RISAS Case Study: Unipart Rail

RISAS provides supplier assurance to the rail industry by operating a third-party assessment process for critical product and service certification. It looks at everything from processes to shop-floor attitudes. But what is it like to undergo such an assessment?

Unipart Rail has been involved in the support and development of RISAS and its objectives for many years. The company has always seen the benefits RISAS provides, ensuring safety, integrity and quality of product to its customers from a diverse domestic and international supply chain.

In early 2018, a team of expert assessors from the Rail Industry Supplier Approval Body (RISAB) visited Unipart Rail. Their task was to assess its application to be the first UK company to undertake and achieve the RISAS S02 Supply Chain module. This module was a major challenge for the company and a key part of its journey of continuous improvement and its quality management system.

‘To satisfy the requirements of the RISAS module we decided to review and restructure our total quality system architecture to meet not only these stringent demands, but also to align with the new ISO 9001 [2015] and RIS-2750-RST Rail Industry Standard on Supplier Assurance requirements,’ says Professor Stephen Ingleton, Unipart Rail Engineering Director.

‘Ultimately, this would put our business in good shape to meet the rigorous demands of any assessment conducted by RISAS in the future or changes in legislative requirements. The assessments were conducted over several days and were extremely meticulous. During the assessment the auditors demonstrated a deep and detailed understanding of the rail industry regulations and requirements and as a result, gained a unique understanding of our business operations.’

Richard Forrest Head of Engineering Assurance also adds, ‘We were very impressed with the detail reviewed and how the assessment covered all areas of the business, and both products and processes. This included areas where product safety and integrity are extremely critical such as change control and incident response.

‘One requirement of the RISAB is to understand process and product compliance for manufacturing and/or supply chain operations. This requires assessors to have deep understanding of the business management processes, and if they are sufficiently robust to ensure consistent compliance to customer requirement and effective management of risk.

‘Being compliant to requirements of the Supplier Accreditation Module (SAM) requires the business to have detailed process flows identifying the end-to-end process and should involve the different business functions including procurement, engineering, commercial, logistics and warehouse activities. These form the basis of a good quality management system which is vital to ensure product integrity.’

What have been the benefits to Unipart Rail and its customers?

‘The benefits of RISAS certification to Unipart Rail have been seen across our entire business operations, both maintaining and increasing confidence with our customers for the products and services we provide,’ says Professor Stephen Ingleton.

‘Achieving the RISAS standard has meant the improvement of our quality systems at all levels which, in turn, has reduced the number of product issues with customers. It’s raised quality and integrity even further throughout the associated supply chain, which is essential in a complex market with multiple stakeholders.

‘In terms of value, RISAS certification has reduced the number of external audits we now experience, and as a result many of our customers no longer see the need to undertake such assessments. It has also helped us attract new suppliers and customers from around the world as the standards provided under the RISAS umbrella are internationally recognised as the highest to achieve.

‘Overall we were extremely impressed with both the planning and depth of the assessments conducted in all areas of our business operation. It really tested us, our people, processes and procedures at every level of the organisation.

‘The approval bodies are only allowed to carry out RISAS assessments for modules they are accredited for and they work independently but under close scrutiny from RSSB. Additionally, the competence of the assessors is also regularly assessed and evident from the audits we supported.

‘Overall the RISAS Committee and the RISAS User Group work hard to promote the value of RISAS assurance and ensure that the scheme supports the safety of the rail industry. It is a combination of these facts that gives Unipart Rail and its customers confidence that RISAS is a major contributor to UK rail safety across the industry.’

What’s the ultimate benefit of RISAS?

By going through a deep dive assessment companies in the supply chain responsible for maintenance and overhaul of rolling stock—like Unipart Rail—are proving to be 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, and moving 75million tonnes of freight every year, 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. Therefore, it’s an authoritative, definitive scheme backed by infrastructure managers like Network Rail, train operators, freight operators, rolling stock leasing companies and the wider supply chain— including companies like Unipart Rail.

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 seriously consider RISAS if your buyers are asking for it.

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

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