The Business Year

Dr. Saad Othman Al-Kasabi


Established 45 years ago

Governor, Saudi Standards Metrology and Quality Organisation (SASO)


Prior to his appointment as Governor of the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization, Dr. Saad Bin Othman Bin Abdullah Al-Kasabi served in various positions in the public and private sectors and academia. He was a board member of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).and General Manager of Adaptive TechSoft. Furthermore, he was head of the Computer and Information Sciences Department at Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz College and a faculty member at King Saud University. He holds advisory roles at various governmental and private bodies, such as the Ministry of Health, the Saudi Red Crescent, and King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. Dr. Al-Kasabi obtained MA and PhD degrees in computer engineering from Syracuse University, US.

“Since 2006, we have driven a great shift in terms of the number of standards adopted.“

How does Saudi Arabian industry compare from a regional and international perspective, in terms of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issuances?

Since its establishment over 45 years ago, SASO has played a major role in adapting international standards, to act as the national standards body serving the industry and the ministries. As part of ISO, we believe that as part of the international community we must come up with and adopt international standards. Since 2006, we have driven a great shift in terms of the number of standards adopted. We started with a strategic mandate to adopt more international standards, and today we have more than 25,000 standards, with more than 70% of them international. We will continue with that because we believe it will increase our exports and keep our products competitive. It will also ease the process of importing and exporting goods to and from the Kingdom, as well as improve the quality of the products that are coming to our market. There is a great statement that we use in ISO, which is “one standard, one test, one conformity assessment procedure“ so that we do not repeat steps. To understand this aspect of industry, we harmonize international standards with our climate and make sure it conforms with our laws. We recognize that, if you do not follow international standards, you are isolated from the global market. That is why we participate in ISO communities and do our best to benefit from the ISO standards and adopt them, as well as other international standards such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). There is one more aspect that is representing the Kingdom with ISO standards, and that is that there are many ISO standards that target administrative management systems, such as ISO 9001, ISO 27000, and ISO 17000. Each group of standards is targeting a certain group of services. Adopting these standards is not the end of the story; we have to implement and motivate other organizations to adopt them as well. Adherence to these processes allows them to improve their business management. Based on that, there is a certification process that goes along with the implementation of each standard. We do our best to accredit the certification bodies. SASO is a special certification body because we are responsible for many functions that some other similar bodies internationally are not responsible for. We are responsible for the development and adaptation of international standards, but we are also responsible for accreditation and metrology in the Kingdom. Operating the National Metrology Center is an important function for us here and within the world of standardization. As well, we are responsible for conformity assessment procedures, as well as stimulating a culture of quality in the Kingdom. The combination of these roles together is fairly difficult. I hope that the by participating in the ISO Council, we will have an opportunity to represent the region and the Arab world, as well as to present our concerns related to standardization and improving the quality of life in Saudi Arabia.

How do you envision collaboration among other GCC nations in terms of standardization regionally?

SASO is the oldest standardization body in the region and took the lead in establishing the GCC Standardization Organization (GSO) in 1981, hosting GSO within SASO for the first 15 years. We need to harmonize the standards across the country and the region. More than 70% of the GSO standards were originally adopted by SASO. We will continue playing that role because we believe that we have a responsibility to our neighbors to improve Gulf standards and lead the region toward adopting international standards and improving the quality of products and services in this region. We have continuous and very strong partnerships with GSO to make sure that our directions are aligned. One very important area in that regard is the Gulf building code, which is based on the Saudi building code, for which I head the committee. We have to share whatever progress we have made with our neighbors in order to reach better and quicker results in terms of improving different types of standards.

SASO issues the King Abdulaziz Quality Award (KAQA), which recognizes quality and productivity. Looking at recent trends, which sectors or industries have you identified as being most eligible for this prize?

We consider KAQA a stimulator to help companies adopt quality standards and improve the excellence of their optimizations. In the past, we used to only have four categories: production industries, small-medium and large, and service industries, small-medium and large. In 2017, we included three more sectors: private education, healthcare, and higher education. This year, we will continue with these seven sectors and also add quality and excellence in the government sector and NGOs sector. In the government sector, we will target healthcare and education, specifically higher education institutes and large hospitals. 2018, as the fourth edition, also marks the first time we are including NGOs. We want to enable different entities to compete. Through that, we are covering all of the different sectors in the Kingdom, and we will continue improving the criteria for selection, as well as the marketing of the KAQA award as an economic stimuli. In the third edition, almost 50 organizations competed. After that, we launched a survey to alert any other interested parties that they can register, and now we have more than 270 organizations signed up. That means we have gained better exposure, and that is one of our strategic directives going forward as a national entity.

What ambitions have you set to translate the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 agenda into a SASO agenda?

We have to understand the role of standards, the same as any country. We consider ourselves a technical enabler for economic and social growth. Based on that, we have reviewed the Saudi Arabian national quality infrastructure, and we are focusing more on different components of that, whether it is through standards, accreditation, conformity assessment, regulations, post-marketing surveillance, or metrology. It also involves issuing the goods conformity index, which we have started as part of the Vision 2030 initiatives. Having that solid and strong base for our national quality infrastructure, and improving every aspect of it, definitely will give us the opportunity to improve our service and make a big impact on the economy. We also have two strategic initiatives within some of the subcategories of Vision 2030; one of them is the “goods saved“ initiative, where we focus on reviewing the framework for conformity assessment of goods that are produced here or imported from abroad. Through our review of the regulatory framework, and we have achieved a better system that is risk based, focusing more on high-risk products and making sure that they are monitored carefully. Changing the regulatory framework will help us focus more and improve the quality of products that are available on our markets. Another initiative within the transformation program centers on legal metrology, which means the improvement of gasoline pumps, electrical meters, scales, and water meters.This transformation will translate into fairer trade and protection of consumer rights without harming traders. In addition to that, we are participating in the national program for the development of industry and logistics infrastructure. We will not be able to diversify our industry and make it more competitive unless we adapt a good standard, which is a international standard. By implementing that in our industry, it will improve the quality of the products and give them a more competitive advantage.



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