Note: This history was originally published in connection with the 20th anniversary of ANAB to mark 20 years of accredited management systems certification. It was subsequently edited to add some more recent information.
To fully understand how the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) – originally the Registrar Accreditation Board – came to be, you have to go back to 1957 when a group of countries agreed to form the European Economic Community, in hopes of increasing economic cooperation and decreasing the likelihood of war. Although Europe had a grand vision, little happened initially in terms of implementing meaningful cooperation.
The next significant event in our chronology took place in 1970. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), whose mission was to put in place product standards, recognized there was another aspect to international standardization: mechanisms for evaluating conformance with standards. Consequently, ISO’s Certification Committee (CERTICO) was formed to establish a process to increase confidence that products were being manufactured in conformance with standards.
Four major events occurred in 1979: ISO Technical Committee 176 on Quality Management and Quality Assurance was established. In the United Kingdom, BS 5750 was published as a series of three quality assurance standards. Z299, similar to BS 5750 but numbering four rather than three standards, was published in Canada. And in the United States, the quality management system standard ANSI-ASQC Z1.15 was published.
In spite of the publication of these quality assurance and quality management standards, product quality continued to fall short and the complexity of OEM certifications was driving up costs. In the United Kingdom, the government-sanctioned white paper “Standards, Quality, and International Competitiveness,” published in 1982, noted that international competitiveness would be improved if the UK had systems in place to improve product quality. A UK national quality campaign the following year addressed some of the issues raised in the paper.
Another seminal event in 1983 was CERTICO’s publication of ISO/IEC Guide 40, General Requirements for the Acceptance of Certification Bodies. Guide 40 specified how to assess an organization engaged in product certification and was a precursor to guidance that would be used in quality management.
Two years later, ISO recognized that conformity assessment dealt with more than product certification and replaced CERTICO with the Conformity Assessment Committee (CASCO).
Progress Follows Frustration in Europe
By 1985, the group then known as the European Community (EC) was frustrated about the lack of progress toward achieving the “single internal market” that was envisioned in 1957. A white paper titled “Completing the Internal Market” identified the specific tasks that must be completed to remove physical, technical, and fiscal barriers to trade. A timetable was established for completing the hundreds of tasks identified as necessary to reach the goal of a “single internal market” in 1992. In a classic example of a Deming approach, a system was set up to manage the list of tasks and tick off each as it was completed. This massive intellectual undertaking finally got the EC moving on the path of cooperation.
CASCO published ISO/IEC Guide 48, Guidelines for Third-Party Assessment and Registration of a Supplier’s Quality System, in 1986. It dealt with how assessment bodies that evaluate organizations' quality systems should operate. The following year, the ISO 9000 series standards were published. Remarkably, before 1987 ended, BS 5750 was revised to adopt verbatim the ISO 9000 series, and the ISO standards were adopted as the ANSI-ASQC Q90 series standards in the United States and as the EN 29000 series by CEN and CENELEC, the European committees for standardization.
Also in 1987, each of the EC states formally adopted the Single European Act, which included a commitment to form a single internal market by the end of 1992. The EC nations recognized that to realize their vision, there had to be free movement of goods, capital, and people among all of the member states. Naturally, states with highly developed product standards and certification programs didn’t want to allow goods in from countries with less sophisticated systems. The EC hoped CEN and CENELEC could sort things out and develop a single standard for each product that would be acceptable to all, but eventually realized this was unlikely.
A breakthrough came when it was agreed that the real areas of concern had to do with health, safety, and the environment. What was needed, therefore, was standards that defined the essential requirements for health, safety, and the environment that would be acceptable for use anywhere within the EC.
Under this “new approach,” to market a product, it would be necessary to demonstrate that the product met all the essential requirements. How this would be done would depend on the product. For every class of product, the EC established a ranking of methods by which a product could be considered acceptable, from a manufacturer’s self-declaration of conformity through 100% product testing.
Among other methods, this included demonstrating that the design of a product met requirements and that the manufacturing system gave assurance that it would be produced according to the design. One method for demonstrating the latter was if the system met the appropriate ISO 9000 standard.
