The Takata airbag scandal has a facet to it that, to date, has not been included in any ongoing investigation: the role of the ISO 9001 certification bodies and how much their auditors may have known — or not known — when Takata and Inflation Systems Inc. (ISI) plants were audited by them. For now, Oxebridge is virtually alone in its investigation of this angle, but perhaps not for long.

What we do know: the plants at the heart of the scandal were certified by Entela Inc. in the late 1990’s. Entela was, at that time, accredited by RAB, the US Accreditation Body which later underwent rebranding to its current name, ANAB. In 2004, Entela was purchased by competing registrar Intertek, and all certifications would have transferred as part of the sale. According to the former President of Entela, Kim Phillipi, the certificates “should have remained in [the] Entela name for several years after Intertek acquired” and thus records should be available.

Intertek claims it cannot find any such certificates, however. I reached out to Intertek representative Mark Evans in February 2015, and he contradicted Ms. Phillipi’s account — and the public press releases issued by Takata — entirely:

I checked Intertek’s active database and cannot find any information on a client(s) Takata or Inflation Systems Inc. I also happen to reside at the former Entela office in Kentwood, Michigan, USA that was acquired by Intertek about 11 years ago.  I  can’t find any archived certificate files for Takata and/or Inflation Systems, Inc. in the old Entela records.

A year later I  followed up, after I was advised by another industry source to reach out to Intertek VP Tim Hubbard. Hubbard threw it over the fence to Intertek VP Business Development David Muil, who responded with a voice mail invoking “confidentiality” and instead questioning my motivation for asking the question. I wrote him back twice thereafter, and never heard back.

The question should be simple on its face: who held the ISO 9001 certificates for Takata and/or ISI during that period. It’s even a requirement for registrars to provide the information when asked, per ISO 17021. Entela’s confusion make sense — they sold the company, after all, and since their certifications pre-dated the suspected design shenanigans.  It’s curious, however, that Intertek is giving conflicting information, questioning the rationale for the queries — is it tha thard to figure out? — and then going radio silent after effectively refusing to answer. That type of behavior typically is the smoke that eventually points to a fire.

But we still don’t know, and it’s critical for an agency, attorney or investigator with subpoena power to find out. People continue to die because of the problems, and it is likely an ISO auditor had some information which may have revealed the problem earlier. Questions also have to be asked of ANAB, which no doubt had conducted oversight activities, including audits, of the registrar in question, and very likely of the individual auditors who assessed the Takata plants.

This issue won’t go away because people refuse to answer phone calls or emails. If anything, it will only smolder further in the absence of solid answers.

About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.

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