Definition Accreditation vs. Certification vs. Traceability - What are the differences?



Accreditation, Certification, Traceability:
I have to explain the difference between the three in English to my peers and employees. Can someone explain them in English to me? Can I have some detailed descriptions?
First we have a cal. lab who is certifed but not accredited. Then we have labs not certified or accredited but traceable to NIST. Help! I'm confused. (again). Someday I hope I can help someone else on here. Thanks ahead of time....


Fully vaccinated are you?
Traceability is your ability to track materials and products. The extent of traceability is the strictest of: Customer Requirement or Industry Standard. Example, injection molded toy soldiers are not typically serialized nor is there (well, last time I really looked at one was quite a few years ago) a lot number. It's not important. There is nothing critical. Etc. On the other hand, if you buy a computer, its chassis is serialized as well and some components (including the CPU) are serialized. These in the computer example, with the customer being the final user, are really determined by industry standard with the exception of the chassis serial number which people expect in large part because of theft and insurance loss issues.

As far as a sole definition of Traceability, ummmm, well, ya got me there.

I see Accrediation in context of 'An Accreditation Board', whether for colleges or other businesses (there are 5 entries for ACCREDIT in my dictionary). The general thrust is 'To give credit or authority to' and 'to confer credit or authority on'.

I see Certification in context mostly as where one company 'certifies' another or where a company 'certifies' a product or other output where the 'certification' is their statement (promise) that something complies with something. When I think of certification I also think of a C of C which used to just be a statement of compliance/conformance (everyone asks for data now...).

Certification - in my dictionary to Certify is to 'Testify to' but there are 4 definitions - One of which is 'To guarantee the quality or worth of'. On the other hand, one definition is to 'Declare officially insane' (which may or may not apply to us for being involved in this mess...) while another reads 'To testify by formal declaration, usually written."

In so far as Accreditation and Certification go, I pretty much see them as synonomous in so far as how and what we use them for. Actually, though, I see Certification more than Accreditation. And then comes Registration. In fact, I see all these companies saying they are ISO Certified. Ummm, well maybe. They went to a registrar - which registered them. Some of us claim (mainly the English) that a company should state they are registered, not 'certified'.

I guess I confused the issue - I certainly don't see much of the 'plain English' which you were seeking in my diatribe...

[This message has been edited by Marc Smith (edited 12-29-98).]

Russ Jackson

According to ISO 8402 (Quality Management and Quality Assurance - Vocabulary) traceability is defined as "ability to trace history, application, or location of an entity by means of recorded identifications". Theoretically, products can be traced back to mother earth if records are so maintained. But the standard allows flexibility in defining the level of traceability required and the process by which it is accomplished. The level of traceability may be defined by your own internal requirements or by customer requirements.

The definitions of accreditation and certification are not quite as clear though.
Generally accreditation is the means that an authoritative body uses to give formal recognition that an organization is competent to carry out specified tasks. For example, RAB accredits registrars to manage audit programs for the purpose of certifying conformance of quality systems to the ISO standards.

Registration and certification are used interchangeably and have the same meaning. Usualy certification or registration are recognition of conformance to some higher or recognized requirement. An accredited organization performs certification or registration.

I suggest that you visit to learn more about registration and the RAB program. This is the new site for RAB which has recently gone on line, seperating it from the AQS site.


Fully vaccinated are you?
From: owner-iso25 - On Behalf Of
Greg Gogates
Sent: Friday, March 17, 2000 11:34 AM
To: iso25
Subject: Certification vs Accreditation

From: "J.R. 'Ferg' Ferguson" uscg_ret
Reply-To: uscg_ret

To: ListSvr , shunt
Subject: Certification vs Accreditation

Would someone please clear this up for me -

The 3rd Ed. QS stated:

4.10.7 Accredited Laboratories:
"Commercial/independent laboratory facilities used by the supplier shall be accredited laboratory(see Glossary) facilities."

