So, you are considering joining the rapidly expanding world of GFSI, and becoming a GFSI-certified manufacturer! Congratulations! As you work your way through the whirlwind of decisions regarding the certification process, one of the first (and sometimes most daunting) decisions is which Certification Body (CB) should you use?
This requires a lot of consideration and research. After all, this decision forms a long lasting partnership through the certification process. It is not one to be taken lightly, as it may ultimately determine if the certification process results in great joy and financial gain, or exhaustive frustration. So how do you decide?
There are key elements you want in your Certification Body that will result in a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Let’s explore the top 5 things you should look for in your CB.
1. Honesty and Reliability
Let’s face it, the world of GFSI with all of its rules and regulations can be daunting. Not only are there requirements set forth by GFSI itself, but each scheme has its own set of criteria. The ability to follow these rules, and understand them, is paramount to your success in achieving certification and establishing a strong relationship with your CB.
The CB also has a distinct set of rules they must adhere to for GFSI and each scheme. If these rules are not followed, the CB may lose its accreditation, meaning it is not allowed to certify manufacturers. One of the first, and most important, qualifications you should look for is how a CB follows these rules. If you chose one that is prone to not holding themselves to this high standard, they may lose their accreditation, and this would invalidate your certificate issued by them, voiding all your hard work to achieve this distinction.
So, how do you determine the honesty and reliability of a CB? Certification Bodies are themselves audited by an Accreditation Body to achieve accreditation. Ask the CB you are considering about their accreditation. Have they passed their recent audits? Are there any current complaints against them? Individual scheme owners, like BRC and SQF, also assess the CB for compliance to the scheme requirements. Visit individual scheme owner websites to determine how a CB measures up against these requirements. Assurance that your CB is compliant with the rules will give you peace of mind about the validity and reliability of your site certification.
How many e-mails do you send in a day? How long do you wait for a response? How many projects do you currently have on hold pending a response? Timeliness of those you are working with is important to your success or failure as a manager. It is the same when you are working toward achieving GFSI certification. A Certification Body should be able to assist you in a timely manner with questions you may have. This includes scheduling your assessment and making decisions regarding your certification.
With the implementation of the new ISO17065 accreditation standard, the requirements surrounding competency have become the new GFSI buzz topic. You want a CB who has the technical skills and knowledge to successfully complete a task. Your CB needs to not only understand of the rules of certification, but also be able to follow them. They also need to have the correct staff available to ensure your certification is valid.
The competency of a Certification Body is assessed by the Accreditation Body each time they are audited, so an accredited CB is most likely a competent CB. A good CB is also concerned with your competency as a site. While the CB itself cannot provide consultation or help you fully develop your systems, one that has access to a reputable training facility to assist you in your understanding and program development will enhance your certification experience and raise your likelihood of success.
Anyone who has undergone an audit in the past knows what makes a good auditor. Empathy is a key component, as this allows for a more robust understanding of the process and helps the CB understand your process. You want a CB who has worked with the industry and has great reputation. This allows for a greater understanding of the challenges of your particular site, and a more developed knowledge of what to expect from you. When your certification auditor possesses the technical skills and knowledge specific to your food industry sector, it can be invaluable.
You trust your CB to make an informed, impartial decision as to the GFSI certification of your site. This can be nerve-wracking for any management team. Months, if not years, of hard work are being assessed. Is it not imperative that you be informed of every step in this process? Preparation for an initial GFSI audit can take 12-24 months. The actual audit process may take two months depending upon the scheme you select. The certification process after the audit usually takes about 45 days.
Many questions and issues can and may arise during this time. A reputable Certification Body will keep you informed of events as they occur and be open about the process. This way you can rest assured that the CB is following the rules appropriately and that the process is going smoothly.