Previously, FINAS had been part of the Centre of Metrology and Accreditation (MIKES) for 24 years, ever since it was first established.
Office moves and new workplace arrangements
Our offices have been located in a temporary facility provided by TUKES in Pasila, Helsinki since the spring of 2015, but, at the beginning of March 2016, we moved into a modern, activity-based workplace in the Pasila Office Centre complex. The move will require us to make some changes to the way we work. For example, most of our employees will no longer have their own desk, but will instead work at so-called mobile workstations. We will also strive to reduce the amount of paper we use and prioritise digitalisation. One way to promote this goal is to take more advantage of our FINAS extranet, which has been in use for several years already and which we use to process assessment documents received from customers.
In addition to organisational restructuring and office moves, there have also been a number of personnel changes at FINAS. FINAS’s previous Director Leena Tikkanen and Accreditation Manager Christina Waddington-Walden, who had been involved in FINAS’s activities since the beginning, retired last autumn. Risto Suominen started as the new Director at the beginning of 2016. There have also been some other personnel changes. FINAS currently employs 20 people on a permanent basis. Despite 2015 being a challenging year, FINAS’s personnel have managed to maintain the high standard of our accreditation services. I am especially grateful for that.
Increasing importance of accreditation
A lot has changed in the Finnish economy. Budget cuts and the need to increase efficiency have also had an impact on the number of accredited bodies. Large bodies have bought smaller ones, and functions have been merged to form larger entities under one system. A few accredited bodies have also discontinued their operations altogether. For these reasons, the number of accredited bodies has decreased in several sectors. In practice, however, the total volume of accredited operations and the volume of FINAS’s assessment work have grown due to new areas and larger assessment entities.
I believe that the importance of accreditation will increase in the future, both nationally and internationally. In the future, accreditation will be a mandatory requirement and a measure of competence in many areas. One example is the European Union’s initiative to develop a quality assurance scheme for breast cancer services, which will require accreditation of both clinical laboratories and certification bodies (certification of treatment service providers).
FINAS’s services to be evaluated in the spring of 2016
A peer evaluation of FINAS’s services will be carried out by a team of assessors from the European co-operation for Accreditation EA in May. International peer evaluations are carried out on a regular basis at least every four years. The aim of these evaluations is to ensure and demonstrate that accreditation bodies comply with the ISO/IEC 17011 accreditation standard and that their accreditation services achieve an equal level of confidence. Equivalence is demonstrated by a multilateral agreement (MLA) among accreditation bodies.
FINAS’s peer evaluation will take five working days, and it will be carried out by approximately 10 assessors, all from different European countries. The evaluation will cover all sectors: testing and calibration laboratories, inspection bodies, certification organisations (certification of persons, products and management systems), verification and, for the first time, interlaboratory comparison providers. Details of the evaluation and its results will be reported later.
Revisions to standards
The need to revise the standards on the basis of which accreditations are carried out is analysed on a regular basis. Standards that are being revised by ISO/CASCO at the moment include the ISO/IEC 17025, which governs laboratories. Revisions are also being introduced to the ISO/IEC 17011 standard, which governs accreditation bodies. New versions of both standards are expected in the summer of 2017.
Finnish Accreditation Service (FINAS), Risto Suominen, Director