18 Businesses Being Audited For Standards.
THE St. Lucia Manufacturers Association (SMA) is currently preparing to host its third biennial Quality Awards slated for Saturday, March 5 at Sandals Halcyon.
Eighteen companies will be participating in this year’s awards and internal audits of those companies undertaken by the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) began last week.
The audits are essential since they aim to bolster excellence and quality improvement within the local manufacturing sector.
SMA President, Ronald Ramjattan, told the media last Thursday that the companies being assessed must adhere to certain outlined criteria which address excellence in management practices directly linked to one of the following five categories: Leadership, Implementation of Standards and Best Practices, Product and Customer Service Quality, Human Resource Development and Social Responsibility.
When the awards were last held in March 2014, the Lawson Calderon Eco-Manufacturing Award was introduced. That award recognizes companies that employ business practices that take into consideration energy and climate change, sustainable resource use, water management, air quality management and waste management.
The SMA’s Quality Awards comprise three categories/levels:
• Gold Category – this category addresses the basic processes linked to the foundational/basics of quality improvement.
• Platinum Category – this category builds on the elements of quality and emphasizes key elements of customer-centred products and services, creating consistency in product quality through standardized processes and involving customers and staff in decision-making.
• Diamond Category – this category focusses on the achievement of quality by monitoring outcomes, using evidence and best practice for continual improvement.
Ramjattan said the sectors represented in this year’s audit are food and beverage, packaging, hardware, construction and home improvement, herbal and natural products, poultry processing, industrial and chemical products, agro-processing, and soft furnishings.
Since the main objective of the awards programme is to encourage companies to continuously raise the standards in their best practices and remain competitive, the assessment criteria seeks to employ accepted international standards. As such, the assessment criteria were developed from the following benchmarks:
• ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management Systems
• CRS 14: 2009 Requirement for Good Management Practice for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
• Criteria for Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award model
• SLBS – National Quality Award Scheme
• ISO/DIS 26000 – Guidance on Social Responsibility
Ramjattan said one promising factor about the awards is the extent to which many companies go to improve their standards. This, he said, proves that the manufacturing sector can adapt to increasingly demands for high international standards.
“Over the past two occasions when we had the awards, there are companies that have been raising their standards from gold to platinum and diamond status,” Ramjattan said. “We have also been doing our training, including in human resources, because that was one of the areas where most of us were a bit low on.”
Ramjattan added: “This awards programme is really beneficial to the membership because we are learning from each other. The ones that are on top are passing on their information about quality, packaging and consistency in what they’re doing at improving.”
SMA’s Past President, Paula Calderon, said the awards programme has grown incrementally over the years. She said the awards began with 14 companies in 2012 with that number growing by one in 2014.
Calderon believes that the detailed and comprehensive assessment the companies undergo speaks to the high value placed on the programme itself. As such, she is urging other local companies to become members of the association.
“After the Bureau of Standards goes in and audits the companies, we then bring the panel of judges together,” Calderon said. “These judges then go through the criteria and based on the marks received, the companies are put into the various categories.”
Despite a less than stellar economic climate locally, Calderon said many manufacturers have been able to remain above water. While many complain that business is tough going, they have, nevertheless, put staff on rotation rather than terminating the employment.