Experiencing a RISAS assessment—Northern Rail

In September 2018, a team of expert RISAS assessors from RISAB (Railway Industry Supplier Assessor Bodies) SGS visited the train operator Northern at their Neville Hill depot for a surveillance assessment. Northern has been an advocate for RISAS since 2009, when their Heaton train care depot piloted a RISAS maintenance assessment to see if it worked for them.

‘RISAS has definitely had a positive effect on safety, reliability and efficiency,’ says Mick Cropper, Northern Engineering Quality Manager. ‘It provides one transferable assessment which reduces the audit burden and saves time and money in the long term.’

‘It’s the next level from ISO. RISAS is looking from the top down and bottom up and the assessors they bring in are real experts. For example, they’ll have a wheel lathe expert who will look in detail at the process and right down through the procedure.’

‘They sit down with the lads and ask them about their knowledge which is another step up beyond just looking at the procedure. The lads like the fact they look at every aspect.’

‘In practice the thorough RISAS process has improved compliance levels, procedures and processes, the workshop environment and working practices, and generally helped facilitate continuous improvement,’ he added.

‘Commercially we have gained third party work including heavy maintenance, fuelling and level 4 and 5 maintenance, and we have achieved two-yearly RISAS certification which indicates a high level of confidence in us and our capabilities.’

‘When receiving improvement recommendations that help push us forward to where we want to be—we see the value of RISAS. We know the rigorous standards expected and we’ve matured with the scheme.’

Experiencing a RISAS assessment—two views from the RISAS Committee

The assessment was witnessed by two members of the RISAS Committee, which oversees the operation of the scheme. Both of these individuals wanted to see how the certification process works on the ground.

George Bearfield, former committee chair:

‘It was clear that Northern valued the inspection activity, and really saw it as adding value and helping with the continuous improvement of their depot operations,’ he said.

‘In speaking to both SGS and Northern there was a shared view, confidently expressed, that long term commitment to RISAS had been instrumental in improving their maintenance activity.’

‘I came away with a good insight into the value the scheme currently adds, which provides support to the view that ongoing enhancement and development of it will be a real benefit to the industry.’

Neil Ovenden, RDG representative on the committee and subsequently Chair of the RISAS Committee:

‘As a representative of RDG I was interested to see for myself exactly what happens during an assessment of a train operating company as opposed to a supplier.

‘What really struck me was the level of detail the assessors required in certain areas. What I saw was a broad investigation but with really deep dives at arbitrary points. For example they followed through from finding a specific part used in the workshop to seeing it was properly listed and present in the stores.

‘I think the RISAB chose the areas for detailed investigations based on both experience of prior assessments but also with a little bit of deliberate randomness.

‘The interaction between the RISAB and Northern’s fleet management was friendly and collaborative and the guys on the floor didn’t have a negative impression of the assessment and weren’t being defensive. 

‘Overall, I was very impressed with the rigour of the assessment, as both an overview of how Northern undertake the work and also checks in greater detail on specific areas.’

What’s the ultimate benefit of RISAS?

By going through a deep dive assessment companies responsible for maintenance and overhaul of rolling stock—like Northern—are proving that they are capable of meeting industry’s needs safely and efficiently.

This means RISAS is helping to ensure we have high-performing rolling stock delivering 20,000 passenger services every day, safely.

There are also significant economies of scale for both buyers and suppliers. The virtue of such a thorough examination is that it reduces duplication of auditing and assessment of suppliers of critical materials and services.

A RISAS certificate is awarded by a third party—so neither the buyer or the supplier has to worry about being seen to be ‘marking their own homework’.

RISAS also represents continuous learning by the organisation. The scheme itself was set up in 2006, prompted by the outcomes of the public inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove train accident in 1999, which flagged the need to urgently improve control over critical component overhaul.

And lastly, the scheme belongs to the rail industry by virtue of being managed through RSSB—so it’s an authoritative, definitive scheme backed by the infrastructure managers like Network Rail, the train operators like Northern, freight operators, rolling stock leasing companies and the wider supply chain.

It is also recognised by the Office of Rail and Road, and supported by other rail bodies such as Rail Delivery Group and the Railway Industry Association.

Is RISAS for you?

If your organisation operates or maintains rolling stock, you need to manage the risk in your supply chain for the critical products and services you buy to ensure their safe and efficient. 

Many operating companies will oblige suppliers to hold relevant RISAS certification in order to meet a combination of legal and contractual requirements on safety.

If your organisation provides these critical products and services, you will also need to manage supply chain risk—and will need to seriously consider RISAS if your buyers are asking for it.

In either case RISAS will help provide the best level of assurance available at the same time as reducing duplication and cost.

For more information contact us:

The Helicon
1 South Place
London EC2M 2RB
Telephone: 020 3142 5300
Email: risas.admin@rssb.co.uk