An official press release from the ISO certification body Intertek announces that it will be buying competitor SAI Global Assurance. SAI announced it was soliciting buyers for its ISO certification wing back in 2016, but could not close a deal until now.

SAI itself purchased another registrar, QMI, in 2008. The company has struggled repeatedly with staffing and auditor pool issues, resulting in clients losing their ISO 9001 and AS90100 certifications due to SAI’s inability to provide audits within the directed time frames. In 2018, SAI lost its accreditation for nearly every certificate type it issued, and a company representative admitted to Oxebridge that this was over “scheduling issues and a backlog of unscheduled audits.”  While the suspension was eventually lifted, as recently as last week Oxebridge clients are still reporting incidents where SAI auditors simply never show up to conduct audits.

Remarkably, SAI has not been hit with any lawsuits over its contractual violations to date.

SAI has been plagued with controversy:

  • The US Dept. of Defense found 41 major AS9100 nonconformities at a Pratt Whitney site certified by SAI; despite the public report, SAI took no action to suspend or withdraw the Pratt Whitney certification.
  • SAI head of aerospace, Deann Minamino, created a policy argument allowing the CB to ignore requirements for recording objective evidence through interviews, simply because SAI’s auditors had “moved away” from obeying the rule.
  • An Australian trash hauling company that killed a grandmother maintained ISO 9001 and safety certificates issued by SAI, despite the death.
  • An SAI-certified aircraft repair station was found to be falsifying repair data, resulting in the arrests of two employees, but nevertheless maintained their AS9110 certification.
  • A company that was found to be falsifying submarine construction data for decades had undergone 27 audits by SAI and QMI, but maintained its ISO 9001 certification throughout the scandal.
  • FLIR surveillance was forced to pay penalties of $35M due to over three hundred separate ITAR violations, but nevertheless maintained its SAI certification to AS9100.
  • Chinese companies certified by SAI were found to be shipping known defective products to aerospace manufacturer MOOG.
  • Two security firms in Australia linked to a COVID outbreak in that country held occupational health and safety certificates issued by SAI.

ISO’s head of TC 176 Subcommittee 2, which authors the ISO 9001 standard, briefly held a position as accreditation manager at SAI. Paul Simpson held the position for a few months, but was either let go or resigned.

Intertek has had far fewer controversies than SAI, but was at the center of one high-profile scandal. Intertek previously purchased the certification body Entela, which had certified the Takata airbag facilities later found to be responsible for the worldwide defects. That scandal resulted in the largest automotive recall in history, and led to the humiliating resignations of multiple senior officials at Toyota and other automakers. Intertek then claimed it had “no records” of having certified Takata, a point disputed by one former Entela official.

In general, however, many of SAI’s problems may be resolved if Intertek brings new management to its ISO certification activities.

The purchase of SAI by Intertek is scheduled to be concluded later this year. The purchase is limited to SAI Global Assurance, and does not include other divisions within the parent company, SAI Global Group.

Because accreditation bodies like ANAB and UKAS receive fees based on the number of clients a CB has, the Intertek/SAI merger will grant Intertek even greater powers with its accreditation bodies, reducing their willingness to enforce accreditation violations against the enlarged organization.

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