Moving The Scheme Forward
No matter what you’re buying, your company will import risk from its supply chain. That risk becomes higher the more critical the products and services being procured.
It’s the same in everyday life. If you’re buying paperclips you probably don’t need too much reassurance that your supplier can do the job safely and cost-effectively. But if you’re looking for someone to do your car’s MOT or work on your boiler or electrics at home, you will want clearer proof of their credentials.
It’s the same in any kind of commercial procurement, including in rail. With 20,000 passenger services running every weekday, and 75 million tonnes of freight lifted every year, the country relies on safe, high-performing infrastructure and rolling stock in order to achieve demanding levels of availability and reliability.
Buying critical products can involve significant risk and requires high levels of supplier assurance. Buyers need to establish that suppliers are suitably competent, adequately resourced and can consistently deliver their products to the customer’s required specification.
One finding of the public inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove train crash that occurred in 1999 was that suppliers of products should be required to hold an accreditation.
But the need to acquire these assurances could potentially cause companies to duplicate one another’s knowledge and evaluation of suppliers and processes. Or it could risk a reliance on underwhelming audits that don’t provide sufficient confidence. Either can result in poor business performance and unnecessary cost, as well as compromising optimum safety in the railway system.
This is where industry schemes help.
RISAS ensures key suppliers can become recognised as best-in-class at delivering the most challenging and high-risk products and services. The initial scope is critical goods and services for the overhaul of rolling stock assets and components—essentially the rail vehicle after-market sector.
Set up by RSSB in 2006, RISAS sets a challenging assessment for suppliers by a Railway Industry Supplier Approval Body (RISAB). The assessment involves on-site interviews and evaluations to get proof that the company can meet the standards expected.
On passing the assessment, the company is awarded a RISAS certificate covering the relevant products and services. These details are added to the RISAS website which holds a searchable database of companies who hold RISAS certificates and details of the products and services they cover.
The result is a trusted, independent, third party assessment of suppliers, done thoroughly once, and so avoiding the need for each company to audit and assess separately.
The scheme is successful and currently holds information for over 70 companies with RISAS certification. RISAS is the only official scheme for meeting the requirements the Rail Industry Standard on Supplier Assurance (RIS-2750-RST). It helps rail companies meet the legal requirements for managing supply chain risk.
However, there are questions about whether RISAS can continue to meet industry’s needs while remaining in its current form.
For starters, companies involved in other aspects of critical product procurement are excluded by being out of scope. Why should companies involved in signalling software or point motors be shut out of a scheme that could improve the safety and cost-effectiveness of their supply chains? Isn’t there a benefit to whole system safety to be seized here? Expanding the scope to all relevant safety critical products and services in—as originally envisaged when the scheme was introduced—is being explored.
Second, to keep the scheme going, it has been heavily subsidised by RSSB and hence the industry via member funding. There has been no capital investment since it was set up. We need to look at a better model that secures better value for money. RISAS needs to be able to ‘pay its way’ and generate revenue that can be recycled back into improving supplier assurance and making a better, safety railway, meeting member needs through RSSB’s business plan.
Finally, we need to ensure it plugs into wider supplier assurance services. There is still confusion between RISAS and the sister scheme RISQS. The two schemes do different things, but they coul be better connected.
We want to examine these opportunities in detail, and where possible, make them a reality in RISAS. RSSB has begun working with key experts from buyers, suppliers, approval bodies and other stakeholders through working groups on scope, risk ranking, and technical expertise.
These activities will mean the rail industry is in charge of its own destiny. They will ensure the scheme retains one of its biggest selling points which is being rail industry-owned, with full governance and control via RSSB.
Our working assumption is that we could be launching a revamped scheme in 2021.
In the meantime, RISAS still operates with the after-market rolling stock scope as before. Companies can continue to apply for new or renewed certification via approval bodies. But hopefully in the future, the scheme will be able to offer far, far more.