SMEs need to be informed about the technical requirements
Exported goods are rejected repeatedly at foreign borders. Import rejections mean loss of revenue and generate considerable costs for the exporter due to the return or destruction of non-compliant goods. According to a study by UNIDO, these “export losses” cost companies several hundred million USD every year . Especially for SMEs in developing countries, such rejections can threaten their existence.
This problem shows how important it is that SMEs, in particular, are informed about the technical requirements of export markets. Besides, the use of of metrology, standards, accreditation and conformity assessment, i.e. the quality infrastructure, helps saving costs, increasing productivity and stimulating innovation. In this way, entrepreneurs can learn to understand quality as an investment, not just a cost.
An essential source of information for SMEs in this area is the “Export Quality Management” (EQM) Guide. The International Trade Centre (ITC) of the United Nations and the WTO  published the first edition in 2001. The Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) joined in for the second edition with the title “Export Quality Management: A Guide for Small and Medium-sized Exporters” in 2011 . In its 2nd edition, the Guide contains 95 questions and answers aiming at a better understanding of quality, technical requirements, management systems, conformity assessment, metrology, accreditation and the WTO Agreements on TBT and SPS. Readers learn, for example, what quality is or how to motivate employees to achieve better quality. At the same time, it explains, for example, the relationship between standards, technical regulations and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Internationally renowned experts and practitioners have validated the relevance and correctness of questions and answers.
Beyond the publication, ITC and PTB have developed a training concept for “Export Quality Management” [3 and 4]. The target group of the two-day training of trainers (ToT) are Business Support Organisations (BSO) in developing countries. The training aims at creating awareness and enabling the transfer of knowledge on quality-related technical requirements for export to SMEs. The training and information activities in the field of quality infrastructure are action-oriented and thus go beyond the transfer of pure factual knowledge. After attending the EQM training, the participants should be able to:
- list the most critical market access requirements, and single out the prevailing standards and critical issues thereof for compliance,
- list potential services that their BSO can offer to support SMEs in this area and
- to refer SMEs to the most appropriate support institutions in the enabling environment for specific technical advice to help them to meet compliance criteria. 
Need for update
Almost a decade has passed since publishing the second edition. During this time, the world of quality management and quality infrastructure has further developed. Existing quality management standards have been upgraded to new versions. When it comes to the most well-known quality management standard, the version ISO 9001:2015 has replaced the previous version ISO 9001:2008. The latest version emphasises risk-based thinking and leadership commitment . Besides, new management standards on Anti-Bribery (ISO 37001:2016) and Business Continuity (ISO 22301:2019) are offered. Today, areas such as health and the environment play an essential role in quality infrastructure beyond the traditional trade sector. We also note accelerated progress in the field of digitisation, which echoes under the concept of Quality Infrastructure 4.0.
Now it is time again for a new edition of the successful EQM Guide. An updated version could renew its role as a critical Guide for exporting SMEs in the field of quality management. At the same time, ITC and PTB could reflect on whether, in addition to the book, it could be sensible to develop an interactive digital EQM tool. Such a tool would facilitate more regular updates of its content and adapt to a continuously changing world of quality infrastructure.
 UNIDO (2015). Meeting Standards, Winning Markets – Trade Standards Compliance. Vienna
 ITC (2001). Export quality management: an answer book for small and medium-sized exporters. Geneva.
 ITC and PTB (2011). Export Quality Management: A Guide for Small and Medium-sized Exporters. Geneva, International Trade Centre, Geneva
 PTB, Export Quality Management, Website, Braunschweig
 PTB (2015). A bird’s eye view for small and medium-sized exporters, Braunschweig
 ITC, Export quality workshops, Website, Geneva
 Hunt, Lorri (2016). ISO 9001:2015 Key Changes. In: The Auditor