A quality material, product, process, service or system is one that meets the needs of customers. Today, customers, including consumers, know what they want and can easily recognise ‘quality’. Businesses interact with a variety of customers e.g. • Internal e.g. staff who have their office cleaned, or use the canteen • Business e.g. suppliers of raw materials, stationery, transport, telecommunications • End users e.g. other firms, the government or its agents, or the general public (buyers of goods or services). Many businesses trade at local, national and international levels. To win customers’ confidence, firms need to meet the highest quality standards. Distant and local or national customers want a guarantee of reliable, high quality goods and services. The British Standards Institution (BSI) provides a range of products and services that assist in assuring high quality. It was the world’s
first national standards body and is the best known worldwide (as indicated by its official ‘Superbrand’ status). There are approximately 20,000 current standards that all capture best practice. They are established by 1,113 different committees of specialist experts who reach a consensus about what should be expected of a particular product, material, service, process or technology in a particular industry – e.g. the structure of a gas pipe, the design of an electrical wiring system. Committee members have a wide range of interests and skills from manufacturers, sellers, research organizations and government departments to campaigners, users and consumers. The standards produced are regularly reviewed to meet the changing demands of society and technology.
Today, the majority of UK output has moved to services. So, in addition to providing standards for products and materials, BSI creates standards for services and systems, including management systems. It leads the development of standards for many important new areas of business activity. These include: • improvement of utility billing services (e.g. gas and electricity suppliers) • products being developed with new technologies e.g. nano technology (the creation of miniature products and processes) • implementation of web design processes, to ensure characteristics like usability and readability. BSI is a global group of companies, offering a wide range of standards-related services including certification and product testing. The ‘British Standards’ division - the part that creates the standards - also serves as the UK’s National Standards Body. Some of its funds come from the government for promoting and protecting UK interests worldwide, as well as helping British businesses to be innovative and competitive. The rest comes from commercial activities e.g. selling standards to a wide range of companies including SMEs, providing advice and training and selling books/guides explaining how to meet and get the most from using standards.
BSI’s ‘Kitemark’ is a quality assurance mark appearing on a wide variety of traditional and new goods. It is a form of guarantee that a product is made to a quality standard. It can be found on a range of well known products tested by BSI to make sure they meet the relevant standards e.g. crash helmets, refrigerators, electrical plugs, Christmas tree lights. This is the Kitemark. As consumers we want standards because they: • inform us about the reliability and fitness for purpose of the goods and services we buy and use • enable us to use more things more widely giving us greater choice • bring peace of mind. Manufacturers and retailers welcome standards, because they: • provide clear guidelines on targets that reflect best practice • protect manufacturers against poorer rivals who might otherwise damage an industry’s reputation • provide an excellent selling point • provide a benchmark that can be used for communicating the specification and characteristics of the...