Setting quality standards is a necessity for SMEs. Standards, certification, labels and audits help them in this process.
Whether it is to assess and certify the quality of a product, a service or a management system, small and medium sized Swiss companies have several tools at their disposal. These are provided by independent organizations. The result of this assessment/evaluation process which may take the form of a standard, a certificate or a label constitutes a guarantee of quality. The company can promote it to its customers, partners or potential investors.
The standardization process is aimed at any company wishing to highlight the specific characteristics of a product or service. It consists of describing the specificities and characteristic properties of the product or service concerned in a document (the standard). This process is developed in agreement with different actors. This is a voluntary process, unlike, for example, a cantonal obligation.
The certification of a product, a service or a management system amounts to verifying that it meets the predefined criteria. It takes place in two stages. An initial inspection is carried out, the result of which are then verified by an independent body. The same entity may be involved in both stages, but the second stage will necessarily be enriched by the point of view of additional experts.
The labelling process makes it possible to assess the quality of a product or a service, ideally taking into account its entire production chain. The assessment is based on criteria defined upstream, according to a participatory process. These criteria can be redefined regularly. They are reviewed by an independent control body accredited for this purpose. Some labels are subject to certification, others are not.
The processes described above are often reviewed during an audit. This process consists of an expert assessment carried out by an independent body which determines whether the process in question complies with the pre-established criteria. The audit may concern a company’s production processes but also its financial situation or its management system. In addition to its evaluation role, the audit also makes it possible to identify potential for improvement within an SME.
Sources: labelinfo.ch, sqs.ch, iias.ch (March 2021)