Interview with Paul Hesselink, CEO of Kiwa - the benefits of international conformity assessment Standards

Issue 44 – November 2012

This interview with Paul Hesselink, CEO of Kiwa first appeared in ISO Focus+ October 2012 and is summarised here with permission. Kiwa is an independent organisation in the Netherlands whose core activities involve certification with related testing and inspection.

ISO Focus+: When asked to explain the value of conformity assessment, what is your usual reply? As a company under­taking these activities, what in your view are the benefits of international Standards for Kiwa?

Paul Hesselink: The absolute advantage of certification, testing, and inspection from Kiwa's point of view is that the quality of products and services is made visible by an experienced, knowledgeable sector expert, in an independent way. Consequently, both our clients (usually manufacturers or service providers) and their clients can be certain of the quality and safety they are getting for their money. This levels the playing field and keeps the market transparent.

Harmonised global guidelines or qual­ity agreements, like those included in International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards, simplify matters for international players. Their products and services no longer have to undergo an approval process for each market, but can be made available simultaneously in multiple countries.

For Kiwa's customers, this results in enormous efficiency gains as barriers to trade disappear. International Standards also provide advantages for Kiwa, as they allow us to offer our services internationally, without having to apply supplementary or deviating local specifications.

Of course, this does not mean that spe­cific national requirements are unnecessary or protectionist. International Standards provide a harmonised platform, but as an industry expert, Kiwa also strives to under­stand specific markets and their particular requirements in order to deliver added value to our customers. This is why our logo is 'Partner for progress '.

ISO Focus+: What are the most popular ISO Standards that your clients are using? What is the value of these standards?

Paul Hesselink: There are several 'popu­lar' ISO standards that Kiwa's clients are using, including ISO 9001 on quality management systems, ISO 14001 on envi­ronmental management systems, ISO 22000 on food safety management systems, ISO/TS 16949 on quality management for the automotive sector, and ISO 13485 on quality management for medical devices.

In addition, ISO/IEC 27001 on infor­mation security management systems, ISO 50001 on energy management systems and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) performance ladder, based on ISO 26000, are rapidly growing in importance.

The power of any of these international Standards is that they take the entire organisation into account. In order to obtain the certificate, quality must be reflected, established, and continually improved in all facets of the organisation.

I also find it very exciting that several of these ISO Standards look at the conse­quences of an organisation's activities – on people, the planet, and prosperity. These are themes that have taken off in the last few years. Thanks to these international Standards, organisations can clearly and independently show the degree to which they take responsibility for these issues. As sustainability becomes an important concern for all of us, consumers have reli­able information and not just 'promises'.

ISO Focus+: What benefits does ISO/IEC 17020:2012 Conformity assessment − Requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection give to bodies performing inspections? Would you say it can help a company like Kiwa grow internationally? What other ISO and IEC Standards does Kiwa apply in its activities?

Paul Hesselink: Whatever applies to our customers also applies to Kiwa and our activities. Therefore, unless our quality is demonstrated independently, the certificates, tests, and inspections have no value.

Accreditation in accordance with ISO/IEC 17020 is important to demonstrate Kiwa's own level of inspection, and to offer our inspection services internationally. Govern­ments and our customers can then clearly see that Kiwa also satisfies international Standards. This way, we do not need to be evaluated for every new market, every time.

One advantage of the recently updated ISO/IEC 17020:2012 is the greater emphasis on the competencies of inspectors and the impartiality of the inspection organisation. There is also a focus on continual improve­ment. This makes a quality player like Kiwa happy, of course.

ISO Focus+: Kiwa recently announced that it is partnering up with ISA Sport. Can you tell us about ISA Sport and why they sought accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories? How will this help them in their work?

Paul Hesselink: The merger with ISA Sport fits completely into the current Kiwa philosophy. We are banking on growth in the coming years to remain active in the market as an independent organisa­tion. ISA Sport's activities align well with a number of Kiwa components such as civil engineering and construction. ISA Sport is a strong player in a niche market in which Kiwa was not yet active − namely, accommodations, floors, and artificial turf for various sports disciplines.

Kiwa ISA Sport is a globally recognised expert in the area of testing and inspecting sports fields. These vary from football, for example, the grandiose Moscow Luzhniki stadium and eight Gulf Cup stadiums in Yemen, to Monaco's Stade Louis II athletic tracks and floor and light support for the Davis Cup tennis courts in Amsterdam.

With its accreditation to ISO 17025, Kiwa ISA Sport can demonstrate unambiguously that it satisfies the high-value international requirements for laboratories and associated inspections. That makes Kiwa ISA Sport more interesting to international parties. Certainly in combination with Kiwa CMT, for example, that inspects the structures of sports stadiums and stadium barriers, a powerful one-stop shopping package of services arises for the owners of sports accommodations.

ISO Focus+: ISO has developed numerous sector-specific Standards. As a company covering nearly all market segments, from energy to construction, what would you say is the value of these different Standards for Kiwa and for your clients?

Paul Hesselink: Many requirements and regulations in the construction, energy, and water sectors still have a strong national focus. The strengthening of ISO interna­tional Standards in these sectors simplifies the safeguarding of quality. Kiwa supports this and cooperates actively with ISO tech­nical committee ISO/TC 155, Nickel and nickel alloys, on polymer piping systems, for example. That makes the international manufacturing, trade, and use of such products simpler and more efficient. And, as Kiwa, we are glad to support this in the interest of our clients.

ISO Focus+: Kiwa experts participate in ISO technical committees such as ISO/TC 138, Plastics pipes, fittings, and valves for the transport of fluids. Can you tell us what the benefits are of participating in ISO committees? Why do you think CEOs should encourage their companies to get involved in standardisation?

Paul Hesselink: There are a few important reasons why. For Kiwa, it is important to be aware of developments in standardisation, as the verification of international Standards is our reason for being.

Secondly, we can help our customers proactively by pointing out the trends for future ISO Standards. This is particu­larly important for many of our small and medium-sized enterprises for which participating in ISO committees might be costly or complicated.

Finally, we are experts in the implementa­tion of international Standards. That is our day-to-day job. By bringing our knowledge and experience to the table, Kiwa experts support the development of better Standards, which are pragmatic and can be implemented in practice. No one is served by an impracti­cal, theoretical Standard that is obsolete in real life. This is why I strongly encourage our colleagues in the field of certification to proceed in a similar way and participate in ISO technical committees!

About Kiwa

Kiwa works for clients in many sectors, with an emphasis on water, energy, construction, infrastructure, automotive and transport, agricultural, feed and food, safety and security, health and care, and the environment. Clients come from manufacturing and process industries, business services, public and private utilities, local government agencies and international institutions.

Kiwa is globally active with about 1250 employees in over 40 countries with offices in Belgium, China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) and Turkey, which offer all of Kiwa's services.

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