BSI Standards Explained

BSI Standards Explained

01st September 2016

Whatever the state of the construction industry here in the UK, one thing is for sure – most building and construction companies are small to medium businesses.  In fact, a massive3 99% of all business in Britain is made up of SMEs.  While the larger construction companies are household names and tend to get all the attention when it comes to news and views, the whole construction industry here in the UK is underpinned by small to medium businesses and sole traders.  Some people seem to think that BSI standards only apply to big businesses or that they are too costly – however, nothing could be further from the truth.  BSI standards apply to all businesses and will help to ensure that your business gets the best results and you can chose just how structured you want to make that process.

You can choose to use informal standards such as having company guidelines or following your trade association’s code of practice.  These standards are vital and can easily be managed in house.

When it comes to formal standards you can go a stage further by settling on the criteria that’s been agreed within the industry you work in.  These usually combine expert knowledge with best practice, testing certification organisations, academics, consumer groups, trade unions and other small to medium businesses.

Gaining certification to a standard can provide opportunities to tender for contracts or join supply chains that would be closed to you otherwise.  If you’re already part of a supply chain where standards are used throughout, make sure that your products, technology and processes are compatible with the businesses that supply you as well as compatible with your customers further up the chain.

Formal standards cover both goods and services or can focus on management systems that you have put in place to run your business like quality management or environmental management.

The best way to find the right standards for your business, however big or small, is to adopt a methodical approach and consider what you want to achieve with your company.  You can start by talking to your industry or trade association to find out if there are any specific requirements or recommended standards you would follow. 

The next step is to check out the competition and if they are already using standards you need to find out which ones they use and why.  Following the same standards could lead to a competitive edge or you could use more stringent standards in order to offer a better service or product.  Adopting a standard that clearly demonstrates that you’re doing something that your competitors are not could result in a significant benefit for your business.   You could raise your service levels to attract more customers or see a reduction in your returns rate.

Each formal standard has a unique number and prefix which shows where that particular standard applies.  British Standards are prefixed with a BS, while European Standards have the prefix EN, while International Standards are prefixed with ISO or IEC.  All three prefixes can be used simultaneously (as in BS EN ISO 9001) to show that your product conforms to all three types of standard.