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Quality Affects Your Life

The Quality Infrastructure
Without a well-functioning quality infrastructure, the economic and social development of a country is not conceivable: screws fit screw nuts, battery charger leads fit the mobile phones and plug the socket. Producers and consumers make daily use of the components of a quality infrastructure without being aware of it.

The term quality infrastructure refers to the whole of the working fields of metrology, standardisation and testing, of quality management, evaluation of conformity including certification and accreditation. A complete and internationally recognized network for quality infrastructure is indispensable.



The quality infrastructure comprises elements of standards, quality, metrology, certification and accreditation, each of which are defined as follows:

1. Standards
A standard is a document that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products and their related processes or production methods, with which compliance is not mandatory. It may also cover terminology, symbols, packaging, marking or labeling requirements as they apply to a product, process or production method. A link exists between technical regulations and standards.

Technical regulations use standards as a basis for implementing required product characteristics. When a standard is declared binding, it becomes a technical regulation. Standards are voluntary in nature and can be developed by a variety of bodies in the public or private sector. Standards specify only the product characteristics, or technical requirements, with which products or processes have to comply in order to meet the standards.

2. Quality
Quality is defined as the "degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements." The quality of goods and services involves many activities that are coordinated through quality management. Quality management involves the development from which both processes and people benefit with the objective being the continual improvement of product conformance. 

3. Metrology
Metrology is the science of measurements. Metrology includes units of measurement and their standards, measuring instruments and their field of application, and all theoretical and practical problems relating to measurement. Measurements are essential to nearly all aspects of human activity ranging from production control, measurement of environmental quality, health and safety assessment, conformity assessment of products to consumer protection and fair trade assurance.

Metrology can be divided into scientific which covers general theoretical and practical problems concerning units of measurements, industrial metrology focuses on calibration procedures and intervals, control of measurement processes and management of measuring instruments in industry to ensure that they are in a state of compliance with requirements for their intended use. Legal metrology relates to mandatory technical requirements that ensure correct measurements in terms of protection of the consumer.

Metrology provides the technical means to ensure correct measurements by the implementation of a harmonised system of measurement which comprises the International System of Units (SI), accurate measuring instruments complying with international standards, and validated methods and procedures.

4. Accreditation

Accreditation is the formal recognition of competence and is applied to laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies. International activity in accreditation is in the form of co-operation between national or regional accreditation systems, which seek to provide a worldwide accreditation capability through networks of mutual recognition agreements.

5. Certification
Certification is a third-party confirmation related to products, processes, systems or persons. Certification is divided into product certification that involves the issuance of a certificate or mark (or both) by a third party to demonstrate that a specific product meets a defined set of requirements such as safety, fitness for use and/or interchangeability characteristics for that product, usually specified in a standard; and management system certification which is the certification of an organization's management system.

Certification enables customers to trust the quality of the products and services that they consume without having to further investigate the competence of the supplier.
see also
Consumers International
www.consumersinternational.
org

Uganda Consumers' Protection Association (UCPA)
http://ucpa.eac-quality.net

Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA)
www.tfda.or.tz

Uganda National Bureau of Standards list of certified products as at April 2010