Quality is the essential pre-requisite for gaining and maintaining sustained competitive advantage and market presence in an interconnected world where goods are sourced from around the world. Through safety, performance, reliability and sustainability, quality is critical to export success.
Quality improves the health and viability of SMEs sector:
The health, viability and resilience of SMEs is reinforced through good practices in quality.Thus growth of priority sectors and trade depends to a very large extent on quality. Enterprises with sound quality management are likely to be more innovative.
Quality affects functions across the enterprise:
It has implications throughout the operations of a business, from strategy vis-à-vis competitors, market selection, sourcing, packaging, to marketing and branding and plays a major role in growth and value addition.
Challenges related to quality that prevent SMEs in developing countries from participating effectively in international trade may classified into two types:
1. Specific problems related to technical barriers to trade:
According to CRT research, approximately 70% of problems faced by exporters due to non-tariff measures are in the area of technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS). Specifically SMEs face obstacles to:
find information about mandatory technical requirements and voluntary standards applicable in the importing country;
adapt their products to meet these requirements;
demonstrate that the products meet the relevant requirements; and obtain the necessary support required at each step from national quality - related and other institutions, due to a weak quality infrastructure.
The proliferation and existence of a multitude of technical requirements including conformity assessment procedures in different countries creates difficulties for SMEs in particular, who:
Are unable to benefit from economies of scale;
Incur additional costs from submitting their products to the various conformity assessment procedures;
Face difficulties and more costs to obtain pertinent information; and
Suffer from resulting unpredictability and delays in time-to-market.
The CRT’s quality management services designs systematic interventions to address the technical issues identified by surveys.
2. General lack of a quality culture
SMEs in developing countries often
lack information, orientation and resources in understanding the key concepts of quality and applying simple principles that may be applied;
wrongly perceive that quality is expensive and resource intensive;
view quality improvement and certification synonymously, and undertake the latter mainly as a marketing tool;
narrow down quality to product feature/quality with the involvement of a few persons responsible for the inspection and verification of goods;
have limited support from trade support institutions and national standards bodies to help enterprises understand, begin and implement the basic tenets of quality, other than those purely related to Standards and Certification.
SMEs fail to address quality proactively from the early stage in the design of SME operations, to serve as a foundation for success. This leads to avoidable low quality of products, waste, high error rates, reworks, down-times, delays, uncertainty and higher costs.
The CRT’s quality management services help SMEs to overcome these challenges. The services are primarily through services channelled through national quality related institutions and relevant trade support agencies.