The Chartered Quality Institute’s Vincent Desmond offers a unique view of Brexit

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Chartered Quality Institute
Vincent Desmond, CEO of the Chartered Quality Institute

Vincent Desmond, CEO at the Chartered Quality Institute  (CQI), explains that the CQI’s membership is multi-sector and international and this gives it a unique insight into how different organisations perceive Brexit

Can you explain what the Chartered Quality Institute does and who your members are?

The Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) is a leading global professional body that works to advance and improve the practice and performance of quality management of organisations in all sectors – including the construction, automotive and nuclear industries.

Established in 1919 as the Institute of Quality Assurance, the CQI has undergone significant change and expansion over the last 100 years. One constant has remained, however, we have always worked to support the development of good governance, agile assurance and a culture of continuous improvement. The CQI exists to benefit everyone, by advancing the cause of quality through education in, knowledge of and the practice of quality in the public and voluntary sectors and private industry.

Our industry members are part of a unique network of 20,000 quality professionals that spans the globe. Members encompass numerous job roles in sectors as diverse as the food and beverage and defense industries. Membership of the CQI is unique in its offering as it is the only institute to offer the opportunity to attain Chartered status.

What specific concerns have your members raised in relation to Brexit?

The CQI serves members across all sectors – public, private and third – the concerns that we see regularly are varied and diverse. Anecdotally, the overriding concern is the uncertainty that Brexit brings and an urgent desire for resolution one way or the other. Concerns can be broken down into both the short and medium term. In the short term, the impact on the supply-chain and just-in-time systems in manufacturing and product sectors has been well reported and the responses vary from slowing production to stockpiling.

In professions that already struggle to find new skilled workers to replace an ageing workforce, there is evident concern from our members over the ability to retain and attract talent from the EU to fill these roles. In sectors that are highly regulated, such as the pharmaceutical and aerospace industries, some regulatory, testing, inspection and certification activities have had to be moved to the EU to mitigate against the risk of products not meeting EU regulation. These activities will not return to the UK.

The uncertainty that Brexit has generated has stopped investment completely in some organisations. This has the potential to have a profound impact on productivity and will likely take some years to recover from.

‘Brand UK’ is being damaged as we equivocate. This may have knock-on effects in the medium term, in terms of financial investment and global exports. For example, in Japan (where the CQI has 3,500 members), there is confusion over how what they perceived as a rational and sensible nation now appears to be quite the opposite – posing a potential challenge to ongoing business relations.

What benefits can you provide to businesses concerned about how Brexit will impact them?

The CQI qualifies Quality Professionals who are experts in operational governance, assurance and continuous improvement, based on a deep understanding of the business context. Quality, while not offering all of the answers, can help an organisation to respond to some ‘Brexit’-related challenges in an agile manner.

Organisations should have been using their quality functions to understand risk, especially in terms of compliance requirements and in terms of adapting their business management systems to mitigate risk to aspects such as supply chain or entering new non-EU markets. Now is a little late for all that for some organisations. Ultimately, quality is not a ‘silver bullet’ to surviving Brexit unscathed, it’s just that organisations that do it well are probably better equipped to weather the political storm than those which don’t.

There are several quality standard-based organisations worldwide, what makes the Chartered Quality Institute special, particularly when it comes to navigating Brexit?

The UK is a well-respected state, both in the EU and around the world, for its quality and regulatory infrastructure; including standards-setting and conformity assessment. Organisations within the UK provide much of the technical leadership in these areas, providing influence over regulatory policy in the EU and globally, while enhancing ‘brand UK.’

How this influence will be managed in the future is still as unclear and uncertain as the Brexit timetable itself. There is a risk that the UK’s influence will decrease in the EU following its exit. The CQI has liaison status with ISO for a number of standard development programmes allowing the UK to have particular influence internationally. This will remain.

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