The Laboratories Commission is integrated by companies that provide analysis services for the food industry, agriculture, textile industry, construction, industry in general or the health sector. Also, companies that supply raw materials, equipment or services like calibration or certification of products or processes are part of the Commission. A third segment of the Commission is composed of internal laboratories of industrial or agricultural companies which want to take advantage of the products by the Commission for their training and continuous improvement.
It is the first group of laboratories organized in Central America to provide analysis services to the productive sector, with the purpose to provide reliable and adequate service to respond to the efficiency and technology demands requested by the exporting productive sector.
Being organized in the Commission allows us to facilitate information to users on the services provided by our partners, to give advice in technical aspects to other business groups, and to strengthen the processes of recognition of our technical competencies, such as accreditation with the ISO 17025 guideline for laboratories of analysis or calibration, and the ISO 15189 for medical laboratories.
The group is integrated by 35 companies including companies to certify shipments, products and management systems. The sector employs approximately 950 people, with a wide participation of women with professional or technical careers. Also, during 2009, it issued approximately 250,000 analysis reports.
Guatemala is a country with good competitive positioning in the topic of laboratories, having a high number of suppliers for the region located in the country, technicians with experience, and the largest local market of Central America. Also, there is international recognition of accreditation which is issued by the Guatemalan Accreditation Office. The sector offers growth opportunities by making alliances with local and foreign companies, and there is national infrastructure that favors competitiveness. The support from the Commission is known in and outside the Central American region.
The main sectors that interact with the laboratories are:
- Food industry
- Agricultural production
- Pharmaceutical industry
- Animal production, mainly poultry
- Textile industry
- Construction materials
- Services for the general industry in the environmental area
- Human clinic
The technology used in the labs corresponds to that required in the analysis methods used internationally for the industry to which the services are provided. The analysis methods used are internationally accepted, developed by organizations such as ISO, AOAC, ASTM, etc.
Labs perform analytical services which are used for quality control of products, processes, making official records and technical research of the industry. Also, they provide complimentary services as assessment and trainings related to their specialty area.
As an organized group, we have developed projects with local and international organizations to collaborate with other sectors such as the processed foods industry, restaurants and agricultural producers with the purpose to help them to improve their productivity and food safety processes.
Laboratories have increased their services according to the industry, since importer requirements have demanded this. For this, the labs have a high degree of automation and quality controls of their processes. In 2010, labs made investments and changes, contributing to keep the country in the technology front of the region.
As support to their development, events for external quality control are organized in Guatemala, and the participation is promoted and facilitated in international events of this kind. Constantly, training is given to the technicians in analysis methods and quality management systems, and licensing of laboratories is promoted with the support of international agencies.
Guatemalan labs provide services in control systems to present the national importance, such as the food safety licenses of fruits and vegetables of the Comprehensive Program for Agricultural and Environmental Protection –PIPAA-, doing quality controls for companies that distribute foods, restaurants of international franchises and convenience stores. Also, services are given to companies located in the Central American region, especially the sectors of food, medicine and sugar. Also, services are provided for the public sector, doing analysis required by the authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of the Environment.
The Guatemalan Accrediting Office was given support by the Crediting Agency of Sweden, having accomplished after four years to belong to the agreement of multilateral recognition of the International Cooperation to Accredit Laboratories ILAC in 2008, in the area of accreditation with international recognition, for example in the agricultural, food and textile sector.
There is a broad range of trained technicians, supplies and equipments. Guatemala has developed a tradition of production and quality control in several industries such as processed foods, restaurant franchises, medicine, livestock production and construction, among others. There are University degrees and technical courses related to the activity and suppliers in Guatemala for the Central American region.
There is a positive relationship between the Commission and the different government entities that require analysis or interact with the sector. There are collaborative activities such as the project to develop the HACCP certificate of foods with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economy.
Laboratories are located mainly in Guatemala City and surrounding areas, and they have the capacity to provide their services to companies throughout the country, as well as El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and the Southern part of Mexico. Air and land communications allow the transport of samples on time which are technically and economically feasible.
The customs office integration is in practice with El Salvador and Honduras, and it already has had a positive effect in reducing the times of transport. The response times vary mainly according to the analytical technique requested or recommended by the lab.
To facilitate control with national and foreign clients, G’Labs Group has been established which allows to contact a lab and to get the services of several labs if only one of them does not have the capacity. Also, clients can contact the Commission in AGEXPORT where they will get the necessary information to get close to those labs that offer services that the client is looking for.
To maintain the quality of services, the Commission developed the services of external quality controls of the results, which has demand in Central America since 2009, in food and environmental topics. Recently, it expanded to cover the sugar and construction sectors.