Focus on quality aims to boost Lao exports
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘quality’? Some people think of good food, beautiful and well-made clothes, things that are safe and durable, or excellent service. Ultimately, it's about having something that meets or exceeds our expectations.
When it comes to export markets, quality is important. It can be daunting for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to meet all quality requirements for exports. They may also face other challenges such as low productivity, unexpected delays, breakdowns, or excessive waste.
Through the ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU Plus – Lao PDR (ARISE Plus Lao PDR) programme, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) jointly developed the Quality Champions Service with support from the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
This service trains up new experts in quality control, so that they can in turn train small businesses on how to meet the standards required by export markets.
Ensuring quality to access export markets
Phouxay Thepphavong, the secretariat of LNCCI, is also a dedicated Quality Champion. Over the past six months, he and his colleague Borivon Phafong have provided consultancy services to Burapha Agro-Forestry. The Lao-Swedish company grows eucalyptus plantations to make wood products, and has its own sawmill and processing facility.
Thepphavong has now completed a 20-month journey learning about quality management, food safety standards, lean management, and other topics.
“After a long and intensive learning journey, Quality Champions are finally ready to assist local SMEs to help them understand quality requirements and standards, improving quality of products and operations,” Thepphavong said. “We can also provide coaching sessions to help SMEs meet requirements of the target export markets.”
On 16 February, the Quality Champions Service was officially launched. Local business, government officials and the Lao public participated in the event.
“On behalf of LNCCI, we commit to carry on with the QC service hub, to make good use of the trained and qualified Quality Champions to offer affordable, accessible training and support to SMEs,” the chamber’s vice president Anousone Phonamart said at the launch.
“I believe that with this commitment from both sides, QCs and LNCCI, the QC hub will become an active hub to contribute to enhancing SMEs to be more competitive in both national and international market. “To celebrate the programme, and to launch Quality Champion service at LNCCI, the chamber’s vice president said in his speech.
Thepphavong and other champions will offer their quality improvement services through LNCCI. They will help small businesses develop quality cultures and facilitate quality control and certification. On a wider scale, their services will enable the Lao economy to integrate further into regional and global supply chains.
“It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Quality Champions and learn quality-related lessons from our country, region, and around the world. As I observed over the past six months at the factory, I think the lessons and knowledge I learned from all the QC workshops will really help Lao businesses understand how important it is to improve production processes and standards,” said Thepphavong said at the launch.
“Moving forward, as a certified national quality expert, I hope to provide relevant and useful services to small and medium-sized enterprises in Lao PDR and guide them in achieving international standards,” Thepphavong added.
About the project
The ASEAN Regional Integration Support – Lao PDR Trade Related Assistance project (ARISE Plus Lao PDR) is funded by the European Union (EU). The project aims to help the country integrate its economy into regional markets and global production chains by supporting smallholders and small and medium-sized enterprises as well as the public sector.