Any ambitious business must make a journey of continual improvement. Taking such a path is the only way to stay ahead of the field, meet ever-more exacting customer expectations and – just as crucially – satisfy industry standards as they evolve.
Becoming recognised for a particular set of skills and a reliable, consistent standard of performance excellence takes time and investment, but ultimately it differentiates you in your market and underpins your reputation.
Across many industries, especially highly regulated ones, manufacturers and suppliers demonstrate their expertise through a mix of audits, compliance checks and certification.
Without this cast-iron proof of their know-how, they are unlikely to win contracts to supply their goods and services.
Because we serve such an extremely wide variety of sectors – from municipal water to oil and gas, food service to pharmaceuticals – Amazon Filters is well versed in meeting the challenges of official standards accreditations, formal and informal customer audits and regulatory inspections.
Two of our team members, Rebecca Andrews and Keith Wickert, personify the body of knowledge that Amazon Filters has built up in the 37 years since it was founded. Both speak with pride, passion and first-hand insight about how their work benefits the company, its staff and its customers.
As Health & Safety and Facilities Manager, Rebecca leads on occupational Health & Safety for colleagues in seven buildings at Amazon Filters’ production centre in Camberley, Surrey.
She has gained successive promotions during her ten years at Amazon Filters and cites a recent instance of external praise as indicative of how well the business is doing.
“We had finished an external Health & Safety audit with a third-party inspector which had to be done remotely because of Covid restrictions,” Rebecca recalls. “It was for the ISO 45001 standard and involved lots of management system analysis. The inspector congratulated us for being one of only two companies out of 200 he and his team had audited that he believed is truly continuously improving across different processes. It’s fantastic to have that kind of independent endorsement, so welcome.”
Rebecca says continual improvement in Health & Safety and other areas of audit can only come about with the buy-in of every team member, starting right at the top with Managing Director Neil Pizzey and fellow board directors.
“Senior management need to practise what they preach,” says Rebecca, who leads a team of four including two facilities technicians. “Here at Amazon Filters, they are very supportive. The buck stops with the MD. It’s essential that he backs up Health & Safety and he does. That focus carries on through the whole team. Everyone does Health & Safety training, some in-person and some online through our learning portal depending on their job role. The engagement is great. We ensure everyone is trained so they know exactly what they need to do from handling equipment to keeping essential system documentation up to date.”
Amazon Filters has supported Rebecca through accredited training courses as part of her career development. As a result, she has gained a host of qualifications in subjects such as business administration, specific technical areas, complex engineering support tasks and ‘train the trainer’ skills.
“I love my job,” she says. “I am passionate about improving Health & Safety. Getting it right for the people who work here is paramount. Our message to individual employees is that if we all stay safe, you stay safe. And if we have a continually improving safety climate, our reputation can grow because of that. It all goes hand in hand.”
Keith Wickert agrees. As Technical Manager, Keith has responsibilities that involve regular audits and inspections for accreditations.
“We have formal audits from BSI on the ISO standards,” says Keith. “While the main groundwork on demonstrating processes and requirements is well established, ISO continue to evolve their technical accreditations with regular refinements so it’s essential to stay up to date.
“We also have audits that reflect the requirements of particular sectors. Regulated industries will tend to be more exacting. In pharmaceuticals, for example, the intensity of Quality auditing for ISO 9001 can be very high with customers keen to assess our performance thresholds. At the same time, an oil and gas customer interested in environmental credentials may have an enhanced focus on ISO14001. The intensity of the audit depends on how vital your product is to their process.”
For municipal water companies, Amazon Filters has to ensure its SupaSpun II filters comply with Regulation 31 of The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2016.
“This is a recognised standard that is overseen by the Drinking Water Inspectorate,” explains Keith. “SupaSpun II is an officially-approved product used in the purification and supply of public water. To ensure it is R31-compliant, there are tests by an independent laboratory to make sure there is no risk of any contaminants making their way into the water supply. Under the DWI’s rules, we can’t make any changes to the product without review, testing and approval by them.”
There are also formal audits to show that manufacturing processes comply with rules on halal and kosher products. After site visits and demonstration of compliance, certificates are issued by the Halal Food Authority and the London Beth Din Kashrut Division respectively.
Being a global exporter, Amazon Filters products also have to meet differing governmental standards laid down in, for example, EU food contact regulations and the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration. To demonstrate this, the company supplies Product Validation Guides for all major manufactured items and ensures its manufacturing processes comply with GMPs or Good Manufacturing Practices.
As well as the technical demands of official regulators and industry-wide organisations, Keith and Rebecca manage the process of responding to customer audits. These can take the form of both on-site visits and written questionnaires covering subjects such as environmental sustainability, Quality management, ethical trading, Health & Safety, anti-bribery and the prevention of modern slavery.
Keith says: “Customer audits have a very positive outcome. People are happy with our systems and comfortable that we are a reliable supplier. We’re seen as a very open company, with staff happy to provide information readily.
“From our point of view, every audit is an opportunity to learn and develop. Customers also learn from what we are doing. It works both ways. The customers are very complimentary about the passion and knowledge of our staff and how helpful we are to them.”
Summing up Amazon Filters’ overall approach to audits, compliance checks and standards accreditations, Rebecca goes back to her Health & Safety remit and says: “I am proud that in all my time here we have never once had an enforcement notice. That is only because our whole team realise how important Health & Safety is for the business. Looking to the future, we will continue to measure the safety climate to make sure the culture long-term is always where it should be.”
For more information on Amazon Filters’ approach to compliance and regulation, visit https://www.amazonfilters.com/company-information/compliance?hsLang=en