Advantages of ISO can also extend to smaller enterprises

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 1997, 12:00am

About 800 ISO 9000 series certificates have been issued in Hong Kong since the Industry Department launched its quality awareness campaign seven years ago.

But while larger companies such as Hongkong Telecom were quick to see the advantages of ISO certification, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) - which form the backbone of local industry - have been slower to act.

According to Timothy Wong, the department's executive officer for quality assurance, many SMEs do not understand what ISO 9000 is about.

'They don't seem to think it's important for them,' he said. 'Many bosses say they don't have the time to change the way they do things or they don't know how to go about doing so. We want to help to change their way of thinking.' The Industry Department had budgeted $3 million for the second consecutive year to promote quality awareness, Mr Wong said, adding it was targeting SMEs 'to help make them more competitive in the international market'.

Last month, the department organised a programme of seminars, workshops, conferences, training courses, on-site visits and exhibitions, concluding with an awards presentation.

'It started out in 1994 as Quality Week but was renamed Quality Month in 1996 because more organisations were taking part and more events were being organised,' Mr Wong said.

Seminars are organised throughout the year and a wide variety of publicity material produced, including a CD-ROM and videos in English, Cantonese and Putonghua. Targeted at SMEs, the material explains what ISO 9000 is all about, how to appoint a consultant and what the benefits of doing so are.

Although the department's activities are aimed at top-level management, it encourages firms to conduct in- company seminars for mid-level management and front- line workers. Twelve companies carried out in-house quality promotion activities in conjunction with Quality Month 97.

Mr Wong has this advice for SMEs who have decided to take the ISO 9000 plunge: before appointing a consultant, carefully check its company profile and background and make sure it has been successful in helping other SMEs obtain certification.

'They must have a track record,' he said. 'Most certification so far has been for large companies. Just because a firm has helped large companies obtain certification, it does not mean it will be successful with a SME.'