The Saudi Aramco Research and Development Center (R&DC) recently expanded its ISO 17025 accreditation from 22 to 49 analytical and testing methods, now becoming the benchmark for accredited laboratories in the GCC.
ISO 17025 is an international quality management standard for analytical and testing laboratories. Compliance to its stringent requirements is assessed by internationally recognized third-party evaluators, the accreditation body.
A step up from ISO 9001 certification, ISO 17025 accreditation adds the element of competence, an important qualification for building trust and confidence among customers, laboratory staff and management. In an R&D environment, it is vital that data be trustworthy, meeting the strictest quality criteria.
ISO 17025 accreditation also plays an important role in the global economy. It is encouraged by the World Trade Organization (WTO), of which Saudi Arabia has been a member since December 2005.
Under the accreditation, products are "tested once - accepted everywhere," according to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the WTO.
Thus, laboratory accreditation facilitates international trade, building trust, saving time and money and avoiding legal battles or lengthy discount negotiations with the customer over doubts on product specifications.
As a leader in the field, R&DC recently organized a roundtable discussion titled, "Networking the ISO 17025 Accredited Laboratories in Saudi Arabia - Opportunities and Challenges."
Representatives came from Saudi Aramco area laboratories, Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), Saudi Arabian Standard Organization (SASO) and private labs. SASO and SABIC management credited R&DC for helping them with their ISO 17025 accreditation.
The roundtable gathering also was the venue as Dr. Kurt Ziegler, executive director and head of the German Accreditation and Testing Services Co., presented R&DC manager Dr. Omar S. Abdul-Hamid with the ISO 17025 accreditation certificate.
Abdul-Hamid thanked the R&DC staff for having received accreditation for such a large number of analytical methods, many of which were developed in-house. He emphasized the importance of quality management as an essential part of the center's strategy of achieving international recognition for excellence.
He also congratulated the staff for sharing knowledge with other laboratories, creating an environment of quality and contributing to the success of others.
Ziegler called R&DC's success astonishing. In a short time, he said, and despite a huge expansion in scope and a high proportion of in-house developed analytical methods, not a single nonconformity was detected by the evaluators during R&DC's assessment.
R&DC, in fact, was among just five of 170 laboratories his company had assessed during 2007 with zero nonconformities.
"The laboratories of Saudi Aramco as a matter of national pride might influence other Saudi Arabian industries to follow its example and obtain accreditation just like they did," Ziegler said.
Ziegler concluded by citing the final paragraph of the official ISO 17025 assessment report: "The accreditation can be granted to the laboratory ... without any conditions. It was a pleasure for the assessors to have such a competent and highly motivated team."
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