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ISO 17020 Accreditation: Overview, Requirements, and Benefits

What is the ISO 17020 Conformity Assessment?

Did you know that the inspection bodies that assess the quality and reliability of companies’ products and services need a regulatory certification themselves to perform the inspection? 

This comes under the ISO/IEC 17020:2012 standard, which ensures the competence of the inspection bodies and the impartiality and consistency of their inspection activities.

ISO/IEC 17020 is a conformity assessment that includes requirements for various types of bodies that conduct inspections, surveys, and risk assessments. Depending on the services, the standard has divided the accreditation/examination bodies into Type A, Type B, and Type C classes.

The international standard covers a range of activities of inspection bodies which include: 

  • The examination of materials, products, installations, plants, processes, work procedures, or services.
  • Determination of the examined services and products conformity against respective requirements.
  • The subsequent reporting of results of the activities, performed in the above two steps, to clients and authorities.



Difference between ISO 17020 and ISO 9001

While similar, ISO 17020 and ISO 9001 are two different standards; because of their likeness, they are often confused or conflated with one another. ISO 17020 is an essential standard for any organization seeking to perform inspections on behalf of organizations, clients, or authorities. 

Conversely, the ISO 9001 accreditation is an international standard for quality management systems that organizations use to demonstrate their ability to provide products and services that meet customers’ and regulatory requirements.

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ISO 17020 Certification Requirements

The ISO 17020 accreditation incorporates the same level of requirements as the ISO/IEC 17000 series, such as ISO/IEC 17025 (for testing and calibration laboratories), ISO/IEC 17065, and, as mentioned, ISO 9001. However, it emphasizes more on the ability of accreditation bodies to manage impartiality, conflicts of interest, technical competence of the body, and inspection services and processes.

The accreditation trains the certification bodies in making professional judgments while performing inspections, particularly when assessing conformity with general requirements. 

The set of requirements to be fulfilled by the inspection agencies is categorized into five major groups: 

  • General requirements, which cover:
    • Impartiality and independence
    • Confidentiality 
  • Structural requirements, which cover:
    • Administrative needs
    • Organization and management

  • Resource requirements, which cover:
    • Personnel
    • Facilities and equipment
    • Subcontracting

  • Process requirements, which cover:
    • Inspection methods and procedures
    • Handling inspection items and samples
    • Inspection records
    • Inspection reports and inspection certificates
    • Complaints and appeals
    • Complaints and appeals processes

  • Management system requirements, which cover:
    • Management system documentation
    • Control of documents
    • Control of records
    • Management review and internal audits
    • Corrective and preventive actions



The Process of ISO 17020 Accreditation Certification

The accreditation process is based on the latest ISO/IEC directives and is recognized by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF). The 17020 accreditation certification is a sequential process involving several stages of inspection, which include monitoring, auditing, and approval of the QMS.

The general steps to the certification are given as follows:

  1. A detailed survey and gap analysis are conducted for every established inspection parameter by inspecting bodies.
  2. Training is provided to all levels of employees before the application of the standard.
  3. Guidance is given regarding documentation to be followed, such as quality manuals as per the ISO 17020, inspection parameters, and standard operating procedures (SOPs). 
  4. Corrective actions are taken as well as follow-up visitations.
  5. A consultant will conduct an internal audit.
  6. An accreditation body such as ENAS will conduct an external audit.
  7. Conformities, as well as non-conformities, will be evaluated and resolved, respectively.
  8. An accreditation decision is made, and a certificate is issued.
  9. Additional conformance monitoring and reassessment.

The Importance of a Documented Quality Management System In Place

  • Global recognition and momentum: The 17020 accreditation is recognized by ILAC and IAF, which create a better image of inspection bodies for their top-quality inspection services in the global market.
  • Technical competence of people and processes: The accreditation monitors and ensures the technical competence of quality management systems of the inspection bodies. This enables them to build trust among organizations for their judgments during the inspection processes and results. 
  • Reliable equipment and results: The compliance standard provides better guidance and control for equipment maintenance and inspection records, which leads to unbiased, properly judged, and impartial inspections results. This also provides a more accurate reflection if any corrective action has been taken for certification.
  • Cost savings and risk mitigation: The accreditation reduces or eliminates the need for re-inspection or re-work, thus, reducing time and money lost during inspections.
  • Trust and customer satisfaction: The compliance standard guides the inspection bodies to take impartial judgments and consistency in the inspection process. It increases customer confidence in their quality management system, quality of products and services, and the reliability of end results.

Lease High-Quality Lab Equipment with Excedr

The ISO 17020 compliance is an inspection body accreditation. It includes all activities performed by an inspection body, including examining products and equipment, processes, procedures, services, and determines their overall conformity and accurate reporting of results.

If you need to accelerate the accreditation process, consider procuring high-quality lab equipment with Excedr. We offer labs and organizations a flexible and custom lease program that may assist throughout any accreditation process. 

At Excedr, you can lease the cutting-edge lab equipment and resources needed without the expensive upfront costs associated with equipment purchasing. Speak with one of our leasing reps today to learn more about how we can help your lab function at its best.

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