The purpose of ‘Certification and integration of management systems: the experience of Portuguese small and medium enterprises’ (Santos, Mendes, Barbosa, 2011) is to examine how Portuguese SMEs experienced benefits, drawbacks and difficulties from certification to ISO 9001 (QMS – Quality Management System), ISO 14001 (EMS – Environmental Management System) and OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health & Safety Management System). The study also looked at the level of integration achieved with the different management system certification schemes.
The basis of the research is data from 46 Portuguese SMEs comprised of 20 firms from the service sector, 17 from the industrial sector, 5 from the electricity/telecomms sector and 4 (9%) from the construction. All SMEs surveyed were ISO 9001 certified, 26% were certified to ISO 14001 and 15% certified to OHSAS 18001.
Benefits of QMS seen as:
• internal organisation of the company (72% see as a major impact)
• continuous assessment through internal audits (54%)
• enterprise image (52%).
For EMS, the most important impacts of certification were seen as:
• environmental protection
• better integration of the company in the community
• rationalisation of natural resources.
The main benefits of OHSAS certification have been:
• the improvement of working conditions
• the decrease in the number of accidents and their associated costs.
Only 7% of the surveyed companies were certified to all three standards, with these organisations seeing the key benefits as:
• optimisation of resources
• reduced management costs
• unification of internal audits.
The chief drawbacks were:
• increased costs due to increases in non-conformities
• continuous document updating taking up valuable management time
• a single problem on one of the three systems impacts them all.
The main difficulties were:
• insufficient ability to integrate the three systems
• higher cost
• difficulty of simultaneous implementation over individual implementation.
This research is limited by the numbers of organisations who have certified against these standards. However, the report concludes that the benefits of integration of the systems outweigh the drawbacks and difficulties: ‘the integration and unification of the three management systems will be the future of management systems’.
Escola Superior de Tecnologia, Polytechnic Cavado e Ave, Barcelos, Portugal – Santos; University of Minho, Guimarues, Portugal – Mendes, Barbosa