Massmart Walmart and SABS entered a joint venture to certify SME product suppliers to a cheap, entry level quality management standard in South Africa in 2012.
“By June 2012, we would have passed nine supplier communities through SABS quality management training, including electrical, plumbing, non perishables and others”, said Massmart Walmart CEO Grant Pattison at an SME suppliers conference in Midrand in Feburary 2012.
The SME quality management external certification costs only about R8 000, while ISO 9001 third party certification costs about R30 000. The SABS SME version is limited to Massmart Walmart, but would probably be recognised by other retailers, said SABS official Desmond Govender at the event.
“We will start by auditing suppliers of high risk products in 2012, and proceed to lower risk products”, Massmart Walmart told prospective suppliers. “There will be a sea change in product quality assurance. We have learned from recent product recalls to manage product quality up front.”
SABS also offers product development audits to suppliers of new products, product testing at its laboratories in Pretoria, and an SABS ‘Approved’ Mark scheme. However, there have been several incidents to indicate that product test results favour SABS Mark holders at the expense of health, safety, environment and quality considerations.
The Massmart deal with the semi state standards authority indicates good relations between Massmart Walmart and the SA government, following earlier concerns about anti competitive practice, global product procurement, and exploitative labour practices by the major multinational retailer.
The quality certification deal aimed at small and medium enterprises is also apparently part of Massmart Walmart’s assurance that it would not sideline local or small suppliers in favour of cheap or low quality imports. The move is also in line with SABS strategy to gain small business clients.
“Some product suppliers to retailers are not even aware of relevant SANS standards”, said Govender at a suppliers seminar. Among the check points in the new cheap entry level quality management certification process, are compliance, safety, risk assessment, risk management, testing, records, qualifications, equipment, and primary suppliers.
Chinese import quality questions
Chinese made products that are packaged and labeled in South Africa, could be audited and tested by SABS via its international partners. SABS and Massmart Walmart advise suppliers to pay particular attention to the new SA Consumer Protection Act, and to keep their labeling in line with the legal requirement of ‘reasonable’ product disclosure and honesty.
Massmart Walmart also conducts and ethics audit, named an ethical audit, of all its suppliers worldwide. This audit is distinct from SABS compliance and quality start-up certification.
SABS sells SA market access
SABS and SA NRCS see themselves as offering access to the South African market, and ensuring that high hazard and high risk goods do not threaten health and safety of users. Products tested and certified in other countries have to be reviewed by the SABS if relevant to compulsory specifications, and could be reviewed, authorised, re-tested and certified locally.
Imports may also fall foul of SA NRCS inspections and confiscation powers.
More retail standards to come
There are already about 6500 SANS standards, mostly adopted from international standards, with more to follow. SABS plans to generate more local standards relevant to local conditions.
“Retailers and suppliers should become more involved on some of our 400 technical committees (TCs), developing and adopting standards”, Govender said. “SABS TC members are advantaged by information and participation in standards that could become referenced in legislation, or could become compulsory.”
SABS also offers training in the SME sector, in ‘soft skills’ like conducting meetings, taking minutes and auditing. Massmart Walmart buyers would also be trained by SABS.
PHOTO; Massmart Walmart SA CEO Grant Pattison and SABS announced a joint venture to offer cheap, entry level quality management certification to small business product suppliers in several product categories.