By Richa Chakravarty
A company that aims at enhancing brand loyalty, reliability and customer satisfaction prefers to opt for certifications. Manufacturers work towards getting various certifications as these help them in building a good reputation for their products, even though no certification is required to start an industry. However, some products cannot be manufactured without certification, which means that the manufacture or sale of these products is not possible without them being certified as compliant with the relevant national standards. Most of the companies follow the regulations laid down by government standards bodies for a simple reason—it enhances the company’s credibility and builds customer confidence.
Quality management certification can help manufacturing companies put systems and controls in place to ensure fewer defects and a more profitable business. Companies that approach the certification process with the end benefit in mind are usually the ones that succeed.
Certification programmes set standards of quality that teach companies an effective quality management system. Each industry has formal, codified quality standards for manufacturers and businesses to follow. These standards have evolved over time and reflect various aspects of an industry. Once a business implements the quality standards, it can then become certified, showing its customers that its practices and products conform to a higher level of quality.
The Indian Standards Institution (ISI) gave the nation the standards it needed for nationalisation, industrial and commercial growth, quality production and competitive efficiency. In order to provide a new thrust to standardisation and quality control, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) came into existence. However, today there are various regulatory bodies in India that accredit companies with quality certificates.
The most advantageous accreditation is the quality management certification approved by International Standardisation Organisation (ISO 9001:2000). Apart from that, approval for onboard space applications is provided by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO); Electronic Component Standardisation Organisation (LCSO) approves defence electronics equipment and systems; Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) accredits electronics and telecommunication equipment, etc. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) provides ‘energy five star’ ratings to all electronics products that conserve energy. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a product safety certification organisation that tests products and writes standards for safety.
Certifications are required for products and systems. System certification is not mandatory, but product certification can be made mandatory through government regulation, especially for those products whose usage is restricted or have some hazardous effect on the environment. The systems certifications available are for quality management, environmental management, occupational health and safety, food safety management, and hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) in food production. “A product quality certification mark signifies that the product’s quality has been assessed and complies with the relevant requirements of a specified national standard. The product certification scheme aims at providing a third party guarantee of quality, safety and reliability of the products to the ultimate customer,” says PK Mukherjee, ex-deputy director general, BIS.
Reasons for certification
Certification marks on a product are an assurance of conformity to the specifications. A product’s conformity to particular national or international standards can be identified by the quality certification mark and unique standard number. “There are no obligation for quality systems certifications. It is optional. You can apply standards and drive business process effectively without going for certification. At the same time, some companies even make certain certification mandatory as a condition to doing business together. Important is the basic system compliance that needs to be adhered to and aligned,” opines BN Shukla, head-lean six sigma and quality engineer, Jabil Circuits.
For the average consumer, most products are subject to government rules and regulations that address the issues of safety, reliability, health and the impact on the environment—these put pressure on the manufacturer to make safe and high quality products. Rules and regulations generally come from an official authority. There are standards guidelines, and system requirements for each certification, which a company needs to implement and maintain. The common practice with most certification agencies involves an independent body examining both the product and the production process, and making a statement about its compliance to agency-prescribed rules. This is referred to as product certification. Certification builds the confidence of buyers in a particular product or company.
Documentation and processes
The documents required for product and system certification are different. However, companies opting for certifications will have to adhere to the rules laid down by the regulating agencies. For systems certification, one needs to prepare manuals and a set of procedures for each activity. Though this is not an expensive affair, the manufacturer has to pay application fees, inspection fees and testing charges. Product certification is done only by BIS for compliance against an overall standard. The validity of its licence is for two years with renewal done every year.
For systems certification there are many agencies. And when it comes to renewal, organisations usually go through the process every two years. According to Dr Sandeep Garg, energy economist, BEE, “Products should comply with the test standards as per the relevant schedules. Any manufacturer can apply for the ‘star label’ for appliances that have been listed under the S&L scheme. The entire registration process at BEE is electronic, which avoids delays. The product should meet different standards as defined by BIS. As far as possible, BEE takes minimum performance standards from BIS. If not available, then the international standards such as IEC are taken into consideration.”
As far as verifying an organisation’s conformity to standards is concerned, the quality certification mark and standard number on the product indicate the quality parameters that the product has been assessed on. And the certificate of compliance that is issued by the certifying agency is in the form of a product quality certification mark. The conformity is ensured by regular surveillance of the licensee’s performance by surprise inspections and tests of samples, drawn both from the market and the factory. “There are no difficulties in getting certification once your documentation and payment of fees are in order,” informs PK Mukherjee.
Benefits of certification
Apart from building a brand name and assuring users, certification helps manufacturers in many ways. It provides a systematic, measurable way to lead and operate an organisation that continually improves its performance. It also provides an organisation wide, consistent and comprehensive approach, clarifying roles, responsibilities and linkages to all interested parties. The rules and regulations set up by various organisations provide controlled methods for measurement and monitoring of processes, products and services.
“It generates objective evidence to demonstrate the quality of products/services and the effectiveness of systems. Thus, it builds confidence among customers and helps in the retention of key customers by delivering products and services that meet customers’ need and expectations,” says Jagadeesha MP, vice president, SRV Telecom Pvt Ltd.
Certification also helps in reducing the need for multiple assessments at the customers’ end, leaving them confident and satisfied. Apart from that, it helps manufacturers in reducing the cost of multi-stage inspections and tests, further helping them build competitive advantage by being able to display the certificate’s logo on business correspondence and advertising material.
These quality certificates not only help in the smooth running of a business but also build strong and confident trade ties globally. Certification is mandatory in many countries, especially USA, Canada and European countries, which restrict the use of certain hazardous or environment unfriendly material. Hence, many companies have to abide by the strict and stringent rules laid down by these countries.
The RoHS directive is one such example that restricts the use of chemicals like lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and two flame retardants—PBB and PBDE—in electrical and electronic products sold in the European Union (EU). Apart from that, EU countries also have regulations governing the Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). This EU directive and its individual transpositions into specific country laws and legislation are aimed at the reduction of WEEE through reuse, recovery and recycling.
“It depends on the company applying for these certifications. There is no obstacle in obtaining international certificates, if one is driving this seriously and implementing it. To have a global reach and confidence of their customer, companies today understand the need for certifications and prefer to obtain them for their own growth,” opines BN Shukla.