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(L-R) Director of SFA, Patricia Callan, Chairman of SFA, AJ Noonan, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and CEO of NSAI, Maurice Buckley

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) met with hundreds of delegates at this year’s Small Firms Association Annual Conference on May 25th in UCD, Dublin. 

Speaking at the event, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, encouraged Irish SMEs to use standards to help them gain a competitive edge and attract new business opportunities. 

  • “More and more tender requirements seek certification to internationally recognised standards, such as ISO 9001 (in Quality Management Systems), ISO 14001 (in Environmental Management) and OHSAS 18001 (in Health and Safety). Certification to these standards can also be a deal breaker when seeking export opportunities,” said Minister Mitchell O’Connor.  
  • “A recent Behaviour and Attitudes study, carried out on behalf of NSAI found that almost half of all SMEs who use standards have reported an increase in turnover by an average of 20 percent,” she added. 

The research, which surveyed 250 Irish businesses, also found there has been a sharp rise in the number of Irish organisations using standards.  88 per cent of Irish firms are now using standards within their organisation. This compares to 69 per cent of firms who said they used standards, when a similar study was conducted in 2012.

Speaking at the annual conference, Chairman of the Small Firms Association, AJ Noonan said more than 70 per cent of Irish small firms plan to hire additional staff this year, on the back of improved trading conditions. 

  • “Business sentiment among small firms is strong, with a recent survey showing 60 per cent of Irish small firms saying their business is growing while two thirds believe the business environment is improving and 70 per cent intend to take on new staff this year,” said Mr. Noonan. 

NSAI informing Irish SMEs how standards can help their businesses grow and prosper

One company, who has really benefitted from certification, is the contract manufacturing firm Sigma Aldrich in Co. Wicklow. It has saved over €30,000 in energy costs since achieving certification to the Energy Management standard, ISO 50001. 

  • “The savings have been incredible,” said Eugene Mulholland, Engineering and Technology Processing Manager with Sigma Aldrich.  “In just 12 months we estimate our company has saved more than €30,000 in energy costs and we hope to build on this figure going forward. Our energy bills are about €900,000 annually so since we’ve started using the Energy Management standard, we’ve saved up to 5 per cent,” he added.  

Sigma Aldrich employs over 100 people in Arklow, manufacturing active pharmaceutical products for firms such as Pfizer and AMGen.

RTÉ news anchor Sharon Ní Bheoláin speaking at the SFA Annual Conference

The use of standards in organisations has also contributed significantly to Ireland’s economic growth. Experts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) have found that standards support an estimated 20% share of Ireland’s GDP growth. 

In monetary terms, this equates to an annual contribution of approximately €500 million of the €2.5 billion of GDP growth recorded in 2013.  CEBR estimates this is sufficient to have supported the creation of an additional 7,000 permanent full-time equivalent jobs in Ireland over the period 2006 – 2013. 

NSAI Manager Standards, Mary White and Aidan O’Boyle, NSAI Board Member

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is here to help and support SMEs by developing and bringing the most relevant standards to the Irish marketplace, responding directly to your needs. 

With over 1,500 standards published each year and a vast array of EU regulations to contend with, it can be extremely difficult for small to medium sized companies to stay abreast of trading requirements, and ways to ensure their businesses remain competitive.

As Ireland’s economy improves and companies look to expand, NSAI has the technical knowledge to provide your firm with information and expertise to ensure your company not only has a more cost-effective way of complying with regulations and standards, but also is more equipped to grow and secure more tender opportunities.

Contact NSAI

NSAI invites members of the business community and the general public to get involved in the development of standards.
For further information on standards or certification, email Fergal O'Byrne or follow us on Twitter @NSAI_Standards

Watch Telecommunications company Fónua explain how certification to standards has helped it gain national and international recognition and new business opportunities


Top Ten Benefits of Standards

  1. Standards help you compete on a level playing field with bigger enterprises
  2. Standards open up export markets for your products and services 
  3. Standards help enhance the quality of your products and services
  4. Standards drive efficiency in your business operations 
  5. Standards add credibility and confidence for your customers 
  6. Standards facilitate inter-operability of products and processes
  7. Standards give you the competitive edge 
  8. Standards make your brand name internationally recognized 
  9. Standards help your company grow 
  10. Standards enable a common “ language ” to be used across an industry sector