Certifying your standards

Keeping up with international standards and attaining certifications.

Whitby & Bird Engineers, ANALYSIS, Human Resource, Jobs

Keeping up with international standards and attaining certifications to prove it, has become the norm in the Middle East.

Broadly speaking, a standard is a published document that contains technical specifications or other precise criteria that is used as a sort of guideline in order to simplify and increase the reliability and effectiveness of many goods and services that are commonly used.

Standards are mostly designed for voluntary use and do not impose any regulations, but country laws often refer to certain standards and make it compulsory to comply with them. Certification on the other hand is a third party accreditation.

Most manufacturing facilities that demonstrate compliance with product standards and quality assurance requirements receive certification from accredited organisations and are permitted to manufacture products pursuant to the standard and to trademark those products accordingly.

"Certification is when an accredited third party such as BSI Management Systems or BSI Product Services assesses a management system, product or service and issues a certificate to show that the organisation abides by the principles set out in the standard to deliver business improvement," says Frank Post, marketing director, BSI.

Most countries have their own national standards which are developed by their national standards body.

In the UK, BSI is the national standard which is a published document. International standards are developed by the ISO or the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

An international standard may often take a national standard as its starting point and then develop to incorporate more international features. BSI is represented both in ISO and IEC.

Some other standards include the European standards which are developed in Europe by the national standards bodies of the European Union including The European Committee for Standardisation, European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation, European Telecommunications Standards Institute, European Committee for Iron and Steel Standardisation and European Association of Aerospace Industries.

Post says that the GCC is constantly monitoring its own standard and trying to align itself with international ones.

"The Gulf region has established a standard body, the GSO (GCC Standardisation Organization), with the main intention of harmonising their individual national standards as Gulf regional standards and reviewing the suitability of international standards to the GCC region," he says.


In a buoyant market such as the GCC's, standards then become vital in order to maintain quality and consistency.

Charles Barnes, director, International Operations, APA - The Engineered Wood Association agrees that standards are of high importance.

"Product standards are especially important for structural building materials, because these materials must often meet life safety requirements including things like strength, fire resistance and durability criteria, which are reflected in the test criteria of the standards to ensure safety of structures for occupants or, in some instances, worker safety at construction sites. Building codes routinely reference product standards and require that products conforming to the standards are used in construction."

APA promotes US engineered wood ared standards body, the GSO (GCC Standardisation Organization), with the main intention of harmonising their individual national standards to the GCC region," he says.

In a buoyant market such as the GCC's, standards then become vital in order to maintain quality and consistency.

Charles Barnes, director, international operations, APA -The Engineered Wood Association agrees that standards are important.

"Product standards are especially important for structural building materials, because these materials must often meet life safety requirements including things like strength, fire resistance and durability criteria, which are reflected in the test criteria of the standards to ensure safety of structures for occupants or, in some instances, worker safety at construction sites. Building codes routinely reference product standards and require that products conforming to the standards are used in construction."

APA promotes US engineered wood products for a wide variety of construction applications. It also provides guidance, recommendations and sourcing information to builders, contractors, product distributors, architects and engineers on applications including plywood concrete form work for high-rise buildings, laminated veneer lumber for scaffolding, wooden structural panels for roof, wall and floor sheathing, and glued laminated timber for a myriad of uses including marinas, boardwalks, bridges, resort hotels, golf clubhouses, shopping malls, public buildings and other projects.

Over the past few months, the GCC has seen a surge in steel and cement prices with manufacturers and producers scrambling to procure raw material to keep up with business requirements. But such situations can have an effect on quality due to the scarcity of supply.

Ben Bowsher, executive director, UK Cares says: "The current steel market has become increasingly globalised and it is well known that consistency of product quality and compliance with product standards is highly variable when considering manufacture. The risks of non-compliance have never been so high, particularly in a market such as the UAE, with its unprecedented rate of growth. High materials prices, changes in construction methods and responsibilities, ever increasing pressure for early completion and progress towards the use of more sophisticated manufacturing methods are part of a mix that, if not controlled properly, will inevitably result in failures, placing contracts, structures and possibly even health and safety at risk."


He added that the UK and UAE construction supply chains are similar with both being relatively lightly regulated in terms of material supply and construction and thus open to negative impacts that could be brought about by a highly competitive and price driven construction market.

Post agrees that standards are a powerful tool for organisations of all sizes. According to him they support innovation and increase productivity.

He says: "Effective standardisation promotes forceful competition and enhances profitability, enabling a business to take a leading role in shaping the industry itself. Standards allow a company to attract and assure customers, demonstrate market leadership, create competitive advantage and develop and maintain best practice."

He adds that certification also has many benefits for an organisation. It demonstrates to stakeholders that a business is run effectively and the process of achieving and maintaining the certification helps ensure that there is constant improving of activities.

The regular assessment process also improves staff responsibility, commitment and motivation and can improve overall performance, remove uncertainty and widen market opportunities.

Bowsher suggests that the UAE should introduce the UK's recently implemented system on conformity assessment, which mitigates towards the use of suitably accredited and qualified certification bodies and test laboratories which would control quality and provide an environment for sector development with associated improvements in manufacturing and construction efficiencies.

But how easy is it to achieve certifications from these bodies and has attainting them become more of a marketing tool for companies rather than an assurance of quality?

"Some certifications like the ISO is very difficult to achieve and maintain," said Heath Andersen, associate director of consultancy Whitby & Bird.

"Of course it helps in a big way with marketing one's product but that's a good thing because companies know that they have to have a quality product and attaining certification broadens their horizons."

"In this market, everyone asks for certifications so it is being taken pretty seriously. Being accredited does take you that extra mile which is very important in a competitive market such as this," he added.

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