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Unlocking economic growth – standards imperative for South Africa’s global competitiveness

Boosting the adoption of international and local standards is crucial for South Africa to enhance economic growth and competitiveness on the global stage.

Oliver Naidoo, Managing Director of JC Auditors, a leading SANAS-accredited certification body, asserts that while implementing standards in individual businesses offers clear advantages, on a larger scale, it can significantly alter the trajectory of a country’s development.

“When comparing South Africa to countries we compete against in the global economy, it’s evident that our adoption of international standards remains limited. Although a subtle shift and an increase in numbers is noticeable, we still have considerable ground to cover,” he says.

Naidoo adds that companies that have embraced standards are seeing tangible results. “The objectives of standards are highly targeted,” he explains. “When implemented effectively, they increase profitability while safeguarding the business brand. Standards are crucial in managing and mitigating risks, resulting in enhanced safety and service delivery.”

Steering towards change

At its core, the purpose of international standards is to facilitate global trade, by ensuring consistent quality and performance across all countries. It compels companies to be more accountable and, importantly, because standards necessitate audits, it requires companies to measure and monitor their performance continuously. This allows them to identify and rectify abnormalities far more swiftly than possible, without a standard.

“This, in turn, enables companies to maintain consistent quality and performance, fostering improved transparency while driving innovation. Adherence to standards signifies a dedication to good governance, which forms the cornerstone for any business aspiring to compete on the global stage,” he says.

However, integrating standards into business operations requires more than mere compliance. It necessitates a strategic approach embedded within the fabric of the organisation. “You must have a structured approach,” advises Naidoo, highlighting the necessity for standards to be seamlessly integrated into core business strategies. This entails fostering a culture of innovation, continual improvement, and rigorous training, wherein international standards serve as guiding principles for operational excellence.

Standards must form the foundation of a business strategy to yield their intended benefits. Achieving this requires implementation that considers each individual business’s unique context and ensures delivery consistency.

Cultivating excellence

Experts like Naidoo advise using the PDCA model, also known as the Deming Wheel, during the implementation of standards. This iterative method for continual improvement involves a loop of planning, doing, checking, and acting, enabling ongoing enhancements in processes, products, and service functions.

“Any business striving to attain world-class status must operate at a higher level,” explains Naidoo. “To achieve this, it’s necessary to re-think how business is conducted, and standards play a crucial role in encouraging precisely that mindset shift.”

Selecting which standards to implement depends on the objectives to be achieved. Each standard addresses specific aspects of operations and provides distinct benefits. For instance, ISO 9001 focuses on managing risks to meet customer requirements and enhance quality, while ISO 45001 emphasises protecting people at work by managing risks effectively. On the other hand, ISO 14001 is geared towards environmental protection. Despite being international in scope, all standards must also adhere to the laws and regulations of individual countries.

According to Naidoo, when standards are implemented correctly, they yield immediate benefits. Companies experience better brand reputation, increased operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness, improved safety measures, and effective risk mitigation, all contributing to enhanced profitability.

“Standards play a crucial role in improving supply chains. They make a difference in the first mile, the last mile, and every mile in between,” concludes Naidoo.

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