The U.S. Response
When it became apparent that the EC was serious about forming a single market by the end of 1992, other economies wondered how they would be able to sell their products in “Fortress Europe.” Members of the American quality community were acutely aware of what was going on in Europe and recognized that U.S. manufacturers would have to deal with the EC.
“Some U.S. industry leaders feared that potential European customers and partners would be reluctant to accept American products without a shared set of quality standards,” said Connie Conboy, past chair of the ANAB board of directors. “Appropriate oversight of the certification quality process was needed to provide assurance to customers on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Some ASQ (then ASQC) members, (including Richard Freund, Donald Marquardt, and Robert Peach, who had been active participants in developing the ISO 9000-series standards), were confident that there were methods that could be put in place so organizations in the United States could be evaluated and officially recognized.
Peach was put in charge of a study to determine the feasibility of ASQ operating an evaluation organization to certify that a company meets requirements – what’s now known as a certification body or registrar. The “ASQC Quality System Registration Study,” published in February 1988, stimulated a great deal of discussion and correspondence when it was presented to the ASQ board of directors.
Concerns were expressed about ASQ’s involvement, mostly having to do with liability and a presumed conflict of interest. Eventually, a counterproposal emerged: Instead of operating as a certification body for quality management systems, ASQ should oversee the certification system in the United States. Such a role then existed only in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Ultimately, it was agreed that an oversight body was needed in the United States and ASQ should play a role. It was proposed that ASQ form a legally separate entity for this role, as the nature of the work was so different from the membership activities of ASQ. The ASQ board of directors approved the proposal and the necessary investment in late 1988.
ASQ announced formation of a new entity for accreditation of quality system certification bodies and the naming of George Lofgren as its director on January 29, 1990. The news release said, “The Registrar Accreditation Board will be responsible for assuring the competence of third-party organizations that assess suppliers and for granting accreditation attesting to that competency, thereby facilitating domestic and international trade.”
RAB Is Launched
Prior to ASQ’s board of directors approving formation of the Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB), Lofgren had written to ASQ seeking employment. After more than 34 years with Square D, his job was to be moved to Lexington, KY, so he was looking for work that would allow him to remain in Milwaukee, while continuing in the quality profession.
In January 1989, ASQ contacted Lofgren. After interviews with Freund, Peach, then-ASQ president Spencer Hutchens Jr., and ASQ executive director Paul Borawski, he was offered and accepted the job of establishing RAB. ASQ was eager to get Lofgren on board so he could attend a lead auditor training course. His first day as RAB’s first employee was April 24, 1989, at the first day of the training course in Austin, TX.
Borawski told Lofgren that it was expected to take six months to get RAB up and running, after which ASQ would find other work for him. Borawski didn’t have to make good on that promise. When RAB was incorporated more than six months later on November 13, 1989, there was much more work to do.
Lofgren felt both excitement and trepidation about putting together the new organization. “It was exhilarating. I had never had the opportunity to do something like this, but neither had anyone else in the United States. I felt confident that I could do it,” he said. “As far as qualifications for the job go, there was very little experience anywhere in the world.”
Initially, RAB was a one-man show. “A lot of stuff had to go through a small funnel,” Lofgren said. “RAB couldn’t hire anybody because we didn’t have the money. We didn’t get any kind of stipend from anybody.”
RAB borrowed money from ASQ to function and at one point owed $500,000 to ASQ. The ASQ loan was paid off, with interest, in October 1994.
Lofgren assembled a board of directors, whose first meeting was in Baltimore, MD, on March 6, 1990. Members included Lofgren, Borawski, James Chittick of Dow Corning Corp., Marquardt and Carl Munro of Dupont, J.L. (Pete) Pence of Bellcore, Joseph Tiratto of the American Bureau of Shipping, and Peach, who served as chair.
Lofgren credited his board of directors with providing great support. “They were a marvelous group of people. Not all were involved in quality activities,” he said. “They were committed to doing their work properly, and met at least once a month for the first few years.”
