EQAsce has asked Dr. Jürgen Wagner – who is director of AGRIZERT certification GmbH, that offers certification in the agri and food sector – about the corona crisis and what has changed for his enterprise. Dr. Wagner is the director since 2005. He is also accredited auditor for systems like IFS Food, ISO 22000 and MSC/ASC. Through enforcing audits during the corona times, Dr. Wagner is in direct touch with enterprises of the agri and food sector. He has an inside view on how these firms come along with the current crisis.
EQAsce: How has your world of work changed through the corona crisis?
Dr. Wagner: Through corona crisis, there protective measures have been introduced not only in public but also in (food)businesses. This can cause the base of certification – audits – to be stopped. For example: A lot of business emergency plans contain the task of not letting any business-foreign person access the business areas. That includes auditors. That’s why we experience a restriction and changes of high level in the execution of audits. One alternative to the presence-audits is the possibility of “remote-audits”. That means: The evaluation is done via video conference. This needs special organization, planning and proving by the certification body. That leads from the decision of tools over the compilation of a training for using the tools unto a close communication with the businesses to guarantee a successful audit.
Generally, remote audits stay an exception for standard providers. They want audits to take place on location of the business itself including different options but that means higher costs for the businesses audited. A lot of firms delay their audits to many weeks later because they have no production due to short-time work. The ongoing re-organization and planning mean a higher workload since audits are planed for months and depend on each other like gearwheels. The delays in audits will lead to an accumulation and an even higher not to put into execution workload for auditors in fall.
Additionally, different regulations of standard providers need to be screened, trainings need to be compiled and operational documents need to be adjusted. And on top of this list, the employees need to be sent to do home office work and continue communication among each other.
Still, there are some positive aspects to the pandemic: For 2020 we planed the switch to digital certificates. The project was pushed through the crisis and the home office work and was quickly put into practice.
EQAsce: In how far does the crisis offer a chance to combine digitalization and qualification more to a lifelong learning concept?
Dr. Wagner: The pandemic forces certification bodies to adapt audit techniques for on location audits to the new hygiene conditions and protection measures. Thanks to digitalization, alternative remote audits enable audits for an enterprise from afar. Such techniques, information about the current situation, different circumstances for customers and much more has to be taught to the personal as fast as possible – inside the certification body as well as to auditors.
Thus, AGRIZERT will offer online trainings to current topics and web meetings for an exchange of experience. We think that this will lead to a faster passing on of information and an easier way of exchange between our auditors, who are spread all over Germany and Austria. Personal meetings are difficult to have. And we rely on digitalization for the execution of our remote audits: These are only possible via video conference.
These adaptions have partly been part of our future concepts (especially online trainings for auditors) but have gotten higher priority through the crisis and already led to implementation plans.
EQAsce: How can the attractivity of the EQA Digital Academic Career Card for students and the EQA Qualification Card for trainings be raised in the crisis situation?
Dr. Wagner: Everyone is affected through the restrictions in public life through the corona crisis. That makes digitalization and a digital world come more into focus. We as a certification body are the best example for online-offerings, such as remote audits – are indispensable at the moment. A card that saves all qualifications and developments for a person on an online platform and that is easy to handle has only advantages in my eyes.