Across every industry and every profession, 2020 has been a year of seismic change and challenging paradigm shifts. Yet amidst the stress of this pandemic there have also been opportunities for problem-solving, innovation, and collaboration. A2LA has needed to dramatically re-imagine the assessment process without sacrificing precision or integrity, which has only been possible because of the close, communicative relationships we maintain with our accredited organizations. Feedback from our customers has helped us develop an effective remote assessment process, which has in turn allowed our customers to keep their accreditation schedules on track and continue operating. This has been a dynamic undertaking, with our customers showing us how to best help them at every turn, and A2LA assessors and accreditation officers have continuously used customer input to shape their responses.
After the U.S. began to shut down in the spring, it took weeks of hard work to prepare for our first remote assessments: we wrote new procedures, created new guidance for our assessors, and identified the right technology for our purposes. Ultimately, our meticulous approach paid off, as we have been able to consistently deliver smooth, successful remote assessments that met our customers’ individualized needs. A2LA’s most important resource has always been our staff, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received throughout this year only made it more clear how indispensable our expert assessors and accreditation officers are. These individuals and their attentiveness to customer needs made all the difference in successfully transitioning from in-person to remote assessments. As the year draws to a close, we wanted to share just a handful of the customer comments that reflect the hard work and commitment of our staff throughout 2020.
The professionalism of our assessors was a frequent area of praise. A representative of RJ Lee Group, Inc said: “This was our first virtual assessment, and it went smoothly because of Heidi's ability to prepare for the assessment in advance but also her ability to interview our staff. She was polite and made our staff feel comfortable and relaxed during the interview process. We hold numerous accreditations across multiple agencies and Heidi is one of the best assessors that we've had the pleasure of working with.”
VPS Testing & Inspection had this to say of their assessor, Steve Lerman, and their accreditation officer, Sam Hays: “We are very grateful to the A2LA staff, specially Sam Hays, for their great support, which was needed, as we were very much affected by COVID-19; however, based on Sam's support, we were able to complete the process successfully. The assessor, Steve Lerman, was very professional and knowledgeable, which made the assessment smooth and effective, even though it was virtual, but very well conducted by Steve.”
Many customers also remarked on the adaptability of A2LA staff in response to the changing methods and expectations throughout the year. “During this crazy time, our assessor was extremely flexible with all the variables that we encountered using the Zoom technology.” Said Hastings Laboratories Inc. “Both Dylan Lyon and Kathi Gumpper were both very helpful with any questions or concerns we had during our assessment.” An international lab, FIME Korea Ltd., which was likewise dealing with coronavirus restrictions, provided this statement: “Whenever I had questions or requests about process or documents, our A2LA officer, Ash, was willing to answer, feedback was quite fast. I can say it was one of the factors that made me choose A2LA instead of local bodies. Moreover, we're very satisfied with A2LA's flexible measures due to COVID-19.”
Raymond Lin, Lab Mangaer at the Luxottica Quality Performance Laboratory reached out with the following thank-you message: “We have had a great experience in the accreditation audit with the A2LA team which was very well organized in a professional way. I would like to give special thanks to our assessor, he guided us with his strong professional knowledge and excellent communication skills. I would also thank our assigned accreditation officer. Despite of the technical problems that occurred in the portal, which was probably caused by our firewall settings, he guided and helped us with a lot of patience. Without their help, it would have been impossible for us to complete this audit successfully. I look forward to working with the A2LA team again.”
Even as the year winds down for the winter holidays, customers have continued to take the time to reach out with their success stories. The most recent was from a company called ATI Flat Rolled Products. “These are challenging times today but A2LA and the assessor that we had were top notch and were very understanding when it comes to doing a virtual audit. The auditor was very patient when we had some technical issues with the format but all in all everything worked out well!”
There remains a lot of uncertainty about the coming year and how the accreditation industry will need to continue evolving, but A2LA’s staff has already proven both their willingness and ability to handle change and uncertainty. To learn more about our carefully designed remote assessment policies and procedures, download our remote assessment guidance document, and always feel free to reach out to A2LA directly via our contact page.