Recognizing that Lofgren needed technical help, volunteers were recruited. Ed Barabas of Bellcore, Norm Siefert of White Rogers, John Stratton of Eastman Kodak, and Jack Wyler of Dow Corning first met with Lofgren at ASQ’s annual conference in San Francisco in 1991 to form the RAB Procedures Development and Implementation Committee. Their mission was to develop the procedures by which RAB would function and then put them into place. They subsequently met at least monthly in Chicago, divvying up tasks to complete them independently between meetings and then critiquing each other’s work at the next meeting.
“RAB’s accreditation criteria, policies, and procedures were developed after carefully considering current accepted standards and current practices where similar systems operate,” Stratton wrote in a January 1992 Quality Progress article. “Mutual recognition and acceptance of the RAB accreditation process are very important to registrars seeking accreditation by RAB and to U.S. businesses and industries participating in the registration process.”
Barabas, Siefert, Stratton, and Wyler conducted the initial assessments of the certification bodies that participated in RAB’s pilot program. Working together, they gained insight into how their procedures were working. Lofgren witnessed but did not participate in these assessments. Initial accreditation decisions were made by RAB’s board of directors.
By 1990, the RAB organization consisted of a board of directors, Accreditation Council, and Technology Council (later the Operations Council). Members of each body represented various interests involved in accreditation, with no single interest predominating. All served as unpaid volunteers. Assessors were engaged for specific assignments, and the administrative staff (Lofgren and a secretary who was hired early on) was responsible for day-to-day operations.
The board of directors was responsible for developing RAB policy and long-range plans, establishing a fee structure, overseeing finances and accreditation operations, and serving as the final authority on appeals against RAB decisions. The Accreditation Council approved accreditation criteria, reviewed and evaluated information about applicants for accreditation, granted or denied accreditation, and heard initial appeals. The Technology Council recommended accreditation criteria, developed checklists for assessments and criteria for qualification of assessors, approved individual assessors, selected assessors for specific assignments, and provided guidance to assessors.
A March 3, 1991, ASQ news release announced RAB’s first accreditation of a quality system certification body, Quality Systems Registrars, Inc., which still maintains its accreditation. Less than four years later, RAB had accredited 25 certification bodies and had nine applicants seeking accreditation.
The ANSI Connection
ANAB’s relationship with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) dates almost to its beginnings as RAB. The United States may be unique in having standards development as a private-sector activity, overseen by ANSI. Elsewhere, the national standards organization is typically a government function and accreditation is an outgrowth of standards activity.
Because RAB, as a private-sector organization, was the exception internationally, its board of directors agreed that cooperation with ANSI, the international standards community, and the federal government would enhance the credibility of the U.S. system globally.
The government declined to be involved in a relationship with and, in essence, give its blessing to a private-sector activity. Rather, through its National Institute of Standards and Technology, efforts were made to keep the door open for the government to take responsibility for accreditation. Meanwhile, ANSI was exploring itself being an accreditation organization for the United States, while RAB was discussing partnership with ANSI.
On December 13, 1991, RAB and ANSI agreed to operate the American National Accreditation Program for Registrars of Quality Systems. “Quality has been one of the buzz words of the 1990s and this program promises to be a great asset to U.S. businesses competitively engaged in the global marketplace,” Manuel Peralta, then ANSI’s president, said.
Twelve certification bodies accredited by RAB prior to the agreement were subsequently converted to accreditation under the ANSI-RAB program.
After RAB introduced its second accreditation program in May 1996, a second agreement was negotiated with ANSI. The ANSI-RAB National Accreditation Program (NAP) covered both ISO 9000 quality management systems (QMS) and ISO 14000 environmental management systems (EMS).
“The ANSI-RAB agreement to provide an accreditation program for both ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 will offer...U.S. business the benefit of ‘one-stop shopping.’ ANSI is committed to providing a strong and credible program that will instill confidence and ensure value,” Sergio Mazza, then ANSI president and CEO, said.
Learning From Others
An early priority for Lofgren was to have direct contact with the few who had experience operating a national accreditation body. He spent time in the United Kingdom with the National Accreditation Council for Certification Bodies (NACCB) and with NACCB-accredited certification bodies to learn how they operated.
