New audit programme for Achilles Link-up

The new Link-up audit will align assurance requirements for the rail industry and reduce cost to suppliers, says Annette Gevaert, Director of Rail and Transport at Achilles.

Global supply chain risk management company Achilles is launching a new audit programme for Link-up, the supplier registration and qualification scheme in the UK rail industry. The new audit programme is the result of an extensive consultation with Link-up’s governing body – the Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme (RISQS) Board, Network Rail and the Link-up Audit WorkingGroup.

A series of innovations is expected to bring time and cost reductions for the vast majority of suppliers while providing greater assurance. The new Link-up audit is designed to consolidate and distinguish the assurance requirements of the industry, in terms of legal compliance, and for Network Rail as an infrastructure manager.

With wider acceptance in the industry, the Link-up Audit will reduce the need for repetitive supplier verification audits and help suppliers get a competitive advantage in the market place.

Four new audit modules will replace the current audit regime. Suppliers will undertake a streamlined audit, with modules assigned according to the nature of the services they provide, and their risk profile.

Finally, the new audit programme will introduce a ‘Star’ rating system, which will allow the best run companies to demonstrate their high level of performance. In addition, those businesses which score the highest mark for two years in a row will be able to benefit from a reduced audit frequency and will no longer need to undergo aspects of the audit in every year; having shown a clear commitment to maintaining the highest possible standards in health and safety.

The whole aim of Link-up is to streamline the pre-qualification process for the rail industry as much as possible. So we are pleased to introduce new measures which will reduce the time and cost of audit for buyers and suppliers.

In an attempt to close existing assurance gaps in the supply chain, the new audit process will now apply to companies that were previously exempt from the process – such as companies which subcontract a large amount of their work. The audit scope will also be more comprehensive and cover aspects such as occupational health management and railway possession planning.

Achilles and its rail community are committed to further improve the positive health and safety record of the UK rail industry as well as delivering continuous improvement. These changes will enable the real stars of our industry to shine as role models for the industry.

Richard Sharp, the RISQS Board Chair, said: “The change of governance to an independent cross industry board has allowed a greater level of change than has been seen previously with the only goals being the improvement of assurance at a pre-qualification level and the reduction in duplication making a more cost effective scheme, the change in audit is the next step in this vision.”

The changes to the audit programme will come into effect from early 2014 and are building on the new Achilles Link-up Engage platform, which is set to save the industry £5.5m a year.

There, Achilles worked in partnership with the RISQS Board, comprising rail buyers and suppliers from across industry, to launch the next generation of Achilles Link-up.

It offers a streamlined pre-qualification process, a shorter questionnaire, an intuitive user interface and advanced procurement features.