Quality champions for organic products in Lao PDR

12 August 2022
ITC News

Quality Champion Xay helps Lao small businesses overcome challenges through coaching

The quality of products and services can determine a company's competitiveness in global markets. Products must meet mandatory technical requirements, selected standards and other buyer requirements depending on the country of import. In addition, operational efficiency and excellence is a key aspect of international competitiveness.


Through the Quality Champions Programme, a pool of professional quality experts is now ready to train and coach small and medium-sized enterprises.


Phonexay Sengsoulichanh (Xay) is one of the Lao Quality Champions who joined the programme when it launched in 2020. Each month, he took a week off from his full-time job as a standard and certification officer at HELVETAS to participate in a series of quality workshops. In the past 16 months, Xay and other quality champions have been learning tools and techniques to ensure food safety and quality. 


“My background is in agriculture, and I only have knowledge in fairtrade and organic certification,” says Xay. “Quality is more than standards and certification. This knowledge is very helpful to me in supporting small businesses. Moreover, being a Quality Champion is beneficial if I want to provide services to companies or factories in quality improvement, other than my current job.”


After having completed all workshops, the programme moves to company-coaching activities to help aspiring Champions like Xay gain practical experience. Xay has started assisting companies in improving their products’ quality or the efficiency of their operations by implementing changes in their business. At the end of these activities in October, Xay will receive an international qualification and commit to serving as Quality Champion on a long-term basis.

Xay has been paired with Quality Champion Bounhome Phanouvong to coach the Lao Organic Product Company. The company is well-established in the domestic market. However, the firm faces common problems such as low productivity and performance due to staff lacking appropriate training, inconsistent quality control causing defects and waste.

During their first coaching, Xay and Bounhome helped the company's staff and CEO to understand Process Excellence, Operational Excellence and ways to improve and organize their workplace. These lessons are part of the Lean Six Sigma method that helps companies deliver with few resources.

“When leaders and employees start focusing on continued improvement, then the organization’s productivity, quality and eventually profitability and prosperity will increase,” explains Andrew Parris, a Lean Six Sigma Master and ITC expert. “They will be able to meet the demand, supplant imports because of higher quality and compete better. At the same time, they will increase their exports with higher quality outputs and gain the certifications needed for international markets”.

About the project

The Quality Champions Programme is implemented by the International Trade Centre and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) through the ASEAN Regional Integration Support from the EU Plus – Lao PDR, and funded by the European Union. The project is oriented towards improving the overall business environment and increasing participation in global value chains for two selected sectors: coffee and wood processing.