Ernesto Bächtold
Director General
QS México
View from the Top

Lack of Standards and Certifications in Mexico

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 11:20

“The growth in Mexico has been incredible and few countries can match the speed of its development and growth,” says Ernesto Bächtold García, Director General of QS Mexiko, the company that for the past 12 years has been certifying quality management systems in Mexico. “But the country took a shortcut instead of the normal process of development. The government and the Ministry of Economy try to paint Mexico as a developed country but that makes us lose the worldwide benefits that developing countries can get,” he adds. “Using standards brings a lot of benefits not only to the industry but, more importantly, to the final user. But as important as standards are as well as the certification they provide, Mexico seems to be falling behind in this particular issue.”

Two domestic standards are in place in Mexico, the obligatory NOMs and the voluntary NMXs. ISOs are voluntary but Mexico sometimes adopts such international standards. There are about 4,000 standards in Mexico, but only about 800 are in use. In comparison, Germany or England have 90,000 to 95,000 standards, as do Spain and France. Furthermore, Bächtold García adds that machinery checks are done once every one or two months in Europe or the US, while in Mexico, these checks are carried out every five or ten years. “The common practice here is to check on the equipment once it stops working,” he states.

In Bächtold García’s opinion, it is important for the government and customers to be aware of the importance of standards, but companies also have to be conscious of this and decide they need to be socially responsible. “Many factories in Mexico are family businesses. But when these companies grow, they need a system that works because it is well-designed, not because an authority figure told them to adopt it. Standards are missing here to guide them in the right direction,” he notes.

The renewable energy sector is even further behind in terms of adopting standards and certifications. Bächtold García believes the first step is to change the legal framework and free the market from its current restrictions. In the current environment, a would-be certifier of companies that work with renewable energies has to go through an expensive and risky process. “For me to build the capacity to audit wind turbines, for example, would cost about US$40,000,” explains Bächtold García. “To make the process worth the investment, there have to be more customers asking for a specific type of certification.” Getting a renewable project certified under the currently legal framework is also very costly for the client. “No local certification company is willing to spend money on preparing an audit in such a small market. Therefore, renewable energy companies that wish to be certified have to get a European auditor. This brings the certification cost to between US$40,000 and US$46,000 when it would cost no more than US$10,000 to have it done by an equivalent certification agency in Mexico,” Bächtold García claims.

Currently, the law does not require companies in the renewable energy sector to be certified. However, Bächtold García believes that the industry would take a great leap forward, should CFE or SEMARNAT ask for certification as one of the requirements to hand out their permits. He believes that once customers pressure companies to follow a certain standard, companies will have no choice but to comply. “In every industry, every process needs a standard. It is important for customers to demand them. This begins with little actions like asking for guarantees, no matter what the price of a product is,” explains Bächtold García.

Voluntary certification does have its benefits. For example, when exporting a product to Europe, certifications will be required, not only for the processes directly related to the product but also in areas such as eco-labeling and packaging. Bächtold García explains that when a company wants to enter such a sophisticated market, certifications are necessary, regardless of whether they are not legally required or if Mexican customers choose to pay any attention to them or not.

QS Mexiko is ready to provide its services when the renewable market requires them. The company is under the oversight of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), with every member country possessing its own body for accrediting certifications, such as EMA in Mexico. This ensures that all of QS Mexiko’s certificates are valid internationally