Oxebridge has begun an independent investigation into the role of ISO certifications regarding the Kobe Steel scandal. It was recently reported that the Japanese steel manufacturer falsified durability data on steel wire products provided for the automotive, aerospace and other industries.

The purpose of the investigation will be to discover whether representatives of accredited third party certification bodies, or “registrars,” may have information which can be helpful in the ongoing official investigations by regulators and industry officials. Typically, ISO auditors have unprecedented access to design data, manufacturing procedures, employees and quality records that no other third party can obtain; as a result, such auditors typically have important information that could assist in such investigations. In a worse case scenario, certification body auditors may have known about such problems and kept the information hidden, while granting official ISO related certificates despite evidence of questionable practices.

Oxebridge’s previous reporting found that the Takata airbag inflator manufacturers held third party ISO 9001 certifications from a former certification body, Entela, which then transferred its clients to Intertek when the latter purchased the company; Intertek has since denied having any records of certifying any Takata companies, despite press releases openly discussing the Entela certifications. The certification body DNV has also certified a number of Takata companies. Neither Intertek nor DNV were ever brought into the resulting investigations, despite their auditors possibly having critical information to share.

Certification body BSI was found to have issued an ISO 9001 certificate to the Houston based BP Oil management firm that oversaw the Deepwater Horizon rig prior to, and after, the explosion that resulted in the worst man-made environmental disaster in human history; BSI has since refused to comment on how they issued the certificate.

For Kobe Steel, a cursory examination shows that Lloyds Register QA (LRQA) had certified a welding division of the company, but it is unlikely that division had anything to do with the steel wire plants which falsified the durability data. LRQA had previously been involved in a scandal whereby it helped the Hungarian division of Hoerbiger cover up an attempt to fraudulently gain access to an INA Oil contract through the submission of a counterfeit ISO 9001 certificate that bore the LRQA logo; rather than report Hoerbiger, LRQA granted the company a valid  certificate in exchange for a 3-year auditing contract. The certificate was dated the same day as the audit, raising serious questions as to whether an audit was even conducted.

Oxebridge is also investigating the ISO certification history behind Kobe’s affiliate, Shinko Wire, which also was found to have falsified material data.

Kobe Steel claims to hold a number of third party certifications which operate under the IAF accreditation scheme, including ISO 9001, IATF 16949 and AS9100. In addition, it claims to hold Nadcap special process accreditation under PRI.