“After we put in place a system that we felt met our requirements and began operating and implementing that system, we wanted to compare our own evaluation methods and techniques with those of our counterparts. Since some registrars (certification bodies) that RAB was evaluating for accreditation were already accredited by the Netherlands' Raad voor de Certificatie (RvC), we were able to schedule some of our accreditation audits at the same time that RvC was doing its audits, so we were able to see each other at work,” Lofgren said.
Both at work and while socializing in the evenings, the assessment teams discussed philosophies and discovered differences of both style and substance, which was a cause for concern. “One of the goals of the whole system – in fact of ISO itself – is the free movement of trade around the world. We wanted to eliminate trade barriers by developing confidence in each other's operations and you can’t do that if you're working to different requirements. We had to try to harmonize activities,” Lofgren said.
Casual and independent efforts at harmonization were followed by more formal arrangements. On October 2, 1992, RAB and ANSI signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with RvC that spelled out a shared recognition of the desirability of doing things in a similar fashion. Eventually, RAB signed additional MOUs and expanded existing MOUs to include other national accreditation bodies.
As president of RAB, Lofgren was recruited to speak at an ISO 9000 conference sponsored by Chemical Week magazine in January 1993. He suggested that the principals of the three other accreditation bodies then in operation also be invited to speak.
Lofgren had been looking for an opportunity to get together with Harry Gundlach of RvC, Paul Hewlett of NACCB, and John Hulbert of the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ). When all agreed to be speakers, Chemical Week arranged for them to meet one afternoon and invited them to report the results of the meeting to a plenary session of the conference attendees the following day.
Additional participants in the January 28 meeting included Stratton, Reuben Autery, then chair of ANSI’s Board Committee for Conformity Assessment, and representatives of the Standards Council of Canada, which was about to begin operations. Observers from Japan and Mexico and from the Office of U.S. Trade Representative were also present.
Lofgren distributed a list of 12 issues of concern he had compiled during the previous months as a proposed agenda. It was adopted along with three additional topics as the meeting agenda. The discussion was lively but it became apparent that consensus would not be reached on even a few of the issues during the meeting. There was, however, enthusiastic agreement that the group should continue its discussions with the goal of achieving worldwide equivalence of accreditation activities.
The name International Accreditation Forum was adopted to identify the group, its scope, and its purpose. Because many of the participants were members of ISO/CASCO Working Group 8, they agreed to meet in conjunction with WG 8 meetings, held twice a year in Geneva, Switzerland.
Eventually, IAF became more than a forum for discussion. Its functions included interpreting the requirements of the ISO/CASCO guidance documents, codifying those interpretations, and evaluating the conformance of accreditation bodies to the requirements and interpretations.
On January 22, 1998, RAB was among the first 13 accreditation bodies to sign the IAF multilateral recognition agreement (MLA) for quality management systems. There are now 42 signatory accreditation bodies. RAB was also among the 20 accreditation bodies who signed the environmental management systems MLA in October 2004, which now has 35 signatories.
The first MLA was the culmination of a series of peer evaluations in which the procedures and operating practices of each accreditation body were assessed by skilled evaluators from to other peer bodies. Participants were evaluated to the IAF MLA document, which incorporated ISO/IEC Guide 61, the internationally accepted criteria for the operation of accreditation bodies.
In the years since IAF’s founding, RAB and subsequently the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board have continued to participate and undergo periodic peer evaluations to give assurance of ongoing conformance with international requirements. This process provides an added level of oversight for the system of accredited third-party management systems certification.
Today, ANAB vice president Randy Dougherty is the chair of IAF. “As chair of IAF, my top priority is and always will be the credibility of accredited conformity assessment,” Dougherty said.
Expanded Offerings, New Leadership
It became apparent early in RAB's development that there was a large variation in the abilities of certification body auditors. A means of gaining greater assurance of the abilities of auditors was needed.
RAB felt that ASQ’s existing program for certification of quality auditors needed a component of demonstrated ability. ASQ gave RAB the go-ahead to create its own program. The program was introduced at the ASQ Quality Audit Division’s first Quality Audit Conference on February 28, 1992. The first quality system auditor certifications were issued June 10, 1992.
