Standards made simple: What do standards do for businesses?

You might have heard a lot about standards, but what are they, what do they do and how do they work?

Standards made simple: What do standards do for businesses?

You might have heard a lot about standards, but what are they, what do they do and how do they work?

Standards can improve efficiency, productivity and effectiveness to help businesses reduce costs and increase profitability. When businesses find themselves under strain due to economic headwinds, the benefits offered by standards can make a real difference to that all-important bottom line.

Put simply, standards are a best practice guide to doing something. Whether you run a coffee shop, work in an office or manage a manufacturing plant, there are standards that offer guidance on the best way to serve food, protect confidential data or ensure the quality and consistency of products.

For example, wood-fired pizza oven manufacturer Ooni decided to implement ISO 9001, a quality management standard. The standard showed Ooni how to carry out effective audits and ensure Ooni products were consistently of high quality and met global standards. Having this in place made it easier for Ooni to expand into new markets, as they were already operating to – or exceeding – many countries’ regulatory requirements for both ovens and additional utensils and merchandise.

Standards are developed by business owners, customers and industry experts just like you. They come together to agree on the most effective and efficient way to do something and that agreed best practice becomes the standard. Any organization, of any size, in any sector, can then download that information and apply it to their own processes in a way that suits how they work and what they do. 

An example of this is, during the Covid-19 pandemic, FKA Brands was supplying hospitals, dentists and care homes with medical-grade face masks. As demand for masks surged, many manufacturers appeared on the market offering masks in bulk – but many of the masks were poor quality. 

Standards helped FKA Brands identify the best quality masks and avoid flawed products, so it was able to supply the right goods to its customers. This helped protect FKA Brands’ reputation and meant that the regulatory body, MHRA, approved FKA Brands as a quality mask supplier, boosting their profitability.

By following the guidance in a standard, a business can identify inefficiencies and areas for improvement. The standard shows how to assess and optimize these areas, and then measure, maintain and make continuous improvements. That’s how a standard can keep a business operating at its best – making savings, improving productivity and boosting profitability well into the future.

So when an organization buys a standard, how does it get started using it? 

The next step is to implement the standard by gradually adopting its advice. Many businesses start seeing benefits as soon as changes are made as staff are working in new and more productive ways, systems are becoming more efficient and processes are being updated to improve effectiveness. 

Businesses also have the option of getting certified to a standard. This step, involving an external assessment, comes with a range of benefits, such as being able to use the accreditation on your marketing collateral, or tendering for bigger projects that require a standard certification.

However, organizations can enjoy the benefits of improved efficiency, productivity and effectiveness that come from using a standard, without getting certified. A business can even choose to only to adopt the most relevant parts of the standard that will have the biggest impact on their business.  

After implementing several standards, Uju Onyenka, Information Security and Privacy Manager for the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACCA), said: “Standards aren’t prescriptive. There’s lots of flexibility for organizations to adapt the fundamental principles to suit their business.”

For FM Conway, a civil engineering firm specialising in highways and other infrastructure, standards had a dual impact: increasing safety levels and reducing overheads.

FM Conway chose to follow ISO 39001, a road traffic safety standard, to strengthen its safety procedures and minimise operational risks, as a way of reducing the company’s traffic collision rate. As a result of more careful driving, the business’ entire fleet recorded better miles-per-gallon, lowering fuel costs across the company.

Standards are a powerful, flexible tool for any business to make use of. There are over 90,000 international, EU and UK standards in existence, from technical standards about how to manufacture certain components to much more comprehensive standards that can walk you through saving energy or improving your data security. 

Start exploring standards now

This article comes courtesy of BSI Group, the UK’s national standards body.

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