Rail Industry Focus


Improving Supplier Assurance

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/March 2013

Porterbrook has just become the third ROSCO to achieve RISAS (Railway Industry Supplier Approval Scheme) certification. RTM talks to RSSB’s RISAS scheme manager Brian Evans about the value of RISAS and next steps in assurance.

RISAS, the Railway Industry Supplier Approval Scheme, has been operating since 2006, as a result of work by the crossindustry engineering and procurement working group supported by RSSB with input from Network Rail, RIA, and ROSCOs and ATOC.

The scheme is currently focused on rolling stock systems, sub-systems and components.

RSSB’s RISAS scheme manager Brian Evans explained the initial aims of the scheme, saying: “The aim was to reduce the volume of audits in the industry, whilst improving their quality and effectiveness, in relation to the procurement of critical products particularly.”

The creation of RISAS also formed an industry response to the requirements of the ORR and was recognised by them as meeting the needs of recommendation 24 of the Cullen report into the Ladbroke Grove rail crash.

Procuring with confidence

Evans explained: “RISAS is all about enabling duty holders and other customers to procure critical products, at the high risk end, with confidence. RISAS ensures clients are able to rely upon common third party assessments by approval bodies accredited by RSSB (see list below).

“These approval bodies assess the adequacy of key supply procedures, practices and competences to manage risk arising from the specialist nature of rail industry applications. What singles RISAS out is that it’s not a systems driven audit as such; it’s a process assessment. An audit is management systems driven; you could say you’ve got a quality management system in response to a questionnaire – you get a tick in the box.

“What RISAS does is actually follow that through: the process of delivery and application of systems and of the competence of the individuals involved, right through to the shop floor level where the product being assessed is actually overhauled and delivered to the customer. It provides assessment and validation of management systems, processes and procedures right to the delivery end, confi rming that the supplier ‘does what it says on the tin’.”

From pre-meeting to accreditation

We asked Evans to talk us through the process that would have been involved in Porterbrook gaining its accreditation, announced on January 29.

He explained: “After the ROSCO applied for a given product area captured by RISAS, they tender to select from one of the fi ve approval bodies to deliver this approval service – who are themselves accredited and regularly monitored by RSSB to ensure their competence. There is then a pre-assessment planning meeting held with the approval body and the ROSCO to talk through the process of assessment. Product/competence/company specific supplementary assessment criteria are developed and it is agreed at that point that there is a selective range of evidence required to follow up on and assess these elements and the management processes in place. For example, in this case from a procurement perspective they would select, say, two significant contracts Porterbrook have been involved in as evidence of the management of the product in question and their supply chain interfaces, to demonstrate that they offer a quality safety ‘product’ on behalf of themselves and indeed to their customers, as a leasing company.

“Having got that evidence together then the RISAB [Lloyds Register Rail Ltd, in the Porterbrook example] would put together a plan which will go through the processes in the management system end-to-end and effectively – unlike tick box audits – focusing particularly on any identifi ed shortcomings. It will ensure they are identified and seek to dive really deep into those areas where there are some concerns identified in the assessment process.

“That’s not to say it’s about tripping up a supplier. It’s about understanding how, through the process of assessment and certification, suppliers can be supported to close those shortcomings.”

Improvement and action plans

The RISAB identify ‘required actions’ or make ‘observations’ of high, medium and low importance. In that event most suppliers will, when they meet and close out those actions, be able to meet the required standard for approval and certification.

But the process is ongoing after certification too, Evans said: “It’s not a case of having a certificate on the wall, it expires in three years’ time and ‘we’ll see you then’. It’s about building a relationship.

“Any required actions will be managed out to an agreed action plan and throughout the duration of that certifi cation and approval, any other issues that may arise would lead to that approval body coming back in to work with a supplier to overcome them.

“I’ve been a RISAB assessor before I came into this role. I personally assessed another ROSCO which was the fi rst of the three to gain RISAS certifi cation in 2009 and what you tend to find in managing the process and going through the competences and delivery processes is that you work together and come up with ideas for further improvement and identify opportunities to build on good practice.

“It’s been likened to to free consultancy. It’s not designed to trip up; it’s designed to identify good practice and equally, where poor practice is identified, you work with a supplier to change that.”

After the confirmation of RISAS certification, Porterbrook operations director Alex White said: “RISAS is tangible proof of our capabilities in controlling the risk generated by procuring rolling stock maintenance and overhaul requirements.”

Re-modelling supplier assurance

RSSB is also working on another linked project, re-modelling supplier assurance, which is currently costing the industry £100m a year.

Evans said: “We reckon we can save significant amounts of that by improving its effectiveness and efficiency, firstly by aligning requirements to cut out duplication and overlap.”

He said that while RISAS is a thorough and ‘deep-dive’ assessment and not a ‘certificate-and-forget process’, “it’s still a snap shot in time”, hence the decision to look into further developing performance feedback. That would involve the client of the certificated supplier giving feedback on their experience in working with that supplier.

“That means we can either manage any issues immediately as they arise, and/or at least input that into tailoring the assessment or reassessment when it comes around, so we can focus on those things in particular and re-define our approach to these assessments in the future.

“At the end of the day, we have a shared supply base as an industry, and so many buyers experience the same problems with the same suppliers. However, they then try to manage it individually, rather than together as an industry. In our future model, we’d want to take this RISAS philosophy to a new level and assurance in general.”

A new risk methodology

RSSB is developing a risk methodology, to be applied to all products and services procured by GB rail rather than just the existing RISAS family, determining for each of them, based on risk, a standard assurance requirements and interventions model. This will increase the number of products and services assured by a RISAS-type philosophy.

Evans explained: “There will be a methodology produced, which – subject to industry approval – can be adopted and used by SMS duty holders with confidence. It is expected that it will increase the application of RISAS-style approach, as a result.”

Recognition and acceptance between schemes will become more important. Evans said: “For example, a train integrator may have IRIS [International Railway Industry Standard] approval, and yet at the moment a supplier may still be subjected to a further assessment process which may mirror that existing approval to a large extent. The future modelling seeks to recognise existing certifications.

“It would assess by exception based on gap analysis using the future risk methodology assessment models. It’s much more efficient and much more effective and will reduce costs to industry and its suppliers.” 

The five Rail Industry Supplier Approval Bodies (RISABs)

  • Halcrow Group Limited
  • SGS Correl Rail Limited
  • Railway Approvals Limited
  • Lloyds Register Rail Limited
  • Atkins Rail

(Image shows a Class 222 at Etches Park, Derby. Its owner, Eversholt Rail, got RISAS accreditation in 2011.)

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