Frequently-Asked Questions | SQMC Online

Frequently-asked questions about IRCA training and related topics.


Questions about SQMC

What is SQMC, and what is its role?

The Scottish Quality Management Centre – ‘SQMC’ for short – is a British-based, accredited training body providing short courses in business management systems and International/British Standards.

SQMC was founded in 1989 as a division (and think tank) of the University of Stirling’s Management Science faculty. We have been privately owned since 1998, operating as “SQMC Ltd”, from headquarters close to Edinburgh International Airport.

We specialise in the discipline of ‘Quality’, primarily teaching our global student base how to apply and audit operational procedures to the relative Quality Systems Standards: ISO 9001, AS 9100, or TS 16949.

In addition, we offer expertise and training in the areas of Environmental (ISO 14001), Energy (ISO 50001) and Safety (OHSAS 18001/ISO 45001) management systems.

Who is the accreditor behind SQMC?

We are independently accredited by the International Register of Certificated Auditors (IRCA) – the World’s oldest and largest business auditor registrar. IRCA was set up by the Institute of Quality Assurance (nowadays known as the Chartered Quality Institute), based in London, UK.

An IRCA-backed auditing qualification is recognised and highly-valued anywhere you work in the world, because the level of training is standardised, meeting IRCA’s strict Quality control protocol and learning objectives.

Aside from training, what other services do SQMC provide?

Perhaps the biggest benefit to our clients from our privatisation in 1998 was that it opened the door for us to act as consultants for organisations seeking assistance towards gaining or maintaining ISO certification.

Our clients also hire SQMC Associates to conduct internal or supplier audits on their behalf, taking advantage of our team’s experience, knowledge, and status.

Our daily rates are very reasonable, and we’re always keen to help new and existing clients wherever possible; so talk to us if you could benefit from a fresh pair of eyes!

Is SQMC ISO 9001 registered?

Rest assured that SQMC operate to an ISO 9001 Quality Management System, thus ‘practicing what we preach’!

As for actual certification – according to our specific requirements as an ISO/Quality/Business Systems training centre – ISO 9001 registration is uniquely superseded by our registration to the ‘IRCA 2000’ scheme. IRCA 2000 is the Criteria (think ‘Standard’) to which a training organisation must operate, to qualify for and maintain its right to supply IRCA training services on their behalf.

As such, displaying the ‘IRCA Approved Training Organisation’ emblem (much like displaying the iconic ISO 9001 ‘Tick and Crown’) demonstrates our ability to meet a more precisely-applied discipline of Quality Assurance specific to traders in our training sector.

How so? Not only are our organisational procedures monitored regularly (by internal audits, plus office audits by IRCA), but the scope of our surveillance audits include course attendance by an IRCA Training Assessor. Therefore, IRCA 2000 (and the associated IRCA course accreditation schemes to which we are registered) goes beyond the scope that ISO 9001 requires.

How can I obtain copies of SQMC’s registration certificates to maintain our approved supplier database?

It will be our pleasure to supply you with electronic copies of our documentation. Please make your request via our contact page.

Questions about IRCA

I’ve been told I should register personally with IRCA. Why?

This is a common question from people considering to set themselves up as freelance consultants and auditors. It’s all about credibility, and verifiability for your customer.

Effective auditing is recognised as one of the key components supporting accredited Third Party certification. The primary purpose of certification is to provide an acceptable level of assurance to the customers of the organisations registered to ISO 9001. The secondary purpose is to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation.

This assurance must be supported by auditing that is consistent in interpretation and in the application of the management systems standard. This applies not just to auditors within a single Certification Body, but is absolutely essential that all auditors engaged in certification activities nationally and internationally are consistent in their approach to auditing and in their interpretation and application of the standard.
The credibility of ISO 9000 series certification, and management systems certification in general, depends on this.

IRCA's role is to provide an objective assurance of the competence of auditors. An assurance that is accepted by the Accreditation Bodies, by Certification Bodies, by the ISO 9000 series registered organisations and even more importantly, by the customers of those registered organisations.

IRCA achieve this by establishing auditor competence criteria, based on the international auditing standard ISO 19011, and then rigorously assessing all applicants against this criteria.

Only auditors who are considered competent are awarded IRCA registration.

I’ve decided to register with IRCA – what’s my first step?

The first thing you must do is become qualified ‘academically’ to the level IRCA require. This generally means attending – and passing – the particular IRCA-certified course(s) associated with the discipline you intend to register to (e.g. Quality, Environmental, etc.).

