LET'S GET CERTIFIED
Can Pakistan afford to be lagged behind?
By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Oct 16 - Oct 22, 2000
In a rapidly changing competitive market, staying ahead of the competition is essential for success. The ISO-9000 is now an international phenomenon and it is influencing the way companies do business. In emerging markets it is frequently used to help raise standards and improve competitiveness. In developed economies it is becoming an increasingly important consideration in business-to-business purchases as well as enabling the companies to achieve improved efficiency and better management.
The need to streamline quality standards was felt as back as soon after the World War II. It got the shape of AQAP-1 in the USA, BS-5750 in the UK. The purpose behind establishing International Organization for Standards (ISO) was to promote international exchange of quality goods and services through the development of standards. The ISO-9000 series, after adapting and improving various existing globally acceptable standards, was first published in 1987 and revised in 1994. Its latest revision is in final stages and expected to be released within the year 2000. The whole concept of ISO certification is based on three basic points:
1) Responsibility and commitment of management to quality,
2) Documentation of Quality Management System (QMS) and
3) Following the documented procedure in each area of activity.
The process of globalization and creation of World Trade Organization (WTO) pose challenge specially to developing countries, including Pakistan, who have to not only open up their domestic markets but also compete in the world markets on the basis of quality and cost effectiveness. The efforts to convince the local companies to get ISO certification in Pakistan started in 1996. The GoP also announced incentive for those companies who get this certificate.
However, the total number of companies who have acquired this certificate in Pakistan, in last five years, is very low. An alarming observation is that a large number of companies trading with European Union (EU) have not even thought of acquiring this certificate. They have been constantly ignoring the clear indications given by the European Commission (EC). The EU has the largest share in Pakistan's total exports. The EC has announced the deadline after which any company which has not acquired ISO certificate would not be eligible to trade with the community. It may not be out of context here to say that the highest number of companies acquiring this certifications belongs to some of the developed countries who were the biggest opponents of ISO in the initial stages. Their efforts to acquire such certification indicate that all these countries do not want to loose their market share in the EU.
Investing in quality
In today's highly competitive international markets, companies of every size need to look at ways of generating new business, retaining existing business and making their operations more efficient and cost effective. An increasingly successful and popular method of achieving these aims is through the installation of QMS. Companies are finding that this not only improves overall efficiency but also greatly enhance status and customer confidence.
Installing a QMS represents a considerable investment in both time and money. However, the long-term benefits to an organization and its customers are enormous. Once an organization sets up QMS, it is likely to apply for ISO-9000 certification. Why? Because it provides tangible evidence to company's commitment to quality. Achieving approval to the ISO-9000 series of international standards inspires greater market confidence in a company and improves its status. The certificates proves that the entity has been independently assessed and approved as a quality organization. The company will be able to participate in business negotiations with major purchasers who insist on certification.
As ISO-9000 is an internationally recognized standard, a business entity should try to get the approval from an internationally recognized organization with an excellent track record in quality assurance. There is a need to ensure that the certification body is accredited or licensed to carry out assessment in that particular industry sector by an internationally recognized authority.
Route to approval
The first and most important aspect of introducing QMS is the commitment of management of individual companies and to follow the laid down procedures in each area of activity. Therefore, to start with the company has to develop its own documents, systems and procedures. Once management is confident it invites an accredited assessor/auditor to certify. The management is the most suitable entity to develop the documents, procedures and system. However, if due to any reason the business itself cannot do this, services of a consultant can be hired. Still the biggest responsibility lies with the company itself — an alien could be fully aware or make himself fully conversant with the nit-gritty of a business.
Selection of auditor is equally important. While any one may claim to be a certified auditor, a client must demand the accreditation/credential of an auditor before hiring his services. Some of service features are critical for the selection of an assessor. These are:
*Advice: Assessor should offer advice on the ways in which customer can maintain or improve their system.
*Approval value: The value of ISO-9000 approval in the market place should be enhanced by the reputation of the certification body.
*Business partner: Customers may regard their assessor as business partners rather than regulators.
*Interpreting ISO-9000: Assessors should interpret ISO-9000 in a consistent way on each customer visit.
