Why a developing country is a world leader in certification
Marcos Antonio Lima de Oliveira
Certified Quality Engineer - ASQ/USA
Senior Member - ASQ

At the end of 1992, only 36 companies in Brazil had quality systems that were certified as conforming to ISO 9000. One year later, this number was 177, an increase of nearly 500%. By 1997, l.700 companies, mostly small and mid-sized, were certified, largely because Petrobrás, the state-owned petroleum company, had required its suppliers to implement quality systems.

Most of the companies in Brazil were certified by ABS Quality Evaluations, BVQI, Lloyd's Register, DNV and SGS International Certification Services, all internationally known certifications bodies. ( see the sidebar for a complete listing of Brazil's certification bodies, including telephone numbers ).

Why is a developing country like Brazil so active in ISO 9000 implementation? The quality movement in Brazil was born in the 1970s. At that time the developing country began erecting nuclear power plants as the result of an agreement between Brazil and West Germany to create a government company, Nuclebrás, to promote the nuclear program. Brazilian engineers, including some quality assurance personnel, went to Germany to learn this new technology. Some of these engineers are now the most important people in the quality movement in Brazil.

The international regulatory codes for the nuclear industry gave special attention to quality control. Many brazilian companies were involved in the construction of the nuclear plant and had to train their engineers. While the nuclear industry did not succeed, the quality principles remained.

Brazil's largest company

Companies involved in the nuclear project also did work for Petrobrás ( ), Brazil's biggest company and one of the 100 largest in the world, which is responsible for the production of 60 % of the Brazil's oil consumption and all its refining. In the 70's and 80's, Petrobrás trained all its new engineers in quality techniques before letting them start to work.

So the quality philosophy began to be adopted by Petrobrás engineers and middle management, who used quality principles in the construction of production, refining and petrochemical plants, and made their use mandatory for all its contractors.

To train employees of these companies, the Brazilian Petroleum Institute, a non-profit organization influenced by Petrobrás, began to promote 80-hour quality assurance courses, which trained hundreds of engineers.


Some Petrobrás engineers applied to take ASQ's certified quality engineer examination in the mid of 80's. Interest in the exam rapidly spread all over Brazil. As a result, only the United States has more certified quality engineers than Brazil, where about 1000 are certified. The country has a relatively high number of certified quality auditors and reliability engineers.

In the mid 80's, a non-profit foundation was created to foster cooperation between universities and corporations. Called Fundação Christiano Otoni ( ), the foundation sent teachers to the most advanced international quality centers to learn about the methods of W. Edwards Deming, J. M. Juran and Kaori Ishikawa.

After studying quality systems in countries like Japan, Germany, England and Korea, the Japanese model was chosen because it was considered the simplest and involved all employees of a company.

Several members of the study team recorded their perceptions and recommendations for Brazil in a book that became the best selling quality book in Brazil. 1

The foundation began to promote the implementation of total quality management through training courses and consults. This organization currently provides assistance to 360 companies, representing 30% of Brazil`s gross national product.

Opening up Brazil`s markets

Up to the 80s, Brazil`s economy was protected by import taxes, with the internal market shared by a few companies. It was very difficult to import products, which resulted in little attention to productivity, quality or customer needs. In 1990, the newly elected government drastically reduced import taxes, opening the Brazilian market. At the same time, the Brazilian Quality Program was launched, with Petrobrás engineers with extensive quality experience serving as principal officers.

In 1991, 39 private, public, national and multinational companies created a foundation (Fundação Prêmio Nacional para a Qualidade at w.w.w. fpnq. org. br) to promote a Brazilian quality award. Criteria closely follow the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the United States, with some features added to conform to the ISO 9000 series, and others to cope with national needs. Each year , around 300 quality specialists from different states of Brazil are selected and take a three-day course become examiners. Award winners have included IBM and Xerox, and many companies are now using the requisites as a guide to implement TQM.

Another organization, Sebrae ( w.w.w. sebrae. com. br ) , was created to promote the development of micro and small companies. It is implementing a very strong program to disseminate a quality culture among small companies. The program is succeeding-many smaller companies are implementing quality systems, some to get ISO 9000 certification.

Exporters to developed countries increasingly began to support the Brazilian Quality Program. Some initial support occurred because of confusion about the use of ISO 9000, caused by some consultants who said the standard was mandatory to export to Europe. But Brazil`s economy was facing difficulty at the beginning of the ` 90s, and the only way for many companies to survive was to export. Lack of ISO 9000 certification seemed to be a barrier, but Brazil`s strong background in quality allowed the ISO 9000 certification movement to quickly gather strength.

By the late 1990s, Brazil, a developing country , was one of the world leaders

in ISO certifications. Despite the difficulties in the world economy that began in 1998, Brazil`s economy has begun to rebound , thanks in large part to this well-developed culture of quality. The productivity of Brazilian industry increased 8.6% between 1992 and 1998, even when inflation was high.


1. V.F. Campos, Controle da Qualidade Total (no estilo japonês)
( Fundação Christiano Otoni, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 1992)

Artigo publicado na revista QUALITY PROGRESS, agosto/99, editada pela American Society for Quality ( 150.000 membros )

Criado pela Open-School