THERE was no music or balloons or any other sign of a party atmosphere yesterday as staff at the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) expressed pride on the attainment of the highest standard of quality management, ISO 9001:2015.
The ISO 9001:2015 is the latest version of the ISO 9000 family of quality management systems standards designed to help organizations ensure they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements related to a product or programme.
This family of quality management systems standards deals with the fundamentals of quality management systems, upon which the family of standards is based.
The process the SLBS went through to achieve its certification encompassed the entire organization. It had to demonstrate that it could have met the regulatory requirements and apply the system effectively to be of real benefit to its customers. Further, the certification it has is the first step of a process of continual improvement that will provide it with the necessary management tools to improve working practices.
“When the SLBS embarked on the journey of implementing a quality management system in compliance with ISO 9001 several years ago we didn’t know what we are getting into, not exactly anyways,” said SLBS Director, Dr.Mkabi Walcott, yesterday.
She added: “We knew that the implementation of the quality management system would allow us to demonstrate that as an organization we understood the value of quality management. We knew it would launch us into a class of organizations that can proudly claim a focus on customer service and commitment to continual improvement.”
Among those invited to the low-key celebrations were Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Investment Minister, Bradly Felix, and representatives from the St. Lucia Manufacturers Association and other groups.
While everyone present was congratulating the SLBS on its achievement, Dr. Walcott said the achievement was not easily attained.
“The ISO 9001 standard for quality management is based on several key principles, including strong customer focus, engaged leadership, a processed approach to business practices and continual improvement. The SLBS of almost 10 years of partial system implementation in April 2016 took a strategic decision to review and complete the full implementation of the ISO 9001 standard and challenged ourselves to go for certification,” she said.
She added: “It was of utmost importance for the SLBS in attempting to meet its mandate to become an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization by implementing a management system that would reinforce quality principles in the organization’s culture and operations.”
According to her, what staff discovered over the past year in implementing the Quality Management Systems and in preparation for ISO 9001 certification was how they drastically underestimated the impact this framework would have on the organization.
“The benefits and all the growing pains in implementing a quality management system have pushed us in new and un-imaginary directions from just a few months ago. It opened up the management of the organization such that it not only brought to the fore our strengths but also exposed our weaknesses. It forced the organization to address weaknesses in areas such as communications and productivity head on and to identify and build on the strengths of the staff and the organization,” Dr. Walcott said.
Achieving Certification to ISO 9001 is the first step of a process of continual improvement that will provide organizations with the necessary management tools to improve working practices. Other benefits are providing senior management with an efficient management process, sets out areas of responsibility across the organization, communicates a positive message to staff and customers, identifies and encourages more efficient and time saving processes, highlights deficiencies, reduces costs, provides continuous assessment and improvement and marketing opportunities.
Some benefits to customers include improved quality and service, delivery on time, right first time attitudes and fewer returned products and complaints.