*Openly discuss: Customer should feel able to discuss their management system concerns with their assessors.
*Realistic approach: Assessor should have a realistic approach to how ISO-9000 can be applied to a customer's business.
*Service contact: When contacting the office customers should always receive a competent and professional service.
*Service visits: When assessor visit, customer should always receive a competent and professional service.
Understanding the industry: Assessor should understand a company's industry.
*Understanding needs: Assessor should understand what a company needs from its management systems.
*Value for money: Achieving and maintaining certification should represent value for money.
Assessors who have a realistic approach to interpreting the requirements of ISO-9000 can help customers develop more effective QMS. Applying the principles of the standard in a constructive way can help companies achieve real business benefits.
To deliver a valuable and credible service the certification company must provide skilled assessors who can identify the root causes of management system problems, not just the symptoms. This allows customers to find and implement solutions to the real issues identified within their management system.
Application form is a vital source of information. It allows the assessor to evaluate the nature of business of the applicant, the activities which support it and, most important, identify the specific assessor expertise for the particular assessment.
Based on the information provided by the assessee, the assessor prepares a competitive price quotation for assessee's consideration. On receipt of the signed contract assessor begins the assessment.
Both the parties agree on mutually acceptable dates for document review and assessment. Experience shows that most of assessees prefer some time to remedy any problems identified at the document review stage.
Assessor normally goes to assessee for the document review for detailed discussions of matters relating to clients documentation. This two-way exchange helps clarify any misunderstandings and the requirements for corrective action. These visits also serve to ensure that the assessment scope has been accurately defined as that the audit programme progress as smoothly as possible.
Although, often the document review indicates that a sound quality system exists on paper, it is the implementation of this system which demonstrates company's commitment to quality. Assessor observes the system in action and conduct informal interviews and examinations to establish conformity to standard.
At the end of the assessment, assessor gives a comprehensive report which brings all aspects of the audit into perspective. This constructive overview of company's performance details the parts of the standard which have been satisfactorily addressed and identifies areas of system deficiency or non-compliance.
On completion of a successful assessment, Assessor issues a certificate of approval. This certificate details the scope of approval and is valid for three years, subject to satisfactory maintenance of the equality system.
Once approved, the system is usually monitored by the assessor at regular intervals. These visits are always scheduled. These visits are conducted because it is the joint responsibility of assessor and assessee to ensure that the system continues to meet the requirements of the standard and is modified to reflect any change in the business environment.
Since the approval certificate is subject to renewal every three years, a re-assessment is carried out. Although this is more demanding than surveillance visits, the extent of the re-assessment is determined by company's track record and the system's maturity. Confirmation is sought that the system has not deteriorated and that all individual parts still link coherently. The visit is designed to give company and its customers confidence that company continues to meet the highest quality standards.
ISO-14001 is the world's first international Environment Management Systems (EMS) standard. An EMS can help a company to manage its activities, products and services to ensure compliance with its environmental policy. A certified EMS to ISO-14001 will help a company to manage environmental risk, reduce costs, gain a competitive edge and minimize its environmental impact.
Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, known as the Big Three, have joined hands and developed a combined approach to supplier quality assurance called QS-9000. The QS-9000 standard is based on the QMS standard ISO-9000 but introduces more stringent elements specific to the production of automotive parts. QS-9000 is intended to replace the need for supplier to undergo multiple assessments. It is estimated that QS-9000 will have a direct impact on some 20,000 component suppliers to the Big Three. Other motorcar manufacturers are also beginning to specify QS-9000.
Ability to change
Product and service
Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance
Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance (LQRA), a subsidiary of Lloyd's Register, is an accredited certification body which assesses quality management systems to the international standard ISO-9000. LQRA has grown to become one of the world's leading certification companies. and offers:
* A worldwide reputation
* Universally high standards
* Fee that reflect local market conditions
* Certificates issued in any language
* A completely impartial and professional service
* Extensive knowledge and expertise in a diverse range of industries
* An open, helpful and practical approach
* Quotations and invoices in local currency
* Ongoing programme of surveillance
* A wide range of management training services