The process of obtaining Management System Certification

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When RKBC meets its customers, the first questions a customer asks is: What is the process for obtaining certification and how long will it take? This article aims to explain this process and explain why the time it takes is very difficult to quote for and why a consultant who provides a definitive timeline should not be trusted.

This is our process for contacting the customer and holding their hand all the way to and sometimes through certification. We are happy to work with any Certification Body, but should the customer not have a preference we suggest 3 CBs to obtain quotes from (see Are Certification Bodies all the same):

Steps to Certification:

1. Initial meeting – During this meeting we find out about the organisation, the products and services they provide, the intended scope of certification, their systems and processes they might already have in place, their system and documentation preferences and the risks we will be dealing with. We will always request access to any documentation which already serves management system purposes. We also like to witness operations and the workplace. All of this helps us understand what we need to do for the organisation. No cost is assigned to this activity.

2. Fixed Price Proposal – We develop a fixed price proposal which sets out the stages of supporting our customers through the process and the relative costs of each stage. The proposal is tailored to your organisation’s aims and needs, the risks, the size of the organisation, the existing processes and systems in place, etc. The proposal is based on the anticipated number of days required to meet all those requirements. The proposal also provides an estimated timeline. No cost is assigned to this activity.

3. Customer acceptance – Once the customer has accepted the proposal and provided any required information the work begins. No cost is assigned to this activity.

4. Planning – For customers who already have a management system in place we will conduct a gap analysis. If our work only involves checking this for final compliance before certification it will be a detailed clause by clause gap analysis, however if the work is more substantial we use a shortened version of this and then conduct a system audit against the full requirements once the system is complete (see Step 12. Internal Audit).

5. Integrated content – If we are authoring a system we start by ensuring the common requirements of the standards are addressed in the Management System. There are lots of common requirements within the management system standards (being based on Annex SL) such as document management, audit, management review, risk and opportunity assessment, etc. Our service is unique in that we provide the functional software tools required to support a management system and we do so free of charge.

6. Quality Content – Where required, we develop the content to meet the requirements of the Quality Management standards (not already addressed by the Integrated Content).

7. Safety Content – Where required, we develop the content to meet the requirements of the Safety Management standards (not already addressed by the Integrated Content).

8. Environmental Content – Where required, we develop the content to meet the requirements of the Environmental Management standards (not already addressed by the Integrated Content).

9. Other Content – Integration of any other agreed content (documentation from HR, IT, Finance, etc).

10. Management Plans – We develop templates for the Management Plans you are expected to write. These include guidance on how to complete them including simple Find-and-Replace instructions where possible.

11. Implementation – The effort RKBC has to put into Implementation is very dependent on the customer. All companies will be introduced to their management system, receive management system training and training and written instructions for the tools we provide, but this is typically delivered in a single day via webinar or at the agreed location (unless otherwise documented in the proposal). For most customers this is enough, while others may want multiple training sessions tailored to suit different users in multiple locations.

12. Internal Audit – When we build a management system we do two audits. The first confirms that all the requirements of the management system standards are covered. The second confirms that operationally the system is being complied with.

13. Submission of System – Once we have a system that meets the standards it can be submitted to the chosen Certification Body for desktop review. If this is passed, then the Certification Audit can be scheduled. No cost is assigned to this activity.

14. Management Review – A Management Review is conducted under our guidance. The management review considers the system, its adequacy, its implementation, its evolution and its expected adequacy going forward. It sets a datum for the ongoing cycle of Management Reviews.

15. Certification Audit – This audit determines whether the Management System is working and whether there is evidence to show it is working. Typically this is managed by the customer, but sometimes we assist or supervise this audit on behalf of the customer.


As you can see this is a multi-stage piece of work where what RKBC supplies is completely dependent on many factors including the customer’s requirements, the number and complexity of existing processes, the scope of certification, the hazards and impacts the customer’s work is exposed to, etc. With this complexity, being specific about the duration of the work is difficult, but we are able to estimate timings and deliver a fixed price proposal. We often require information and guidance from the customer to be able to integrate existing systems or processes, we also require them to review what we have produced and start use the tools. Most delays are due to the customer balancing their priorities and not having time to respond to our queries. We understand that this process can’t take precedence over work and we therefore we wait for a response. When the lack of a response halts our work we will advise them of such and leave them to respond in their own time (before again chasing for a response).

Below is an example of a proposal’s summary table which specifies the work required for a company who has one main operational process, nothing unusual by way of risks, already has documented safe work methods, requires a template management plan to cover quality, safety and environmental requirements and has less than 50 workers:

StageTaskEstimated ScheduleDays Labour
4PlanningWeek 12
5High Level Integrated Management SystemWeek 23.5
6Develop Quality Management contentWeek 33
7Develop Safety Management contentWeek 43.5
8Develop Environmental Management contentWeek 52
10Integrated Management PlanWeek 61.5
11ImplementationWeek 7-11Variable
12Internal AuditWeek 122
14Management ReviewWeek 132

Our Systems

Typically the systems we supply include the following:

  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • Forms
  • Management Plan Templates
  • Registers with advanced functionality to manage:
    • Non-conformances
    • Improvements
    • Complaints of an internal or external source
    • Training records including competence evaluations and expiring competences
    • Assets including safety equipment and equipment requiring servicing and calibration
    • Risks and Opportunities
    • Environmental impact monitoring
    • Suppliers and their performance
    • Injury records
    • Contractual clarifications or adjustments
    • Hazardous substances
    • Management System Contents
    • And more!

We can also provide:

  • A range of other system documents including Employee Handbooks, Root Cause Analysis Methodology, Safety Data Sheets, Safety Inspection Guides, Delegated Authorisation Matrices, etc.
  • Cloud hosting of your management system including (Sharepoint, Intranets, HTML, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Docs, etc.).
  • Internal Auditor Training
  • Guidance regarding off-the-shelf software systems (where we have experience of them).
  • Bespoke solutions to overcome process issues including phone apps, webforms, software applications and tools.
  • Software solution definition of requirements and capability assessments


A word from the Managing Director: “We aim to establish long term, mutually beneficial working relationships, helping organisations grow and avoid the pitfalls that many fall into. Too many organisations feel their certification is a burden. We want to help organisations realise the business benefits of certification apart from meeting a statutory or customer requirement”