Accredited Laboratory is one that has been reviewed and approved by a nationally recognized accreditation body (e.g. American Association for Laboratory Accreditation(A2LA) or the SCC)] for test laboratory accreditation to ISO/IEC guide 25 or National equivalent."

Commercial/independent calibration facilities shall be accredited to ISO/IEC Guide 25 or national equivalent or have evidence, E.g., assessment by an OEM customer or an OEM Customer approved second party, that they meet the intent of ISO/IEC Guide 25 or national equivalent."

ok - the question is: We have companies around here that are 'selling' that they are 'certified' to ISO Guide 25 - statement to them is that mere certification is does not meet the intent of QS9000 3ed as stated ....

.... would someone speak to the direct differences between being certified as guide 25 compliant and being accredited to guide 25?

I know what I think - but I would like someone to confirm...., certified, speaks to the administrative compliance to guide 25, e.g., having level one and two documentation in place ....

....and two, Accreditation, speaks to both administrative compliance and technical competency of those actually making the measurements and providing traceability w/uncertanty...

the latter being the only one that meets the intent of QS9000


Jim Ferguson
Operations Manager
Tennessee Scale Works Inc


Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2000 11:26:18 -0500
From: Kenneth Gimmi kjgqmt
To: Greg Gogates iso25
Subject: RE: Certification vs Accreditation

At the current time, Accreditation that is INTERNATIONALLY recognized through Memorandae of Agreement for ISO/IEC Guide 25 is accomplished in the United States by having either A2LA or NVLAP perform your Accreditation. If the sole intent of your recognition is to meet the requirements of QS9000 3rd Edition, then you have the option of using LAB. This is a group of QS9000 registrars currently "recognized" by some members of the AIAG as capable of issuing a statement of ISO/IEC Guide 25 Compliance. As the discussions on this list have indicated in the past, LAB may at some future time become recognized internationally through MOAs.

It should also be noted that the RAB has issued an Advisory on this matter. This document states in part,

The registrar shall inform its supplier client that theirs is a quality system registration which is not the same as accreditation by a recognized laboratory accreditor. The registrar shall also inform its supplier client that quality system registration to ISO 9001 or 9002 is not equivalent to a laboratory accreditation to ISO/IEC Guide 25. Finally, the registration certificate shall not reference ISO/IEC Guide 25.

It goes further to state that a certificate of calibration issued by a company that is ONLY registered to ISO 9000 shall not be allowed by the registrar to use the registration mark on their certificates. It states, "A certification / registration body shall not permit its marks to be applied to laboratory test and calibration reports, as such reports are deemed to be products in this context."

You should also note that if the QS9000 3rd Edition is replaced by ISO TS16949, as it seems that it will be, there will be no options like those mentioned in 4.11.2.b.1 of " . . . or have evidence, E.g., assessment by an OEM customer or an OEM Customer approved second party, that they meet the intent of ISO/IEC Guide 25 or national equivalent." ISO TS 16949 only cites ISO 17025 accredited labs.

Kenneth Gimmi
Senior Consultant, Measurement Services Division
Excel Partnership, Inc.
Consulting and Public Training in Calibration, ISO 17025, and Uncertainty.
(800) 641-6799 Ext. 348

Eric H

Example, injection molded toy soldiers are not typically serialized nor is there (well, last time I really looked at one was quite a few years ago) a lot number. It's not important. There is nothing critical. Etc.

I realize that this post is ancient history (1998?), and this is ever so slightly off-topic, but I just want to note that as of 2008, thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), this is absolutely not true. If those toy soldiers can conceivably be shown to be marketed in the US to children 12 and under, you will have to produce a General Certificate of Compliance (GCC) based on testing by a CPSC-accredited lab that those toy soldiers have lead and phthalate contents below legally specified limits. They have to be labeled in such a way that you can trace the lot.

Sorry, that's the new law.
Top Bottom