primary objectives of the Quality Champions is to drive further improvements in operational service delivery. To achieve this, they focus on selected quality topics during workshops, delving deeper into our processes and identifying any pinch points that threaten to hinder operational efficiency. By assessing all aspects of the processes, they can implement targeted improvement measures to enhance the overall service quality.

Lynsey Poyner, UKAS’s Operations Director, acknowledges the crucial role played by the Quality Champions in driving success, particularly in terms of customer service and operational efficiency, emphasising the strong link between quality and operations and their role in finding solutions as a team.

We rely on the Quality Champions to share feedback from each of the sections and functions about quality trends, any nonconforming work, Service Excellence Plans and examples of successes. In this way, we can share best practice that can benefit the whole of the organisation.

Consistency, competency and communication

Quality Champions can also bring their technical expertise to the table, bringing technical and quality aspects together, with the blend of consistency, competency and quality being crucial elements in all processes. The Quality Champions will raise issues from within their own section at their meetings, leading to discussion, investigation and ultimately, service improvements that will add value.

The forum also provides a valuable opportunity to share positive feedback from customers that have experienced exceptional service from UKAS. By highlighting success stories, the Quality Champions inspire their colleagues to go the extra mile and maintain high standards across the whole organisation.

The role of the Quality Champions extends beyond internal communications within UKAS. They also act as the primary point of contact for any quality-related issues raised by external stakeholders. This ensures that concerns and feedback are addressed promptly, contributing to a continuous improvement cycle.

A foundation of quality

To further drive continuous improvement, UKAS Quality Champions participate in workshops that focus on various aspects of quality management. These workshops provide an opportunity to revisit the fundamentals of “what is quality?” and how it aligns with the UKAS values and strategic priorities. By reinforcing these foundational principles, the Quality Champions ensure that quality remains at the forefront of all operations. This approach in turn enables our accredited conformity assessment bodies and the customers that rely on them to operate with confidence.