In a previous guise I was privileged to travel overseas and witness a tremendous international respect for British Standards. I felt a great sense of pride to be employed within a sector (security) where the common global opinion is one of immense admiration for the standards that provide the foundations for the wider security (to include fire) solutions.
In reality, considering I have first-hand experience of the time and resource committed to developing and reviewing British Standards, this should not have come as a surprise.
This global respect for British Standards is not unique to the security sector. British Standards carry a positive international reputation across many sectors, as do the European Standards, so often influenced by British Standards or developed with British input and expertise.
Most of us will be familiar with the quality management standards such as ISO9001. This standard is familiar to all businesses regardless of size, sector or location. Some sectors however, such as security, also have their own industry, or ‘product’, standards. These more specific standards are focused around the actual product or service being delivered. They outline best practice and are often developed by key industry stakeholders and individuals who have the valuable experience and expertise in their field. In manned security for example, product standards include BS7499: Code of Practice for static site guarding and mobile patrol services, and BS 7858: Code of Practice for security screening of individuals in a security environment. Their titles alone define them as being concentrated upon delivery of the core ‘product’. Although certification to both product and quality management standards is voluntary, they are both often recognised and respected by end-users and who seek the value of utilising companies proven to operate in accordance with their respective industry best practice guidance.
But the value of standards is limited unless backed up with independent certification (inspection). An independent audit of compliance to relevant standards ensures that a company is delivering in line with its claims. Anyone can market themselves as ‘working in accordance with standards; independent certification is the proof that the company ‘is’ actually complying with the requirements of the respective rules. For additional reassurance, the customer should ensure that the certification body auditing their supplier (or prospective supplier) is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS, in essence is the government approved body that inspects the inspectorates.
Third party certification can be referred to as approvals. It is the process of independently auditing or inspecting a company (e.g. security or FM services supplier). It is a process that is best summarised as one providing ‘reassurance’. To the end-user, it is the reassurance that the company procured to provide a service (or product) is compliant with the standards they claim to adhere to. If we think of Gas Safe (formerly Corgi), it is easy to see the importance of having an independent verification of professionalism. In the current climate most of us are facing the challenge of squeezing every penny out of reducing budgets. Certification is one very important method of reducing risks and building confidence when appointing suppliers or sub-contractors. Certification allows the customer to readily identify those companies who have voluntarily taken the time and resource to invest in tried and tested procedures and practices that deliver a quality service that compliments the client’s own ambitions and objectives.
For the company itself, certification provides reassurance that they have processes and procedures in place that allow them to deliver a consistently professional service to the client; it provides a differentiator that can help gain and retain business.
In security and fire for example, quality management certification together with a product certification means that the company has been inspected across a range of key areas. These include checks for financial probity, vetting of directors and key managers, assessment of complaints procedures and of course, full compliance with the best practice standards for their sector.
Certification within the security sector has evolved on the back of industry (product) Standards and led to the formation of industry specific certification bodies whose specialism provided (and still provides) peace of mind to the end user and to key stakeholders such as the insurers and the police. Not surprising when we consider that private security plays such a key role in the protection of people, property, personnel and assets worth billions of pounds.
Historically the worlds of manned security and FM have, with a few exceptions, remained separate. Even when security and FM solutions were combined, the importance of security specific certification remained. Companies that provided security, cleaning and catering for example, would, by and large, use a generalist certification body for the cleaning and catering aspects of their business yet still focus on the security specific certification body for the security element of their business. However, in the famous words of Bob Dylan, ‘the times they are a changing’.
Presently, we are now witnessing an increasing crossover between FM and security (predominantly, though not exclusively, manned security – though building management will not be far behind). This is a two way crossover brought about through an increasing number of FM companies incorporating security within their portfolio and, by traditional core security companies expanding laterally into wider FM activities. These changes are being driven by the clients demand to source their requirements from one supplier to reduce overheads.
In turn, this is starting to drive a similar trend from suppliers of these services, who wish to see certifications across the breadth of their FM portfolio within one shopping basket. Their dilemma is that the client and major stakeholders still recognise the sector specific specialists as the key approvals body for the security aspects of a business. Indeed, if the supplier is installing alarm equipment providing a police response, it is essential that the security specific certification bodies are used. Thankfully this dilemma has been recognised by at least one of industry specialists who will work with FM companies who have security (or fire) as part of their portfolio.
The benefits of using the services of a company approved by a third party certification body initially seem intangible but should not be underestimated; they are very real. Certification, especially ‘product’ certification, points towards those companies formally demonstrating competence in their field. To the enduser, it provides a method to readily identify which companies have made a commitment to Standards and opened their processes up to independent audit.
Adapting to changing business models, listening to customers’ needs and responding appropriately are all key to survival in the modern business space in order to maintain and grow business. As ‘integration’ becomes a financially beneficial and common sense approach, long term relationships and common management models between suppliers and end-users and their third party certification body will become the norm. A new era dawns.
If you have any further questions on the NSI, its services or certification in general, please contact Chris Pinder via 01628 637512 or visit www.nsi.org.uk.
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