For World Quality Week, FCN’s Quality Manager Lee Major writes about the cost of implementing quality standards.

“All too often across many industry sectors, the question is asked, ‘what is the cost of accreditation’?

This question is often misinterpreted as it has two key components, firstly, what the cost of accreditation is and secondly, what is the cost of quality? On the surface, these components may sound similar, but the reality is that they are quite different. Intrinsically linked, certainly, but quite distinct from each other.

It is often quoted that the cost of accreditation includes staff, validation materials, dedicated resource time, and proficiency testing (the list goes on). But surely these costs are simply the cost associated with doing the right thing? Providing quality of service, embedding a process of continual improvement, and ensuring that an organisation's output is fit for purpose. I have seen eye-wateringly large sums of money quoted as the cost of accreditation, yet when analysed, the bulk of this cost could be attributed to simply doing the right thing. Take forensics, for example; without the Forensic Science Regulator, would we not validate our methods? The thought of that does not sit well with my quality conscience.

Of course, quality and accreditation are not infallible; mistakes can and do still happen. But by having an effective QMS framework, I would hope they would be identified, investigated, and actions implemented to prevent reoccurrence. For me, that is the ethos of a quality conscience; it's not about perfection, it is about the continual journey towards excellence.

I admire those organisations operating within a QMS when there is no legislative or regulatory requirement. For me, that demonstrates a real quality conscience. Of course, there may not be a third-party assurance, and perhaps they can be a little less compliant in some areas, but it still shows they have a quality focus.

So, when asked what the cost of compliance is (which is almost always a financial figure), I suggest flipping that question on its head and asking what the cost of non-compliance is, as that cost goes far beyond economic costs and includes reputation, customer satisfaction, consistency and much more. And let's be clear that this doesn't have to be the cost of compliance with an ISO standard. This can be compliance with an internal policy or process.

We cannot ignore the fact though, that there are costs associated with quality, it requires investment in time, resources, facilities, and equipment. Within police forensics, we have a strong quality conscience, but we also need to ensure that we make the best use of resources. This is where work undertaken by the FCN comes in, our SARC projects that are centrally validating processes, the FCN have produced a GTD pack for Digital Forensics, and we offer Accreditation Support visits, all of which are detailed on our website and designed to lessen the individual burdens on police forces.” 

You can find out more about the quality support we offer on our website. Quality Support | FCN

FCN is funded by the Home Office – we do not charge for our services.

Our remit is to support forensic science, providing national coordination and guidance. About FCN | Who we are