The majority of IRCA registered auditors will audit Quality Management Systems. Therefore they are required to gain an "Internal QMS Auditor", or "QMS Auditor/Lead Auditor" qualification from one of IRCA’s accredited training organisations (such as SQMC!). In some cases, a QMS Foundation certificate will also be required.

There are six ‘grades’ of registration, and your course selection corresponds to your targeted grade. The grades are:

  • Provisional Internal Auditor
  • Internal Auditor
  • Provisional Auditor
  • Auditor
  • Lead Auditor
  • Principal Auditor

The options pre-fixed with ‘Provisional’ are given to accommodate newly-trained internal auditors/auditors who have not yet conducted any audits. IRCA will request evidence that you have carried out enough audits before allowing you to upgrade your status. This can be a tricky factor for new auditors, because it can be difficult to 'get your foot in the door' and gain the necessary auditing experience. Therefore, it’s common for new auditors to offer the services gratis to companies until they’ve built up their portfolio sufficiently. 'Shadowing' an experienced auditor is another good option.

Please note that from the date of achieving your IRCA auditing qualification, you will have a maximum of three years to get yourself registered.

Questions about ISO 9001:2015

What has changed in comparison to the 2008 version?

The changes are rather significant. We have detailed all of the changes in more in-depth articles (see below), but perhaps the most discussed issues in our industry have centred around two major clause additions: ‘Management of Risk’ and ‘the Context of the Organisation’.

Other notable changes are the reduction of management principles from eight to seven; and the removed requirement for a Quality Manual.

For further reading, see:

Key things you need to know about ISO 9001:2015 Part One / Part Two

How long will the outgoing 2008 version remain valid?

Until September 2018.

How do I keep my auditor ticket up to date?

Auditors trained to the 2008 version (or 2000) should sign up to an ISO 9001:2015 Auditor Transition module. These are single-day events, accredited by IRCA, which SQMC run publicly at regular intervals throughout the year.

If you are personally registered with IRCA, and require to remain so, attendance on our supplementary ‘Annex SL’ module will be required.

Delegates’ participation and learning on both modules is judged through continuous assessment.

Where can I buy/obtain information on the revised Standards?

There are a number of sources of information on the revision of ISO 9000 quality management system standards, including, of course, the British Standards Institute. ISO Central Secretariat in Switzerland also maintains a website that carries general information on the revision program.

Questions about ISO 9001:2008

My organisation is currently registered to ISO 9001:2008. When should we change to the 2015 version?

There is a grace period of three years after the publication of an updated Standard. Why three years? Because organisations with ISO certification are audited every three years to conclude their registration renewal cycle. Therefore, it can make practical and financial sense to change the Standard you are registering to at the renewal stage.

However, one certification body (possibly the biggest) is incentivising its clients to ‘transition’ their management systems gradually over a set period of time. They would much prefer their clients tackle the process this way, than to leave it till the ‘last minute’. SQMC recommend the gradual approach, wherever feasible, and can provide guidance on this, bespoke to your organisation.

We’ve been implementing an ISO 9001:2008-based system – can we still register it?

Our understanding is that some certification bodies will still accept applications based on the 2008 version of the Standard. This makes sense, because it takes several months from starting the process and getting a certification body in to assess your work – and so some organisations will, of course, started before the 2015 version was released.

We know of one certification body that will accept new applications against the 2008 version until September 2017.

I trained to the 2008 version of the Standard. Is my certificate still valid?

Trained auditors are typically granted the same three year grace period to update their personal qualification as their organisation or client are granted by their certification body.

This means that the deadline to keep your ISO 9001 auditing qualification valid is September 2018. However, it is not recommendable to wait so long, and your personal need for a knowledge of the new Standard will be dictated by your employer’s circumstances.

It’s a simple process to update your qualification with SQMC: just book yourself on to one of our regular, open-to-public ISO 9001:2015 Auditor Transition modules. They are approved and registered by IRCA, and are designed to require only one day out of your work schedule.

Please note that those auditors who are registered personally with IRCA will require to attend a supplementary module covering ‘Annex SL’, to meet IRCA registration requirements.

General questions about Management Systems

What is a Process?

Any activity or operation, which receives inputs and converts them to outputs, can be considered as a process. Almost all activities and operations involved in making a product or providing a service are processes.

What is meant by "Continual Improvement"?

Continual improvement is the process focused on continually increasing the effectiveness and/or efficiency of the organization to meet its quality policies and objectives.