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Interview
Q&A: John Reimer, Lead Assessor and Technical Expert on conformity assessments

November 27, 2020

Q&A: John Reimer, Lead Assessor and Technical Expert on conformity assessments

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Interview
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With 30 years of experience providing professional conformity services, we reached out to John Reimer, to learn more about his role as a Lead Assessor and Technical Expert at SCC. John has been integral in developing and teaching the Standards Council of Canada’s (SCC) courses for certification bodies, accreditation bodies, and inspectors. In this Q&A, he discusses his experience as an assessor and provides insights on the value of meeting international requirements and procedures for conformity assessments.

Q.

What is your role at the Standards Council of Canada?

A.

To put it simply, I check the people doing the checking. My role with SCC is to determine if certification and inspection bodies conform with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards that SCC determines are accreditation requirements.

Q.

You are not only an assessor, but you are also an instructor with SCC. How did you begin developing and delivering ISO/IEC courses?

 

A.

I have been doing assessments for a very long time. I performed my first assessment in 1991, back when SCC had their own standards. I have a deep understanding of conformity assessments after years of experience working with a variety of customers. I have been using ISO/IEC 17065 and 17020 standards since 2012. Because of my experience, SCC approached me to develop and teach these courses.

Q.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being an assessor?

A.

The most rewarding aspect is the remarkable competency and intellect of our customers. The people I have come to know through conducting accreditation assessments have shown an infinite amount of knowledge on technical topics and have demonstrated so many innovative business practices during my assessments.

Q.

Why should people take the ISO/IEC 17065 and ISO/IEC 17020 courses?

A.

I designed these courses so that others can learn from my field experience. I made sure to include plenty of case studies. I want people to gain valuable knowledge that they can apply to their own inspection or certification processes. After taking this course, participants should have a thorough understanding of the competencies required for proper evaluation, review, certification decision and surveillance for conformity assessments.

Q.

Why did you decide to become an assessor?

A.

I decided to become an assessor as I saw it as an excellent opportunity to learn how organizations developed and maintained excellence and to learn more about new technologies.

SCC customers in the certification program are nationally recognized, and SCC has a solid, respected reputation as a technical organization. SCC is often involved with innovative customers that look at new software for medical devices and new elevator technologies, which really interests me.

Q.

Can you give an example of how an assessment helped a customer?

A.

International standards are always evolving. I ensure our customers are at the forefront of implementing and understanding the latest standard updates. ISO first issued the standard for 17065 and 17020 in 2012 for certification and inspection bodies. The new standard had introduced the concept of competency criteria as distinct from credentials and experience.

Following the introduction of these standards, I assessed a customer in the construction industry. While looking at their management systems, it was evident that the customer had job descriptions, performance review forms, interview questions, and recruitment bulletins to meet the standards, yet no significant documentation to measure the competency criteria.

During the assessment process, the customer discovered a checklist it used for on-site monitoring of its personnel after being with the company for about two years.

It was a remarkably thorough presentation of the competency criteria.

The customer immediately recognized how important it was to implement the competency criteria at the beginning of the training and recruiting process. Now the customer has a robust human resources process that encompasses the standards, and it was a much easier fix than they thought.

Q.

What specific advice or service did you provide to a customer during an assessment that was beneficial?

A.

The primary assessment tool for providing value-add to the customer is the observation and, to some degree, the commendation in the Findings Report. For example, on several occasions, the team had issued an observation to a customer that they had recorded competency criteria items in a number of different documents such as job descriptions, performance review forms, monitoring forms, training plans, and recruitment interview forms but to improve the system they needed to harmonize all the different competency management tools to encompass criteria.

It appeared that different people developed the forms, and each had an idea of what competencies should have been recorded.

A simple observation to the customer of the lack of harmonization has supported the review of their process. It helped them make an informed decision on how each of these competency management tools best addresses the competency criteria.

Q.

How has your team had to change to facilitate remote assessments? 

A.

We have actually conducted remote assessments for about 29 years. The remote assessments started when we were based at one of our customer’s locations and had to assess another remote location that the customer operated. These early remote assessments taught us that technology did not always cooperate. With entire teams now working remotely, SCC has exponentially increased logistical planning required to set up for a remote assessment.

Q.

As you look ahead to the next decade how do you see technology changing the way we do assessments?

A.

New products are changing the way certifications and inspections are being completed. The products themselves are becoming more challenging to assess. In addition to looking at a physical product, it is now essential to look at its software and understand its operations.

I believe the entire assessment process will be software operated and controlled. There will no longer be documented procedures as we currently know them for SCC’s processes. The procedure items that are currently recorded in documents will hopefully be built into the software operating the processes.

During my time with SCC, there have been many thought-provoking assessments. I hope the one thing that stays the same is that customers continue to amaze me in their relentlessness in achieving accreditation.

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