Assessing a National Quality Infrastructure’s supply side

In 2018, the World Bank and the German Metrology Institute (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, PTB) commissioned the elaboration of a Comprehensive Diagnostic Toolkit to provide an instrument that helps to assess the supply side of a national quality infrastructure (NQI) system in a country.

Assessing the NQI supply side enables a country to take stock of the state of development of its quality infrastructure (QI). As QI is organically grown in most countries, an analytical review and targeted restructuring can increase the efficiency and maturity of the system. A supply-side assessment is often a preceding step to international benchmarking and formulating a national quality policy (NQP).

The toolkit’s lead author, Martin Kellermann, pointed out that the Diagnostic Toolkit is a “comprehensive methodology to evaluate a Quality Infrastructure in a detailed manner. The PTB and the World Bank’s work consisted of three pillars: the book [1], the Rapid Diagnostic Tool (RDT) and the comprehensive evaluation methodology [2].”

The RDT is based on the comprehensive toolkit’s concept and methodology and aims to provide its users with quicker feedback on the QI state of a country. The RDT rests on four pillars:

a) Legal and institutional framework

b) Governance and infrastructure

c) Service delivery and technical competence

d) External relations and recognition

A QI system can be visualized as a house that rests on the above-mentioned four pillars. Each pillar has various building blocks that define its configuration (Figure 1). The RDT enables a gap analysis that looks at the current state of a QI system compared to a fully developed system. Different maturity levels of a country’s QI can be identified:

  1. rudimentary QI (little QI in place)
  2. basic QI (relevant for a low- or middle-income country);
  3. advanced QI (suitable for an emerging economy with sectoral specialization); or
  4. mature or innovative QI (suitable for a high-income economy or world-class approach) 

Figure 1: The house of quality infrastructure

The QI components (e.g., standards, technical regulations, metrology, accreditation etc.) are analysed across these four pillars by assessing the relevant national QI institutions. The RDT consists of a series of qualitative questions in each building block, the answers converted into numbers to enable a quantitative presentation of the results. The answer to each question is assigned a value and presented on a radar chart, allowing for a quick visual impression of the results and the comparability of QI areas of a country over time and to other countries (see example in Figure 2).

Figure 2: RDT Sample Radar Chart

Since its release in 2019, the RDT has been used in various projects mainly implemented by the PTB, the World Bank or consultancy companies like Mesopartner. In addition, the RDT was applied in over 40 countries and different regions globally, enabling the collection of lessons learnt and ideas for improvement.

In 2021, PTB commissioned Mesopartner to compile all feedback received, revisit the RDT questionnaire and prepare a guidebook on how to use the tool. Facilitated by Mesopartner, the RDT was evaluated in late 2021 by a group of QI experts, who discussed and integrated suggestions for improvement. Besides, the RDT’s QI coverage was extended with the addition of another conformity assessment activity, the Person Certification. As a result, the RDT 2022 version now covers ten QI components: standards, technical regulations, metrology, legal metrology, accreditation, testing, inspection, and system, product and person certification. The revised RDT version was released in the summer of 2022.

The RDT guide will be launched in mid-January 2023. The guide is aimed at consultants and project coordinators who work with the RDT and need a companion in all stages of their RDT application [3]. It gives practical hints and tips on organising the supply-side assessment of a national QI. It also helps users to understand how to use the questionnaire and interpret its results. Its structure is based on the 3-phase sequence of an RDT assessment process (preparation, conducting, documentation) and describes each phase in the necessary level of detail.

While the RDT focuses on analysing the QI supply side, assessing the demand side for QI services requires additional tools. A suitable instrument for a rapid QI demand-side assessment is a QI user survey of enterprises asking about their knowledge, use and quality perception of QI services. The QI user survey tool will be the subject of a future post in the QI4D blog post series. Alternatively, Calidena, as a comprehensive demand assessment tool, can help study the QI needs of specific economic sectors and value chains [see QI4D blog post].

The RDT can be perfectly combined with other tools, such as the Global Quality Infrastructure Index (GQII) or UNIDO’s QI4SD Index [see QI4D blog post https://qi4d.org/2021/04/13/benchmarking-qi-worldwide/%5D. The goal would be to compare the RDT findings with official QI statistics to avoid subjective biases. Such methods complement an RDT application when analysing an NQI system. Together, they provide a toolbox that serves consultants and development organisations to create tailor-made solutions for assessing an NQI and subsequently develop a national quality policy, as Mesopartner did in recent years in different Caribbean countries and Malaysia.

The RDT is published under Creative Commons and freely available on the PTB and the World Bank Group websites. Furthermore, creative Commons stipulates that any modifications and other experiences with the method are fed back to the tool’s authors, which again will help improve the questionnaire and the guide in the future. 

References

[1] Kellermann, M. (2019): Ensuring Quality to Gain Access to Global Markets. A Reform Toolkit. By International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank and Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB). ISBN: 978-1-4648-1372-6 

[2] Kellermann, M. (2019). Comprehensive Diagnostic Tool. Annex to the QI Toolkit. By International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank and Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).f

[3] Harmes-Liedtke, U., Schoen, C. 2022. Quality Infrastructure Rapid Diagnostic Tool. User Guide. Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), Braunschweig and Berlin. 

This entry was posted in Quality Infrastructure by Christian Schoen. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christian Schoen

I am an economist and co-founder of mesopartner, a knowledge firm that specializes in territorial development, competitiveness and innovation. I am currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam and work on short- and medium-term consulting contracts mainly in Southeast Asia. Previously, I had worked with the German applied research organization Fraunhofer in Germany and Indonesia and with the engineering consulting company Dorsch Consult. I hold a Masters degree in Economics.

3 thoughts on “Assessing a National Quality Infrastructure’s supply side

  1. Excellent tool, I am pleased with the progress made in the revision, and the support of the Guide. It will be highly recommended in the near future, to look for a mechanism to reinforce the homologation of criteria when using it.

    Like

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