RAB imposed a requirement that a certification body seeking RAB accreditation had to use certified auditors. “Although there was an appearance of conflict of interest, we didn’t see a way around it,” Lofgren said. The requirement was later reluctantly removed.
RAB introduced a program to accredit quality system auditor training course providers on October 8, 1992. Again, the driver was the perceived need for such a program to provide assurance of consistent auditing practices.
RAB added staff as its lines of business grew and as the original management systems business expanded following publication of the ISO 14000 standards. Joseph Dunbeck was hired as RAB’s first CEO on Dec. 1, 1995, to provide overall leadership to the expanding organization.
Peach, then chair of the RAB board of directors, said “Bringing Dunbeck on board allows RAB president George Lofgren to continue in that capacity and focus on strengthening RAB’s existing quality management activities.” Lofgren would remain as RAB’s QMS president until his retirement in August 2000.
Dunbeck vowed to “focus on strengthening customer relations and on achieving and maintaining worldwide acceptance and recognition for each of RAB’s programs.” He was responsible for negotiating the second agreement with ANSI that led to formation of the ANSI-RAB NAP, which covered accreditation of certification bodies for both quality and environmental management systems.
The ANSI-RAB NAP was administered by the Joint Oversight Board, which oversaw separate EMS and QMS Councils, made up of volunteers with expertise for their respective programs. The Councils reviewed RAB assessment team reports and made accreditation decisions. Dunbeck recruited representatives of government and nongovernmental organizations to participate on RAB’s board of directors and Councils. By November 1996, the RAB board of directors had been reconstituted to include experienced environmental professionals to provide leadership for the new program. The ANSI-RAB NAP accredited its first five ISO 14000 certification bodies in March 1997.
When RAB accredited its 50th certification body for QMS March 15, 2000, Dunbeck said, “This signals that our accredited ISO 9000 registration has become both widely used and widely respected for all types of businesses.”
Although the ISO 9000 series standards were designed to be applicable to any type of business entity, some industry sectors saw the need for sector-specific versions of the standards. Accreditation programs for the AS9000 aerospace standards and the telecommunications industry’s TL 9000 were added during Dunbeck’s tenure. Under his leadership, RAB also moved from being a strictly national organization to one that operated internationally. Initially, RAB had accredited only certification bodies headquartered in the United States. Dunbeck made the RAB mark available to certification bodies regardless of where they were based and where they conducted business. “This redirection came in direct response to our customers, and their customers, as they have moved so aggressively to become international,” he said.
After Dunbeck announced his intention to retire, Robert H. King Jr. joined RAB as president January 2, 2002. “Bob’s experience in creating value across national borders will serve us well as he continues our ongoing efforts for worldwide acceptance and recognition of RAB programs,” John Knappenberger, then chair of the RAB board of directors, said.
King joined RAB a few months before Dunbeck retired to ensure a smooth transition in leadership and allow Dunbeck to complete his term as an IAF director and treasurer.
King oversaw the splitting of RAB into two businesses. As president and CEO of RAB’s successor organization, he also oversaw further expansion of the activities of the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board.
RAB’s multiple lines of business were a source of contention outside the United States. Although auditor certification and training course provider accreditation were managed independently from the original business of accrediting management systems certification bodies, there were concerns in Europe about the organization offering both accreditation and certification.
ISO/IEC 17011, which would replace ISO/IEC Guide 61 in 2006 as international requirements for accreditation bodies, included a clear prohibition against an organization engaging in the same activity as that which it accredits; this was broadly interpreted by the Europeans to mean that an accreditation body cannot engage in any activity that is called “certification.” The handwriting was on the wall for RAB, and work began on separating the lines of business.
In June 2004, RAB signed an agreement to divest itself of its auditor certification business and to merge that business with the Quality Society of Australasia (QSA International). King also worked with ANSI on an operating agreement to form a new legal entity to carry on RAB’s original business. In October 2004, RAB’s board of directors voted to recommend that ANSI and ASQ move the business of the ANSI-RAB NAP to a new partnership.
