Global trade is growingly embedded within supply chains and is increasingly governed by standards that define quality and other requirements. Despite trade liberalization and globalization in recent years, many exporters from developing countries, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) face substantial challenges to meet and demonstrate conformity with market entry requirements, as well as technical barriers to trade that hinder their ability to access markets. SME in developing countries have major obstacles to overcome in marketing their products and services – whether competing against foreign imports in their domestic markets, or gaining access to international markets. A number of factors bear on this – finance and investment issues, international trading regulations, meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), etc. Standards compliance and proof of conformity are essential.
A demand-driven quality culture and infrastructure, including the necessary conformity assessment services, support SME to achieve and demonstrate conformity with market requirements, compete on national and international markets and comply with relevant national and international standards and technical regulations. However, the interconnectivity of economic, social, environmental and technological developments requires a holistic Quality Management System (QMS) that considers integrated approaches in strategies, processes, methods and standards, including cross-cutting elements such as good governance, health and safety, energy and environmental protection. These aspects provide the basis for SME to incorporate the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their company strategy and their organizational processes.
The quality framework of SME, therefore, should aim at:
Quality of products and services;
Adherence to international, national and regional standards;
Pace and breadth of innovation;
Effectiveness and efficiency of workforce;
Gender equality and intergenerational equity for young people and future generations;
Consumer and stakeholder engagement;
Using the power of communication technologies and digitalization.
Achieving high quality will involve the entire company, as well as including the perspectives of customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Above all, it requires the active participation of the management team. However, every function in the company, and every member of staff can and should support a sound quality culture and the Quality Management System.
Quality Management may not in itself be sufficient to ensure competitiveness, but it is certainly an indispensable factor and plays a crucial role in a company's growth as well as for economic and social development. It is a key resource in the competition for customer relationships, by meeting customer needs and expectations and striving to deliver a superior customer experience. The end goal is to enhance customer satisfaction and drive business growth. This, in turn, fosters economic competitiveness and social inclusiveness in national and international markets, as a basis for prosperity, health and well-being.
The e-learning Training Programme
‘A Roadmap to Quality’ is a newly developed and state-of-the-art e-learning training programme to promote understanding and facilitate the implementation of Quality Management effectively throughout the company. In 9 Modules all aspects of the concept of Quality Management are described. The focus is on the specific quality and standards requirements of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in developing countries. Furthermore, as topics such as social and environmental responsibility, sustainability and good governance are increasingly capable of generating a competitive advantage, the impact of these key drivers for business and economic development on Quality Management have been tackled.
The 9 Modules provide clear theoretical and practical guidelines for the full range of Quality Management activities.