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Opinions of Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Columnist: Kester Aburam Korankye

Will standards change the game for manufacturers?

At a glance, the issue of standards in relation to the growth of the manufacturing sub-sector may be relegated to the background, considering the myriad of challenges hindering survival and expansion in the value-addition business.

In Ghana, manufacturers are burdened with a myriad of basic problems in their bid to scale up and reach a wider market outside the country.

Hurdles such as rising cost of raw materials, power fluctuations and high electricity tariffs that result in astronomical cost of production make products expensive and uncompetitive on the market where the influx of cheap imported products, mainly from Asia, determines the price of goods.

A case for standards

Elsewhere, however, standards, measurements and tests have become the springboard for growth.

Standardisation is a critical cornerstone of every nation’s development and the manufacturing sub-sector can be expanded with access to larger markets through adherence to international standards.

Although trade opening does not automatically bring growth, countries like Thailand and Singapore’s integration into the world economy, through conformity to standards, was followed by strong growth in manufacturing.

For instance, measurements are integral to many varieties of standards, including those specifying, for example, the dimensions of screw threads, the diameter of optical fibres, the content of steel alloys, information technology interfaces, electromagnetic compatibility requirements, the performance of machine tools or robots, and so on.

In specifying characteristics or performance levels, standards promote efficiency in domestic and international markets. By adhering to agreed standards, businesses can negotiate according to widely accepted criteria for products, avoiding ambiguities that might otherwise undermine transactions.

Disregard for conformity

Unfortunately, standards have become so ordinary that they are taken for granted. In some quarters, they are considered to be as interesting as an old newspaper.

For instance, less than 50 organisations operating in the country have signed onto the international standard that specifies requirements for a Quality Management System (QMS), ISO 9001, which was adopted by the country in 2015.

Implementing the ISO 9001:20015 enables continuous improvement of an organisation’s QMS and processes. In turn, this improves the ability of organisations’ operations to meet customer requirements and expectations.

Costly omission

In today's highly competitive global economy, with China and America, the world’s largest markets, at each other’s necks for dominance, a disregard of the importance of conformity to standards can be a costly omission.

Without conformity to agreed-upon standards, laboratories, companies and entire industries may become less efficient and manufacturers would have no business producing because what they produce may be substandard products that in some instances could cause harm to consumers.

So standards are fundamental to this nation's economy and vital for our participation in world trade. Standards can change the game for manufacturers and propel growth in the ailing sub-sector to return it to its past fortunes.

GSA mandate

In Ghana, the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) is mandated under the Standards Authority Act, 1973 to undertake conformity assessment activities, and gives permission for a conforming product to bear a mark of conformity called the Standard Mark; providing evidence of compliance to specification.

As a result, a product bearing this mark carries a third-party guarantee which is an assurance that the product has been tested and conforms to the requirements of an accepted standard.

Consumers require the assurance that products and services conform and comply with national regulations.

This confidence can only be realised through conformity assessment of products, processes or services to ensure fulfilment of requirements and relevant standards.

Conformance to these standards offers protection by safeguarding the consumer’s health and safety.