Effective January 1, 2005, the ANSI-RAB NAP became a legal entity, jointly owned by ANSI and ASQ, and renamed the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board. The ANAB mark replaced the ANSI-RAB NAP mark for accredited certification bodies. Auditor certification and training provider accreditation were taken over by another new organization, RABQSA International.
King characterized the splitting of the businesses as good for industry. “It gives us legal standing in the eyes of IAF,” he said. “It gives us the ability to really focus directly on accreditation services.”
Splitting the RAB businesses required establishing separate boards of directors for the two new organizations. Knappenberger resigned from the RAB board of directors to become chair of RABQSA International’s board of directors. Conboy became chair of the new board of directors for the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board, after almost 10 years as a member of the former RAB board of directors.
From One Brand to Two
During King’s tenure as president, the ANAB brand came to encompass accreditation for additional standards, including the chemical industry’s RC14001, ISO 22000 for food safety management systems, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative standard, ISO 13485 for medical devices, and ISO 27001 for information security management systems. The ANAB mark also spread globally in response to demand, especially in Southeast Asia.
In spite of the proliferation of management systems standards and interest in the ANAB mark among certification bodies outside the United States, ANAB began to experience slower growth. There was also interest in expanding the scope of conformity assessment offerings, and the company began exploring potential acquisitions.
Other national bodies offered accreditation for the full array of third-party conformity assessment – not just management systems certifiers but also product and personnel certifiers and laboratories. ANSI already had programs for product and personnel certifiers, so laboratory accreditation was the single service missing from the ANSI-ASQ-ANAB family of conformity assessment activities.
In October 2007, ANAB acquired Assured Calibration and Laboratory Accreditation Select Services (ACLASS), completing the family’s conformity assessment offerings. The ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board continued to accredit management systems certification bodies under the ANAB brand and began accrediting ISO/IEC 17025 testing and calibration labs under the ACLASS brand. ISO/IEC 17020 inspection bodies, ISO Guide 34 reference material producers, and ISO/IEC 17043 proficiency test providers are also accredited under the ACLASS brand.
Since the acquisition of ACLASS, ANAB has maintained an office in Alexandria, VA, in addition to its Milwaukee headquarters.
At IAF, King pushed for a stronger focus on customers as a means of strengthening conformity assessment worldwide. When he retired, King said, “I like to think that I’ve helped the international community focus more on the wishes of customers, satisfying customers, listening to the user community.”
Another Leadership Transition
King’s successor was no stranger to ANAB. John Knappenberger had been involved with the organization almost continuously since the early RAB days. When ASQ hired Lofgren, Knappenberger was treasurer of ASQ and was a strong advocate for establishing RAB. He served on the RAB board of directors starting in 1994 and succeeded Peach as chair in April 1996, serving in that capacity until 2005, when he moved to the new RABQSA board of directors.
In spite of his insider’s knowledge of ANAB, Knappenberger found being president and CEO was not the same as being chair of the board of directors. “It’s a whole lot different sitting on the other side of the fence,” he said.
Since he joined the company in November 2007, Knappenberger has worked to strengthen family ties with ASQ and ANSI, improve cross-selling of the family of brands, establish relationships with government agencies, and always ensure the focus on customers.
New programs accredited under the ANAB mark included the American Tree Farm System, ISO 28000 for supply chain security management, ISO/IEC 20000-1 for information technology service management, the Recycling Industry Operating Standard, the e-Stewards standards, Responsible Recycling, QC 080000 for hazardous substance process management, and PS-Prep, the Department of Homeland Security’s business continuity and preparedness voluntary certification program.
The State of Management Systems
Since publication of the first ISO quality system standards in 1987, there has been tremendous growth in implementation of management system standards, with corresponding benefits.
“Before there was a credible system of accredited third-party certification to ISO standards, organizations spent excessive time on redundant audits,” Conboy said. “Now, companies with ANAB-accredited certification offer customers assurance of independently verified, internationally recognized processes, without the need for numerous customer visits to each facility.”
Although the best reason to implement management system standards is to continually improve the organization and its processes, some organizations have pursued management systems certification only to satisfy customer demands. No wonder, then, that there is sometimes stiff competition among certification bodies to offer services at the lowest possible cost and there are occasionally even unscrupulous bad actors offering certificates without so much as an on-site audit.
