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3P-EVP – Third Party Effectiveness Verification Program

By Sheronda Jeffries

As part of its ongoing efforts to monitor and improve the third party conformity assessment process for the TL 9000 Quality Management System, QuEST Forum has developed a new program to help evaluate the consistency and effectiveness of the TL 9000 audits being conducted by its accredited Certification Bodies (CBs). Using data reported quarterly by CBs, who are accredited by QuEST Forum's authorized Accreditation Bodies (ABs), the number of nonconformities found during TL 9000 audits is considered along with the number of actual audit days, and a baseline for the average number of nonconformities per audit day is calculated each quarter. The number is a rolling average of the current quarter and the preceding three quarters.

Notification is sent to its AB about any CB that is reporting a number that is significantly below the norm (25% less than average) or considerably below the norm (40% less than average). The program then specifies that an investigation must be performed by the AB within a specified time frame.

For those in the first category (< 25%), only an investigation is required. In the second category (< 40%), one or more market surveillances are expected unless the investigation turns up information allowing the market surveillance to be waived.

The goal is emphatically not to set a minimum number of nonconformities per audit day but rather to investigate results that are outside the norm.  If the result of an investigation shows that a CB’s low number of nonconformities is owing to a high number of its clients having very mature quality management systems, that is a perfectly acceptable result.

Implementation of the Third Party Effectiveness Verification Program began in phases in 2016. Initially, one notification was sent to each of QuEST Forum’s five TL 9000 ABs. After the initial round, notifications for all CBs below the 25% or 40% levels were sent for totals of 2 and 14 notifications respectively. The results of the ongoing investigations have ranged from no issues found up to the issuance of multiple nonconformities against the CB.

It is too soon to gauge the impact on the overall audit process, but feedback so far has been encouraging. There have been no reports of an increase in non-substantiated nonconformities being issued and there have been anecdotal reports of improved audits. More results will be available as the investigations, market surveillances, and implementation of corrective actions are completed during 2017.

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