A Question and Answer (Q & A) Series for MSMEs to enjoy the benefits of standardization

By Maurice Musuga

This week, we shall start by having an in-depth understanding of what quality is.

Quality is a prerequisite for successful market access and for improving the competitiveness of products on the market.

However, according to the international Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN), meeting these technical requirements is a challenge for many manufacturers, exporters, especially in view of the proliferation of standards.

Several countries impose a growing number of standards to protect the health and safety of consumers and to meet demands of buyers for their specific needs and as a result the number of non-tariff measures due to these technical regulations, conformity assessment procedures has increased.

The WTO defines technical regulations as Government documents that lays down product characteristics or their related processes and production methods, including the applicable administrative provisions, with which compliance is mandatory. It may also include or deal exclusively with terminology, symbols, and packaging, marking or labelling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method. No consensus is necessary for establishment of the regulation. Conformity assessment on the other hand refers to any activity that determines whether a product, system, service and sometimes people fulfil the requirements and characteristics described in a standard or specification. This verification is generally done through testing or/and inspection.

Back to the question of Today, “What is quality?”

A quick Internet search will provide you with an interesting insight into the meaning of quality.

For the Oxford English Dictionary, for example, quality is “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something”.

 

At UNBS, we define quality as “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.”

 

ISO 9000 defines quality simply as “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements”.

 

However, Quality can simply mean “An agreement between two persons, one supplying the product or service and the other receiving the product or service.”

The quality of a product and/or service is judged against the set Uganda Standards through the use of the various quality infrastructure.

The Quality Infrastructure in Uganda comprises standards, metrology (science of measurement), conformity assessment (inspection, certification, laboratory testing) and accreditation.

The Uganda National Standards and Quality Policy reminds us that Quality infrastructure – is a prerequisite for business.

All in all, quality as ascertained through the various infrastructure is aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of local industries, promote fair trade, and protect the health and safety of the consumers, including prevention of trade in sub-standard goods and to coordinate the provision of Standards, Metrology, and Conformity Assessment and Accreditation (SMCA) services in Uganda.

Why should organisations care about quality?

To survive and thrive. Managing quality effectively can enhance your organization’s brand and reputation, protect it against risks, increase its efficiency, boost its profits and position it to keep on growing. All while making staff and customers happier.

What does quality apply to?

Everything. Every product, service, process, task, action or decision in an Organisation can be judged in terms of its quality – how good is it, is it good enough, how can we make it better?

Who is responsible for quality?

Everyone from the CEO to the intern is responsible for the quality of what they do. Different people will have responsibility or influence over different things that affect the quality of an organization’s outputs, such as specifying requirements, meeting those requirements or determining the quality of something.

Please visit UNBS, so that we can provide the knowledge, tools and guidance to help everyone else in your organization play their part in determining and achieving the required level of quality.

In the next series, we shall look at the concepts of Quality Control, Quality Assurance, the role of Quality Inspectors, and the benefits of Quality Control.

For more in-depth reading about Quality, please visit the following sources

  • Business Dictionary. BusinessDictionary.com
  • Garvin, David A. Competing on the Eight Dimensions of Quality. Harvard Business Review, November-December 1987.
  • International Organization for Standardization. ISO 9000:2005, Quality management systems – Fundamentals and vocabulary.Obtainable from ISO or ISO members (list at iso.org)
  • Juran, J. and F. Gryna. Quality Planning and Analysis. McGraw-Hill, New York. 1980.
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online. oxforddictionaries.com
  • Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry. Studies PBZ90 and PBZ 91. 1990. Cited in George R. Milne, Mark A. McDonald (eds.). Sport marketing: managing the exchange process, 1999, pp. 110-114 (cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_quality).
  • Snyder, I. G. The Quality Revolution. Quality Progress, vol. 18, No. 10, October 1985, pp. 63-66.

 

The writer is a Senior Information Officer at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards.