Negotiating the complexities of defence industry packaging accreditation
Companies engaged in packaging for the MOD have to meet specified requirements. Gary Reed of Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance explains to defence writer Mark Lane what these standards are.
All companies which design, manufacture, supply and pack material entering into the Joint Supply Chain (JSC) must do so to a standard acceptable to the Ministry of Defence.
The aim of the Military Packagers Approval Scheme (MPAS) is to ensure that where military-level packaging is specified it is designed and manufactured in compliance with all the relevant defence standards.
MPAS, which was introduced in June 2012, is based on Defence Standard (Def Stan) 81-41 Pt 1-6. Any companies which supply material packed to military level to the MOD must ensure the packaging operation complies with MPAS, and that they are ISO 9001 certified.
The scheme is audited as part of a company’s ISO 9001 certification and only MPAS-certified designers can submit a Service Packaging Instruction Sheet (SPIS) design to be used within the JSC.
MPAS does not cover the packaging requirements for munitions, fuel, lubricants, pharmaceuticals and food.
Suppliers accredited to the old standard Military Packaging Capability Accreditation Scheme (MPCAS, also known as DR14) were obliged to make the transition to MPAS by September 2013 and any new contractors had to be accredited under the new MPAS requirements.
One organisation which helps businesses achieve MPAS accreditation is Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA), which provides independent assessment services including certification, validation, verification and training across a range of standards and schemes, including MPAS.
Part of Lloyd’s Register Group, LRQA is a global organisation, working in more than 120 countries.
Gary Reed, LRQA Business Development Manager, explains: “The whole aim of MPAS is to ensure that packaging meets the MOD requirements for safe handling, storage and transportation within the military supply chain in a cost-effective manner.
“In summary, it is based on ISO 9001 and it is supplemented by eight additional military packaging specific requirements. It is to ensure military packaging contractors can demonstrate through third-party certification – through bodies such as LRQA – that they have an effective packaging, design and manufacturing process with the right facilities and that the packaging designers have got suitable experience, training and competence.’’
MPAS accreditation is done as part of an ISO 9001 certification process and a business must attain its MPAS accreditation with the same organisation. The certification is valid for three years.
The MPAS scheme is not UKAS-accredited; there is no reference to MPAS on the certificate. The wording of the ISO 9001 certificate scope is amended to incorporate as appropriate either the design of military packaging, the manufacture of military packaging or the design and manufacture of military packaging.
The military packaging requirements supplementary to ISO 9001 are:
- The organisation’s quality management systems must address customer and relevant statutory quality management system requirements applicable to military packaging;
- Personnel involved must have access to and be aware of quality management system documentation changes;
- There should be a Management Representative with packaging quality responsibilities;
- There should be competence and awareness in training for designers;
- The work environment must be controlled;
- There are requirements for design and development validation;
- There are requirements for the preservation of the product; and
- There are also specific internal audit requirements.
More detailed requirements specify, for example, that the management representative should have organisational freedom and unrestricted access to top management, enabling the resolution of quality management issues with regard to military packaging work.
Standards on the working environment specify that there should be adequate protection in adverse weather conditions. There are also specific specifications on temperature and humidity controls, with a minimum of 15 degrees Celsius temperature and maximum 75% humidity, and records of these have to be maintained.
“It goes into details on the requirements for manufacturing,’’ says Reed.
There are three categories of MPAS: type A is for design work; type B is for design and manufacturing; and type C is for manufacturing only. An organisation requiring type A certification cannot be MPAS-registered without a certificated designer or system.
The organisation should ensure that only MPAS-certified designers carry out the preparation and authorisation of military packaging designs using appropriate stamps that have been issued to them.
There are also rules on storage: plastics, for instance, must be stored away from direct sunlight with more specifications on temperature and humidity. Cardboard packaging must be stored in such a way as to avoid crushing, puncture or abrasion, with dessicants such as silica gels to guard against moisture. Storage must also take into account the shelf life of materials.
Reed points out: “There’s an internal audit programme running through all of this to ensure that these are maintained.’’
But could all of this sound too onerous for a supplier considering supplying packaging to the MOD?
Reed says: “It’s becoming an increasing requirement. We’ve gone through a lot of the detail, but, actually, if you’re running an ISO 9001 scheme, these supplementary requirements are going to be very easy to introduce to your system.”
Certain factors can necessitate an increase or decrease in the duration of the audit.
These factors are based on:
- The size, type and complexity of the organisation;
- Whether the MPAS activities are performed on a single site; and
- Whether it has a formal quality management system already approved to ISO 9001 by an accredited certification body (CB).
Reed continues: “Taking the above into consideration, it’s usually an extra one-day visit to actually assess the eight military packaging requirements supplementary to ISO 9001. Then, after that, if it’s a small organisation, in a three-year certification cycle they would get potentially one visit every 18 months, which is specifically focused on MPAS. If it’s anything more than five people in the business who are directly involved with military packaging, then it’s one day a year. So it’s not that onerous.”
Accreditation does, on the other hand, bring advantages and there are benefits to the accreditation process itself.
“Obviously we can provide the ISO 9001 certification process itself,’’ says Reed. “We can also provide GAP analysis by a qualified assessor who, in a relaxed environment, can go through the requirements, identify where the gaps are and provide a full written report to enable an organisation to understand where it’s at.’’
He adds: “It allows packaging contractors to prove to any interested stakeholders that they’ve got an effective design system. It enables contractors to register on the MPAS register Part 3 and enables them to tender for MOD contracts. It has opened up a fairly buoyant market to new military contractors. Organisations do keep coming to us.’’
Benefits of MPAS certification
- Can be carried out as part of a normal ISO 9001 certification process by a certification body approved under MPAS as an Approved Certification Body, which LRQA is.
- Provides a route map of compliance to packaging companies already certificated to ISO 9001 that wish to trade with the Ministry of Defence.
- Allows packaging contractors to prove to any interested stakeholders that they have effective design systems, procedures and facilities and that the packaging designers have suitable experience, training and demonstrable competence in accordance with MPAS Part 2.
- Enables packaging contractors to be registered on MPAS Part 3 Register of MPAS Certification and Accreditation.
- Enables packaging contractors to tender for MOD contracts which invoke DEFCON 129 and JSP 886 (Volume 7 Part 802).
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