Introducing Continuous Improvement Management in SMEs, Swisscontact Ecuador, 2003

    The document is based on a Swisscontact Ecuador manual documenting the introduction of processes to improve quality and productivity in more than 70 Ecuadorian SMEs. The program enabled participating enterprises to overcome barriers, improve their processes, and increase economic and management indicators.

    Standardization and regulatory programs such as ISO 9001:2000; Good Manufacturing Practices; HACCP; Clean Production; ISO 14000; SA 8000, and others are increasingly demanded by control agencies. And, the global market marks the difference during negotiations by giving preference to businesses able to demonstrate a high degree of compliance as a means to guarantee efficiency, quality, and liability toward the most important market actor - the customer.

    The methodology enables companies to diagnose structural and managerial strengths and weaknesses of products and services and implement a system of assurance and continuous quality and productivity improvement at the executive and employee levels. The process results in operation under international business standards as well as increased income and competitive opportunities in local, regional, and international markets.

    Summary of results
    The challenge faced at the onset, and particularly during the economically difficult years of 1999 and 2000, was to find companies and executives with a vision to grow and motivation to improve, and willing to invest in a program that required 12 to 18 months of continuous and demanding work.

    The final evaluations and presentations of participating companies allowed SWISSCONTACT to assess the success and overall positive scope of the results and the main indicators achieved confirmed the status of participating companies as leaders in their fields. The results motivated SWISSCONTACT to promote and disseminate the methodology through the manual and it is their hope that it is of benefit to all who read and use it.

    This summary of field experiences and realities in Ecuador is meant to be adapted to the context of each country, region, or city in which it is implemented while also considering the distinct characteristics, problems, situations, objectives, and resources of each participating enterprise.