Understanding accreditation and product certification

By | 2020-11-25T09:06:06+00:00 November 25th, 2020|

By Abe Stears

Accreditation and product certification are topics which cause confusion in the South African manufacturing industry. In the next few issues, I will address these uncertainties to enable manufacturers and the end-users to make informed decisions in the future. If you have any specific questions you are welcome to contact me at stearsa@satas.co.za 

Abe Stears. Image credit:  Abe Stears

Abe Stears. Image credit: Abe Stears

The year 2003 brought about a significant change in the South African Product Certification industry when a second SANAS Accredited Product Certification Body (SATAS) entered the market giving manufacturers the opportunity to make better decisions in choosing their preferred service provider. In October 2020, the number of SANAS Accredited Product Certification Bodies operating within Southern Africa has increased to eleven, each offering a wide range of SANAS Accredited Certification to specific product standards.

With this change in the product certification industry, a high proportion of the end-users making use of ‘approved / certified’ products do not fully understand and still do not understand SANAS Accredited Product Certification.

For any product certification body to be accepted both nationally and internationally it is essential that the certification body is accredited to the stringent requirements defined in the ISO/IEC 17065:2012 Conformity assessment — Requirements for bodies certifying products, processes and services document by an accreditation body duly recognised by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).

In the South African region, the IAF accepted accreditation body responsible for accrediting certification bodies is SANAS (South African Nation Accreditation System). Not many end-users are aware of the fact that SANAS is an independent accreditation body reporting directly to the DTI with no affiliation to any other body except the IAF.

For a better understanding of what end-users need to know about SANAS Accredited Product Certification, a simple process flow is set out below. The below process flow defines the steps a product certification body needs to achieve SANAS accreditation and what the accreditation actually means.

Application for SANAS accreditation

A certification body makes an application to SANAS to be accredited in a specific industrial sector where product certification is sought. These sectors are defined by IEC/IAF as a NACE code which groups a specific range of product standards together. For example, IEC/IAF 17 NACE 24 relates to fabricated metal products which in turn includes a whole range of associated SANS product specifications.
It is essential that the level of technical expertise and competency available within the certification body for the specific NACE code is such that the stringent requirements defined in ISO/IEC 17065 can be demonstrated and maintained.

“Once non-conformances identified during the assessment have been effectively addressed and cleared by the assessment team, SANAS accreditation is granted to the certification body for that specific product standard.”

The certification body is required to implement, maintain and manage a quality management system in accordance with the requirements defined in ISO/IEC 17065:2012 Conformity assessment — Requirements for bodies certifying products, processes and services and certify a manufacturer in accordance with the relevant requirements.

Once this process is completed and the certification body is confident all the requirements can be clearly demonstrated the SANAS assessment is performed.

SANAS accreditation process

The SANAS assessment team comprises ISO/IEC 17065 quality system auditors tasked to audit the certification body’s quality management system with additional technical experts being contracted to assess the auditor’s technical competency in the specific NACE sector accreditation is required.

The SANAS assessment team requires a ‘witness audit’ to be performed together with the product certification body auditor/s at a manufacturer’s facility. This process forms an integral part of the SANAS assessment process whereby the auditing techniques and technical competency of the certification body auditors are fully demonstrated and confirmed as being acceptable.

Once non-conformances identified during the assessment have been effectively addressed and cleared by the assessment team, SANAS accreditation is granted to the certification body for that specific product standard.

SANAS accreditation certificate

The SANAS Accreditation Certificate comprises two parts, one being the certificate and the other a scope of accreditation detailed as an annexure. It is critical that the SANAS accreditation certificate is read in conjunction with the scope of accreditation which defines the specific product specifications the certification body is accredited for.

The certification body may display the SANAS logo on their product certificate issued to the certificate holder, provided the relevant product specification is included in the scope of accreditation defined in the SANAS certificate.
The certification body may certify a manufacturer to any other product standard that is not included in the SANAS Scope of Accreditation but may not include the SANAS Logo on the certificate issued to the manufacturer.

In the event certification bodies fail to maintain their SANAS Accreditation for specific product standards the SANAS Scope of Certification is re-issued with those product specifications being removed from the scope of accreditation. The certification body is then required to re-issue all affected certificates to exclude the SANAS logo indicating an unaccredited product certification.

What end users need to understand is that all SANAS Accredited Certification Bodies are accredited to the exact same ISO/IEC 17065 requirements with specific product specifications defined in their scope of accreditation. In addition, SANAS Accredited Certification Bodies through their ISO/IEC 17065 accreditation status are recognised and accepted internationally. No ISO/IEC 17065 accredited certification body can be considered ‘more’ accredited or ‘less’ accredited than the other. End-users that specify SANAS Accreditation for a specific product standard in their purchase documentation should be more concerned if the manufacturer of that product is certified by a certification body that is SANAS Accredited for that specific product standard. Being a SANAS Accredited Certification Body does not infer that any product certificate issued to a manufacturer is SANAS Accredited.

Detailed information can be accessed at:

  • IAF signatories: www.iaf.nu
  • SANAS: www.sanas.co.za
  • SANAS Accredited Certification Bodies: www.sanas.co.za

About the author

Abe Stears was born in Mossel Bay district and grew up on a plantation. After finishing his matric at the Outeniqua Highs School in George, he went for his military training as all young men in those days had to do. He enrolled at the then Saasveld College and finished his studies in Plantation and Catchment Management in 1971. For 18 years he worked at the Department of Forestry in different locations in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia). In 1989 he resigned and joined the SABS Timber Certification Division. After 14 years in Product Certification he left the services of the SABS to start the company South African Technical Auditing Services (SATAS), the first privately-owned Product Certification Body in South Africa. He is still active as MD of the company.