THE ISO 9000 in Hongkong was launched six years ago as a result of a Government study which, eventually, led to the creation of the Hongkong Quality Assurance Agency (HKQAA). ISO 9000 is just one element of a wider effort for better standards being directed by Brian Tyler, the assistant director general at the Industry Department. Under the slogan ''Make it Better in Hongkong'', the Quality Awareness Campaign, launched in 1990, is targeted at the 2,500 largest manufacturing companies, which together account for 55 per cent of Hongkong's gross manufacturing output. ''We have chosen the 'top-down' approach, because we are convinced that the bigger companies will put pressure on their suppliers to improve quality and this will help spread the message effectively,'' Mr Tyler said. ''The ultimate goal is to make Total Quality Management [TQM] universal.'' The HKQAA's contribution is to assist local firms reach international standards. HKQAA receives a a $3-million-a-year Government grant, plus money raised from its professional fees. The Government subsidy will cease at the end of this financial year, although the Legislative Council has voted for a $20 million reserve fund that the HKQAA may draw on, if required. ''I believe that it won't be necessary to borrow from the reserve. We are getting busier and busier as more Hongkong businesses begin to appreciate the benefit of becoming ISO 9000-listed,'' said the chief executive, Lionel Wood. ''The range of industries we have awarded certificates to has been growing significantly,'' he said. This spans from electronics, through to electrical engineering, building and construction, concrete production, to software design.'' Mr Wood is anxious to encourage companies to seek certification, but warned it could be difficult. ''We have found that a common omission in a certification programme is the lack of forward planning when it comes to trained staff to develop and implement the new regime.'' This development stage takes about six months. Other preparatory steps that should be taken before applying for certification include defining work procedures, instruction and job descriptions, alerting the entire staff to the company's quality policy, and introducing the concept of internal customers. Mr Wood has identified a number of areas of the standards that can cause particular difficulties. Management responsibilities: the first requirement is to appreciate that quality is not a bonus that is attached to the product after it is manufactured, but is an intrinsic part of the entire process. Contract review: ISO 9000 requires the supplier (the company seeking certification) to ensure that he understands the buyer's needs. He must also confirm that he has the capabilities to honour the contract's terms in respect of personnel, time, raw materials, technology and financial resources. Design control: coping effectively with design changes demanded by the customer frequently prove a weakness. Document control: a high degree of formality in handling paperwork is demanded. All instructions must be checked and authorised prior to release, as must any amendments. Process control: as the central function, this is usually well managed but, as with design control, changes to routine can cause problems. Inspection, measuring and testing: re-calibration of test equipment is often required, together with an understanding of the concept of traceability to accepted weights and measures standards. Inspection and test status: labelling of materials which are in process is often slack or non-existent. Corrective action: ISO rules demand problem-solving techniques which trace and correct root causes, not merely symptoms. Internal quality audits: companies must pre-plan to conduct their own self-audits, which are then approved or rejected by the HKQAA.