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JIS News

The Quality Jamaica Project (QJP) of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), is positioning local entrepreneurs to take advantage of the CARICOM Single Market (CSM), says Project Manager, Sheryl Mullings.
She also anticipates a massive upsurge in demand for Jamaican products at the end of the project early next year.
“Brand Jamaica is quite appealing, but we don’t want only the Jamaican name to be appealing, we want the associated products to have a global appeal, as well as maintain continued access to international markets,” she tells JIS News.
Through the QJP, funded by the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), at a cost US$1.3 million, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can maximize their potential and benefit from the prospects of the CSM by training in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) 9000 and 14000.
The project is being spearheaded through the Ministry of Information, Technology, Energy and Commerce.In the middle of 2006, the ISO consortium upgraded 9000 and 14000 to 9001 and 14001.
“Generally speaking,” Miss Mullings explains, “ISO 9001 and 14001 are management system standards based on processes, rather than products, and are applied through all levels of enterprises, so in many ways it can kick start any small business that applies it in its operations”.
HACCAP certification would best concern food manufacturers, while ISO 9001 or 14001 would be of interest to managers, as it seeks to streamline the management practices in companies. On the other hand, 14000 relates to how environmentally friendly an operation may be, and seeks to ensure that businesses are environmentally sustainable.
Training in the QJP is delivered by the Victoria Group operating out of Methuen, Massachusetts in the United States, which has more than 60 years experience and won the contract through competitive tender.
The businesses applying these standards, Miss Mullings tells JIS News, may range from a small roadside deli or food shop that employs one or two family members or be a large scale multinational firm – it does not matter. These quality management systems are the global standards for product quality and safety, as they contribute to making the development, manufacturing and supply of products and services more efficient, safer and cleaner.
“Many people out there may even wonder why the Bureau of Standards or even the Government care about how well their business is doing. But frankly, the small and medium enterprises are really the engine for the growth of the economy and most times they provide employment for the wider community and we care that they implement the system, because there are a lot of regulations that are set by some international countries,” Miss Mullings points out.
For example, she says, once the European Union regulations are put in place, “we want to make sure that our Jamaican companies meet their standards. It is not just that we want them to meet the standards, but the fact that there are countries demanding that we meet them and because of competition and it is more market driven, demanding nothing less than the best, we think that implementing the system will ensure they meets the requirements of those international customers”.
Miss Mullings explains to JIS News that this task of achieving global acceptance may seem daunting for SMEs, which are sometimes hesitant to implement large scale changes, but the BSJ, through the QJP, has them covered.
“It is not really changing up your system,” she assures, “it is making the system better through more focus analysis on the business and ISO 9001 is all about meeting customer requirements, so by doing this you start to look at your business to make sure that you are actually delivering a high level of customer satisfaction”.
She says that the aim of the project is to enlist more Jamaican companies as ISO and HACCAP certified, as it is getting increasingly difficult to penetrate markets such as Europe without these requisites, through voluntary certifications.
The Project Manager tells JIS News that there are three components to the QJP. The first prong is awareness about ISO 9001, 14001 and the HACCAP system, while the second and third programmes involve the HACCAP and ISO training and certification of more than 2,000 persons as consultants.
Furthermore, she says the provision of grants to companies that are implementing the ISO system is a major carrot in increasing public response to the project.
Regarding the grants, she tells JIS News that, “they subsidise the cost that would be paid for training or consultancy services pursuant to ISO and HACCAP certification. We give you back 50 per cent to a maximum of US$3,750 to actually offset the cost associated with the implementation.”
All small business operators are eligible for ISO and HACCAP training and are, provided that they meet the criteria, eligible for grants under the QJP.
When the large majority of products or services in a particular business or industry conform to international standards like those stipulated by the ISO, a state of industry-wide standardisation can be said to exist, Miss Mullings explains.
Meanwhile, she indicates that some 46 companies are implementing quality systems under the QJP. Of the number, she says, “22 are implementing HACCP food safety system, 14 are implementing ISO 9000 and 10 are implementing ISO 14000”.
Such businesses include the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), Wisynco Plastics, the Coffee Industry Board and National Processors Limited.
In an interview with JIS News, Head of the CMI, Commander Michael Rodriquez says he saw it as an important business operation ethic to implement 14000 in the running of the CMI, as it involves regular contact with the ocean.
“When you are dealing with nature and natural resources, it is important to do things like these that give you pointers as to how to go about your business in the best way without causing undue stress to the environment,” he says.
In the meantime, local real estate developers and building material suppliers with an eye on outbound projects may enjoy gains from ISO 14000 certification through the QJP, says Laura Doctor, Chief Technical Officer with the Project.
“Customers demand that companies that they do business with have 14000 certification,” she says. “As far as ISO 14000 is concerned, there is no regulation or enforcement as the system is voluntary, but there should be more enforcement of the environmental laws,” she adds.
She says that there can be more synergy with agencies such as the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the BSJ, as “their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is different from our environmental management system [ISO 14000]. The EIA looks at the carrying capacity of an area and the impact a development may have on it. The only way you can incorporate the ISO system with anything done by NEPA, per se, is to ensure that they are taking care of their environmental obligations”.
Miss Doctor says if this link is forged between the BSJ and NEPA, it means that, “more developers will use more environmentally sound practices in their construction”.
Jamaica Premix Limited is a part of the QJP and they have been using ISO 14000, “and have been looking at their environmental impact aspects and the mitigation of these”, she informs.
The company supplies the construction industry with the ready mixed concrete and aggregates. The company’s products and services are utilized in construction projects diverse in size and nature, including residential, commercial and industrial buildings, hotels, bauxite and alumina plants. “This is why it was so important for them to come on board,” stresses Miss Doctor.
According to the QJP Project Manager, governments can more readily implement technological and scientific bases that underpin health, safety and environmental legislation when more people are aware and practise ISO and HACCAP values.
For trade officials negotiating in the whirlwind of regional and global markets, international standards like ISO and HACCAP create, “a level playing field” for all competitors on those markets, Miss Mullings says.
“While national or regional standards can create technical barriers to trade, even when there is political agreement to do away with restrictive import quotas and so on, the standards such as those encouraged by the project are the technical means by which political trade agreements can be put into practice,” she outlines.
For developing countries like Jamaica, by defining the characteristics that products and services will be expected to meet on export markets, international standards give developing countries a basis for making the right decisions when investing their scarce resources and thus avoid squandering them.
At the end of the QJP, the BSJ will become an accredited certification body for HACCAP and ISO 9001 and 14000.