LOCAL laboratories believe the Hong Kong Laboratory Accreditation Scheme (HOKLAS) should get more support from the Government. HOKLAS needed more funding and resources to help it maintain a high regional and international profile, said Cyril O'Connor, Q A Testing Centre's managing director. On the other hand, promoting HOKLAS internationally would benefit local manufacturers, laboratories and trade, he said. The Trade and Industry Department should draw up a HOKLAS policy statement, setting out goals and resources. HOKLAS also needed more staff and money to conduct comprehensive assessments and re-assess its 58 accredited laboratories, and to promote itself overseas. 'HOKLAS has done a lot to improve standards in Hong Kong's laboratories and introduce uniformity and calibration,' he said. 'Now, the industry has matured and standards are in place, it is time to go abroad and start promoting the high-quality of lab tests and services Hong Kong has to offer.' Changes to HOKLAS assessment and accreditation processes, introduced last month, could save time for HOKLAS staff. 'Now that standards are in place in Hong Kong laboratories, we need to promote the HOKLAS accreditation benefits overseas,' Mr O'Connor said. In some European countries toys tested in Hong Kong at HOKLAS-accredited laboratories, had to be re-tested before they were imported. This was the result of not having international recognition, he said. If samples sent overseas failed tests, then they would have to be returned to Hong Kong and new samples would have to be dispatched. 'It's a ridiculous, time-consuming and expensive process that is unnecessary as quality testing, experts and equipment are available in Hong Kong,' Mr O'Connor said. 'With wider acceptance, products can be exported in confidence and manufacturers will be more likely to use 'just-in-time' management strategies. 'If manufacturers can ship goods when they want, they can cut down on warehousing expenses.' Hong Kong goods would not be as competitive if they had to be re-tested at another port of entry, which would ultimately increase retail prices. Ng Lay-har, HOKLAS executive administrator, said many companies in Europe accepted test reports from HOKLAS-accredited laboratories. 'However, some overseas importers still want a European laboratory to check goods, which is costly for local vendors selling abroad,' she said. 'HOKLAS is doing all it can to promote credentials of laboratories overseas, which we hope also will encourage foreign companies to use our labs. Changes to accreditation assessment processes will mean labs will have to continually maintain and upgrade standards. 'New methods of assessment, such as questionnaires, will give HOKLAS more time to investigate international and regional opportunities.' Mr O'Connor said HOKLAS should enter into agreements with overseas accreditation bodies. Labs in Hong Kong wanted more European countries to recognise their test results. Under new HOKLAS rules introduced last month, laboratories are required to keep their own procedure manual up to date and maintain standards. Labs will also have to conduct regular internal assessments in between two-yearly visits by HOKLAS officials. Companies applying for accreditation for different types of testing are evaluated within a two-week period. Previously, this was done separately, which meant many managerial operations were checked twice. Dr Ng said: 'Now we only send one HOKLAS member to a laboratory and assessment is done in two weeks, which is not as time-consuming or as inconvenient for labs. 'It also allows the lab to participate in its assessment and, with the laboratory's help, we can look at testing procedures in greater depth.' Changes to accreditation procedures have been done according to international standards.