As of last month, we are officially accredited to ISO/IEC 17025! It's been a long and tedious process, but we're proud to be able to claim this accreditation. We've received some questions about this accreditation, so we'd like to take some time to answer those questions.
What's so great about the ISO 17025 accreditation?
Laboratories accredited to the international standard ISO 17025 have demonstrated that they are technically competent to produce accurate and reliable test data. It assures our customers that we have an effective management system, our equipment is calibrated appropriately, and we have the technical competence to perform our tests. Many suppliers will not accept test results from a lab that is not accredited.
What did you have to do to get the ISO 17025 accreditation?
A lot. We've planned on receiving this accreditation since before we opened, so we've incorporated the 17025 requirements into our Quality Management System (QMS) from the beginning. We had to develop policies and procedures to meet the 17025 requirements, including Document Identification/Creation/Revision/Obsolescence, training, controlling documents and records, ordering/receiving services and supplies, maintaining equipment, ensuring quality of results, calibration, and many others. We then underwent an internal audit as required by 17025 to ensure that we are meeting all requirements. After the internal audit, we were able to apply for accreditation and schedule our official audit. This successful audit led to our accreditation.
Accreditation versus certification, what's the difference?
As defined by ISO/IEC, an accreditation is a "third-party attestation related to a conformity assessment body conveying formal demonstration of its competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks", while a certification is a "third-party attestation related to products, processes, systems or persons". The way it's structured, accreditation are higher than certifications, since they are reserved for bodies performing certification services. As a test laboratory that issues test certificates, we are required to receive an ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation.
ISO 9001 vs ISO 17025
While ISO 9001 is an effective management evaluation tool, it does not provide the technical requirements to assure that tests are accurate and reliable. Therefore, ISO 17025 is required to ensure quality test results. For laboratories that do not manufacture products, the management requirements of ISO 17025 also cover all the relevant aspects of ISO 9001.
What about AS 9100?
According to AS 9100, Section 1.2, "This standard is intended for use by organizations that design, develop and/or produce aviation, space and defense products; and by organizations providing post-delivery support...“ Similar to ISO 9001, AS 9100 does not evaluate the technical competence of a supplier, meaning you have no assurance that the test data is accurate and reliable. ISO 17025 covers the quality system elements addressed in AS 9100 that are relevant to test laboratories.
For more information, check out ISO's online description of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard.