Certifications and quality are part of everyday life, whether or not everyone knows it. GOSTs, ISO, DIN, and EN certificates and other standards help regulate the production, supply, and use of many commonplace items. Certification is a guarantee of product safety and verification of its compliance with international standards.
At the same time, these standards are not necessary only in B2C sectors. Perhaps even more important is quality control in B2B markets. When shipping thousands of tons of cargo worth millions of euros, every detail matters – every process should be debugged and verified. And such tests yield certifications. We talked with Vladislav Aleinikov, Head of the Quality, Environment and Safety Department at AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG, about the importance of certification for transport and logistics companies and what it provides for clients.
How did compliance with standards become important in the logistics and transport business? Why did AsstrA decide to get involved?
With the growth of international trade at the beginning of the 21st century, many formerly domestic-focused companies began to go global. When enterprises from different countries are involved in large projects, questions arise about how to control the quality of their services, what are considered good business practices, and what the baseline is for judging results.
AsstrA first became ISO 9001 compliant in order to streamline internal processes and meet market demands from key partners and clients. The implementation of AsstrA’s quality management system started in 2002, and the company received certification after two years of thoroughly restructuring key processes. This system incorporates a number of key business principles such as involving all employees in the company’s growth, continued corporate development, and customer focus. ISO 9001 certification gives customers objective proof that they are working with a reliable partner and receiving proven services.
In 2013, as a response to the growing importance of protecting our planet in modern times, Asstra was certified ISO 14001 compliant in environmental management. And in 2016, the AsstrA health and safety management system received OHSAS 18001 certification. All these certificates are not “one-shot” affairs and require upholding requirements from year to year. In 2019, the AsstrA corporate group was once again re-certified in each of these areas. This proves that the system not only works but works very well, in fact.
When choosing a supplier of transport and logistics services, in addition to standard indicators you should look for highly specialized, industry-specific certificates like ISO 22000 for the transportation of food products, GDP for the transportation of pharmaceutical products, and SQAS for the transportation of chemical products. Since the AsstrA group works with all of these types of cargo, obtaining these certificates has become a key priority during recent years.
What procedures are necessary to follow to get an ISO certificate? How is an international corporate group assessed?
Currently, AsstrA is represented in Europe, the CIS, and Asia. Therefore, the company receives an "umbrella" certification. This means that the legal entities of the group are tested under a single brand and are listed in the annex to the certificate. Despite the considerable geographical diversity of AsstrA offices and a certain differences in mentality across borders, a common corporate culture and adherence to ISO standards allow us to successfully pass audits from year to year.
How does certification help clients?
Certificates are a competitive advantage as they are often a prerequisite for cooperation with large multinational companies. Working only with certified contractors shows that the firm supports generally accepted rules of doing business and prioritizes improving its performance with regards to quality, environment, and safety.
In addition, the implementation of international ISO standards is a recognized tool for improving the transparency and manageability of a company. This in turn results in the best products and services for clients. When operations are structured and streamlined, the probability of crisis situations is dramatically reduced. A clear and understandable internal structure helps solve any difficulties that may arise.
AsstrA works with Bureau Veritas, one of the largest European certification bodies. Certification was carried out according to standards set by the Swiss accreditation body SAS (Schweizerischen Akkreditierungsstelle).
You have been certified in basic and specialized quality assurance. What’s next?
In 2019, AsstrA will replace with OHSAS 18001 certification with that of ISO 45001, a new standard for occupational safety that is integrated into common ISO guidelines. Its implementation will reduce paperwork and improve efficiency in labor protection. AsstrA will continue to improve its internal processes using Lean Management techniques.