Perceived threats to accredited management systems certification has been taken seriously enough to warrant action nationally and internationally. The ANAB Accreditation Council formed task groups to focus on ways to improve understanding and credibility. One outcome was “The Certification Client’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities,” which identifies what a certified company can expect from its certification body. IAF and ISO have issued joint communiqués on the expected outcomes for accredited certification to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
Dougherty, who served as chair of IAF, is an advocate at both IAF and ISO of soliciting and responding to feedback from end users – those who rely on accredited certificates – to ensure the credibility of accredited certification.
ANAB has developed close ties with the Independent Association of Accredited Registrars (IAAR), and not just because IAAR represents a good portion of the company’s customer base. The organizations also have a shared interest in promoting the value of accredited third-party conformity assessment. Both are working to make more information on the value of accredited certification available online to potential clients.
Although ISO’s annual surveys of certification have indicated ongoing growth in the number of management systems certificates worldwide, a relatively small proportion of organizations that could be certified are. Clearly, opportunity abounds.
Two Brands Become Three, and Then One Again
ANAB expanded into the field of forensics with the acquisition of Forensic Quality Services in November 2011, offering accreditation under the FQS brand to ISO/IEC 17020 for forensic inspection agencies and ISO/IEC 17025 for forensic testing laboratories. The same standards were used for ACLASS and FQS programs but the brand served distinct customers bases.
The FQS acquisition left ANAB operating accreditation programs under three different brands: ANAB, ACLASS, and FQS. Websites and collateral materials were re-designed to provide a similar appearance across the brands. After some time, however, the organization concluded the three brands were causing unnecessary confusion in the marketplace.
In 2015, ANAB returned to the single ANAB brand, with a new website, new logo, and new accreditation symbols for its various accreditation programs. The logo reinforces ANAB's position as the American accreditation body in the use of the torch, which recalls the Statue of Liberty, and the patriotic red, white, and blue. The torch is further intended to symbolize ANAB's holding the torch at the leader in accreditation.
Growth Leads to Reorganization
In December 2015, ANAB acquired the Laboratory Accreditation Bureau (L-A-B), a well-regarded competitor in laboratory accreditation and related programs. As ANAB's integration of L-A-B was taking place, ANAB announced in April 2016 the merger of its forensics operations with those of ASCLD/LAB, a major forensics accreditor. The acquisition and merger significantly expanded ANAB's customer base and ANAB's staff doubled in size as valuable new human resources joined the company. ANAB also added offices in Fort Wayne, IN, and Cary, NC.
ANAB management considered the best course forward in light of recent growth and organized into three strategic business units (SBUs) - management systems, laboratory-related, and forensics - each serving a distinct customer base. Lori Gillespie was named Vice President, Management Systems; Doug Leonard, who joined ANAB from L-A-B, was named Vice President, Laboratory-related; and Pam Sale, who joined ANAB from ASCLD/LAB, was named Vice President, Forensics. All report to Keith Greenaway, who was named Chief Operating Officer in the reorganization around SBUs.
Though much has changed in recent years - and throughout ANAB's history - one thing that has remained the same is the focus on customers. ANAB exists to serve the needs of customers, and customers are the focus of everything ANAB does. A primary belief among ANAB's staff is that maintaining a focus on customers is key to continued success.
In serving the needs of its customers, ANAB has benefited from longstanding relationships. Lofgren, the first president of RAB, continues to serve on the board of directors, and Paul Borawski did after his retirement from ASQ. Barabas, who was among the first assessors for RAB, worked as a contract assessor for ANAB until 2016. Many others have contributed for years to its success.
“We can each be proud of our contributions - each of us met a different set of challenges” Dunbeck said. “The organization has grown much larger, more complex and more respected than we could only have dreamed of attaining.”
Comparing organizational maturity to the human lifespan, Knappenberger believes ANAB is now getting close to its chronological age and with success will move into its young adulthood. “The foundation to make this business work is teamwork, transparency, and trust,” Knappenberger said. “We have to be fluid, flexible, and nimble - and most of all customer-oriented.”