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BSJ tempts companies with free audits

Published:Sunday | April 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Avia Collinder, Business Writer

The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) says it is prepared to spend US$1,200 (J$104,000), on average, on companies that accept its offer of free quality audits.  There are some 63,374 companies registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica.

But local businesses - well known in the region for their aversion to sharing information - are only slowly yielding to the push for scrutiny and standardisation.

BSJ's pitch is that standardisation leads to savings, higher quality of output, and management excellence.

BSJ manager for standards development, Stephen Farquharson, said last Tuesday that the offer to underwrite audits aims to create a culture in which public and private organisations involved in manufacturing and service industries "will accept and volunteer to include quality and standards as a normal part of their operations."

But only a fraction of Jamaica's companies seek out certiciation.

As a proxy for the scope of the problem, the agency's own National Quality Awards (NQA) only gets about 36 participating businesses annually.

Open to all

The NQA programme is open to all categories of businesses starting from small and medium-size enterprises and is financed from the annual budget of the BSJ.

Free audits are provided for in the agency's budget. The process involves review of documents and records, observation of operations, interviewing process owners and feedback on the findings to the company.

The BSJ has had a policy of providing free audits since its inception, but says only 39 local companies have asked for the service, several of which have made use of it more than once.

One of the requirements of the NQA programme is to have a documented standard operating procedure or quality manual.

Companies which have such systems in place, Farquharson said, are likely to be more efficient in production and operation.

"While no formal studies have been done," he told Sunday Business, "all the companies that have a quality management system in place have attested to reduced wastage, reduced downtime, improved efficiencies, harmonised or streamlined processes, and having recovered their expenses for the implementation of the management system."

Few certified companies

Locally, 22 companies have ISO 9001: 2008-Quality Management System certification; and 14 companies are certified to ISO 14001:2004-Environmental Management System standards, Farquharson said.

Another 10 companies are in the BSJ's National Certification Mark programme; and one in the programme for certification of agricultural produce.

The NQA competition, which is held annually in October each year, aims to promote the international competitiveness of Jamaican products and services, said Farquharson.

Trophies are given for excellence in manufacturing, excellence in service, and excellence in the small and medium-size enterprises; as well as awards in five categories for human resource focus, business results, customer focus, process mapping and organisational focus.

"The quantifiable impact of such systems on company performance include improved information flow, continuity and process stability, consistent quality of product, increased employee confidence in executing work instructions/procedures and repeatability of processes and procedures," the standards development manager said.