Head of International Cooperation, O’ZAKK
The year 2022 has been full of apprehension, excitement, and accomplishments for Uzbek Center for Accreditation (O’ZAKK) as well as for the conformity assessment system of Uzbekistan.
O’ZAKK successfully completed the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC) peer evaluation process in January – March 2022 and become a signatory to the APAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement as of September 2022. Due to APAC’s Recognized Regional Accreditation Group status in IAF, O’ZAKK subsequently achieved recognition within the framework of the IAF Multilateral Recognition Arrangement for the following main scopes and sub-scopes:
- Product Certification – ISO/IEC 17065
- Management Systems Certification – ISO/IEC 17021-1
- ISO/IEC 17021-3; ISO 9001 (QMS)
- ISO/IEC 17021-2; ISO 14001 (EMS)
- ISO/TS 22003; ISO 22000 (FSMS)
- ISO/IEC 17021-10; ISO 45001 (OH&SMS)
- ISO 50003; ISO 50001 (EnMS)
The emphasis here is not O’ZAKK’s achievement and becoming a party to the global system for mutual acceptance of accredited conformity assessment results, but instead the sharing of key perspectives and takeaways for the consideration of accreditation bodies, conformity assessment services providers and stakeholders in the new normal after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preparation, planning and coordination were vital for O’ZAKK as a developing accreditation body to experience a fully remote peer evaluation procedure in line with the policies stipulated in the IAF/ILAC A-Series and relevant APAC documents.
The importance of preparation cannot be emphasized enough. It involves not only preparing resources, people, and acquisition of information, communication and technology (ICT) tools, but training, continuous practices as well as building a robust network for storing, retrieving and sharing data that is able to withstand a relatively demanding environment. Another issue to be covered was transforming a vast amount of traditionally paper-based and lesser digitized content into a digital or electronic format, ensuring steady connectivity and close collaboration with translators/interpreters and support services personnel.
Whilst the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated transformation of business operations and increased the use of alternative assessment techniques, remote working and collaboration over digital platforms, these preparatory steps for peer evaluation had a synergy effect to increasing the efficiency of accreditation processes, which otherwise could have been implemented at a lesser speed and in a different context.
Planning in the context of a traditional peer evaluation plays a critical role, but planning in the case of a remote evaluation (assessment, audit etc.) carries even bigger weight.
The effectiveness and credibility of remote evaluation rely on auxiliary attributes and supporting elements, such the robustness of an ICT platform to enable multiple sessions, stability of network connections, and clear schedules and pre-defined tasks for personnel, in order for them to be able to interact within the set timeframe in a remote environment in the same confident and competent manner as they normally do.
Furthermore, making specific considerations for interpretation and facilitating an adequate working environment for interpreters is another aspect that requires close attention at the planning stage and yields a positive outcome if executed properly.
Coordination of all parties involved, including accreditation body personnel, the technical support team, conformity assessment body personnel involved in the witness evaluation, interpreters and a peer evaluation team, is a complex task, yet without adequate communication and management, execution of a remote evaluation becomes impossible.
Before and during the process, synchronizing the roles and functions of pre-assigned interpreters, the technical support team monitoring the performance of IT tools, and those directly involved in the evaluation is required. Communication and agility reduce risks associated with technical failures, human factors and miscommunication in a time-critical remote environment.
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