The Role of the Railway Industry Supplier Approval Body

Companies undergo a gruelling assessment to prove they are best-in-class and worthy of a RISAS certificate. But how do we know if they can keep achieving at that level? And what happens if something changes…?

RISAS provides for a single, robust and transparent ‘process based’ assessment of a supplier of critical rolling stock products and services.

Companies which want to hold a certificate with the Rail Industry Supplier Approval Scheme (RISAS) apply to have an assessment of their activity by an approval body—Railway Industry Supplier Approval Body (RISAB). RISABs are third party commercial organisations which specialise and hold accreditation in this type of assessment.

We at RSSB have two key roles in defining, developing and delivering RISAS: to manage the scheme, and to be the accreditation agency which authorises companies operating as RISABs.
The primary role of the RISAB is to conduct the assessment of the supplier, in line with what the scheme requires, all of which is documented to ensure consistency, objectivity, impartiality and professionalism for everyone concerned.

Maintaining the critical parts of rail vehicles means managing high levels of risk, so quite deliberately, the assessment is not for the faint-hearted. Nothing is taken for granted. The people and processes, along with the culture they’re operating in, from board room to shop floor, are all individually and closely reviewed and scrutinised. This provides proof that the company’s performance and operation indeed meets the high standard requirements of RISAS.

The beauty of having an objective third party doing the grilling and appraisal is that you end up with a single, independent and trusted assessment, which all buyers can recognise. While buyers know they need to ensure they obtain the right level of assurance in the right areas, the RISAS certificate does remove the need for extra audits or assessments going over the same ground again - saving time and money.

From a supplier’s perspective, following a demanding assessment, the moment the certificate is awarded is rightly celebrated as a tremendous achievement, as well as a commercial catalyst and victory for the workforce concerned.

However, it’s easily overlooked that RISAS is a monitored assessment – it’s not a case of getting a certificate, hanging it up in reception and then forgetting about it – this is not just a snapshot in time. 

Companies holding a RISAS certificate will need to stay in touch with their RISAB, to make sure they continuously perform in line with the requirements. RISABs themselves are also responsible for continuing to monitor companies who have been assessed and certificated. Most companies will agree monitoring arrangements at the same time as the initial assessment.

Any change to the business, operational change or a major event could trigger a phone call with the RISAB.  For example, if a company holding a RISAS certificate wants to introduce a new wheel lathe, this will result in changes in the risk profile of the company concerned. In these cases, the RISAB will need to check that changes are adequately managed and controlled and that the spirit and letter of activities is still in line with the certificate. 

Similarly, if safety concerns are raised by customers, or suppliers, through direct feedback or by implication via industry’s reporting systems such as National Incident Reporting (NIR), RAIB investigations, CIRAS reports etc, then it makes sense to ensure the RISAS certificate’s credibility is secure. 

It’s important to emphasise that the certificate holder is obliged to let their RISAB know if there are issues that might affect the efficacy of their certificate, be it production or operation issues, an internal problem or a report like an NIR.

The RISAB also has a proactive monitoring role. If a report is published (eg RAIB, NIR etc), that questions particular processes or even one of their clients, the RISAB should take notice and get in touch with the supplier in question.

The golden rule for certificate holders and RISABs alike is to flag these things up as early as possible, to ensure there is no interruption to the certificate’s validity.

The beauty of the scheme, being managed and overseen by RSSB, is that we also host and monitor a lot of safety data and intelligence ourselves, so we are an extra pair of eyes and ears on the process, aiding the sharing of information across the supply chain.

And it also means the scheme is collaborative. Monitoring isn’t just an excuse to keep tabs on each other, it’s a means of improving safety and performance for all. If an issue is uncovered that relates to one particular product or a particular buyer or supplier’s activities, it may also apply to others. Rather than perceive issues as failures or weaknesses, it can be more productive to see them as open and honest opportunities to better the whole industry. 

You can find more information about RISAS, including all the scheme documentation which supports the activities of the RISAB, monitoring and management of change in our dedicated RISAS section.

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Get in touch with our expert for more information.
John Barber
Tel: 020 3142 5588
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