Companies that do not have an ISO standard spend time on solving problems through improvisation. Companies that have an ISO standard, spend it on innovation and development
The strategic goal of every SME is to achieve a higher level of competitiveness, while product competitiveness implies the implementation of appropriate quality standards and certification of products, processes and systems. However, procedures for implementing standards can sometimes take longer than expected. We talked with Miroslav Miletić, advisor to the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS), about the importance of the implementation of standards in companies.
Could you tell us why is the implementation of standards important in all business segments?
The introduction and consistent implementation of ISO standards are crucial in all business segments and beyond. Figures show that there are about 400 million small and medium-sized enterprises in the world. Of the total number of certificates, according to the ISO organization, which is close to one million certificates (ISO 9001), 80% are issued to SMEs. ISO standard certification means entering that elite, the Class A clients, suppliers and long-term partners and once they start doing business, they practically do not stop it. This is evidenced by the overall appearance of a company, the way of communication is carried out in the company itself, inconspicuous and demanding rules, but above all the way of doing business at all levels.
How does that look like in practice?
Twenty-five years ago, when a company in this part of the world was certified with the ISO 9001 international certificate, it meant that in certain years of business, it had produced and sold 100,000,000 stock-keeping units (SKU). Per 100,000,000 stock-keeping units (SKU), there were 12 to 15 complaints per year, of which 3 to 5 are justified, which are dealt with by the entire company, from the top to the bottom of the ladder. This had a direct impact on the company’s business results, which, in some years, went up to 30% and created an incredible space for savings of between one and two million per year. In terms of competitiveness on the domestic and global market, and according to the latest data of the ISO organization, the Western Balkans region currently has a total of 9,500 ISO 9001 certificates, while, for comparison, the Czech Republic has 12,500. In the last decade, the number of the ISO 9001 certificate ranged between 2,500 and 3,200. For instance, Italy has close to 100,000, and at a certain point in time, there were over 150,000.
“There is a lack of strategic and systemic activity on setting up standards”
ISO standards help with coping in crises and pandemics. What for others is a waste of time, for a quality management system is a normal occurrence. The emphasis is on efficiency – doing things the right way, and effectiveness – doing the right things, because companies that do not have an ISO standard spend time on solving problems through improvisation. Companies that have an ISO standard, spend it on innovation and development.
How to develop awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises about the importance of implementing standards?
Our SMEs have a somewhat developed awareness of the need to implement an ISO standard. However, I think that there is a lack of strategic and systemic activity in the direction of introducing standards. We have noticed that the cost-cutting in times of crisis resulted in companies giving up on certification, although these costs are immeasurable in relation to the benefits that the standards bring. In my experience, setting up standards takes approximately 15 months, while their implementation and improvement are continuous. It is important to point out is that investors are much more open to investing in companies that are ISO-certified.
What would be your message for the end?
A time of crisis, like the pandemic, is a time to make huge decisions. I think that our small and medium-sized enterprises do not lack courage, let alone understanding and awareness of the importance of introducing standards. I believe that, in a medium-term period of 3 to 5 years, Serbia will overcome limits in terms of the total number of certificates that will bring our country closer to the countries of Central Europe, in the same way that Yugoslavia was a good example in regard to JUS standards.