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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Quality improvement a road map to international markets

Daily News: 05/07/2005" by Dr. Lalith Senaweera, Deputy Director General, Sri Lanka Standards Institution

With the development of world trade, the movements of goods from one country to another country is now taking place in a very efficient and systematic manner and as a result the consumers have lot of choices in selecting a right product to suite to their requirements. We normally call this trend as globalisation.

Even we like or not it is necessary for us to face these challenges as protected or closed economies are diminishing in the world making room for open competition.

The best example is the phasing out of Multi Fibre Agreement or the quota system for apparel sector. In such a scenario it is very necessary to find out as entrepreneurs what areas have to be considered as the priority areas in order to survive in these markets whilst taking initiatives to enter into new markets. In this context it is very important to note that the ultimate goal of any entrepreneur is to make profits whilst maintaining its long-term survival.

This goal can be achieved only by providing error free service of defect free products as far as possible so that the customers are willing to purchase that service or product in a repeatable manner. The one and only way of doing is that quality must be organised to recognise that 'it is everybody's job' in the organisation.

Today's business environment demands a new understanding of quality and a new definition, one that enables CEOs and business executives to 'do quality' in a way that creates value and economic worth for the customer, the employee, the shareholder and the organisation all at the same time.

Considering this important concept most of the companies place increased emphasis on customer satisfaction as they realise customer perception of product and service quality is a significant determinant of market share and profitability.

Organisation activities

Organisations of today and tomorrow are faced with intense competition, demanding customers with rapidly changing desires, shrinking response times and demanding employees. In response to the current trend, the best companies are forced to become fast response, flexible, participative and must focus on customers. These types of organisations have been identified as 'horizontal' or 'process centered'.

In the traditional business organisational approach, the key objectives are productivity, profits, and smoothly managing change processes, while the quality related objectives are often restricted to meeting minimum required standards. Education and training are strictly job related rather than broadening the competencies of employees.

This type of approaches has not only undervalued the importance of quality improvement programmes but also led to unhealthy situations where the company has to spend its resources without any purpose.

In such a situation how can an organisation come out of chaos? Which quality principles, tools and techniques should require to be used and in what order? The issue becomes how to prioritise and organise the required tools to be practised to achieve the required results.

Considering the importance of improving the quality of the products and services of organisations, different types of quality improvement tools have been introduced by the experts and those tools and the application of such to the industry are briefly discussed in the following paragraphs.

One of the basic and very important tools is Five S (5S), which can be used to streamline the workplace to give a good appearance whilst paving a way to improve quality and productivity of the workplace. This concept would also help to change the minds of the employees of the workplace to obtain their commitment to maintain a clean and tidy work environment. In simple terms Five S (5S) can be explained as follows:

Five S systems

Seiri - Eliminate clutter.

Seiton - Arrange everything for easy location - a place for everything and everything in its place.

Seiso - Create a high level of cleanliness.

Seiketsu - Standardise all procedures.

Shitsuke - Train and discipline.

Different kinds of quality improvement tools are available at present which are introduced with different objectives to achieve the quality.

This concept should be practised in daily basis so that most of the workplace related basic issues can be resolved to a very great extent.

Process management approach

The second important concept is the management of an organisation's processes.

Most of the organisations rely on inspections instead of managing their processes. The act of inspection does not add value to the quality of the product. It simply verifies that it meets some specification or function. In other word relying on inspection alone, there is no guarantee that it will improve performance.

Therefore, the most important thing is to improve the processes and by analysing the existing problems of the processes and initiating actions to correct those problems. Not only that, managing of processes would also cover the competence of personnel engage in such work. Therefore when managing a process it would automatically help us to check the inputs related to that process and to consider to what extent those inputs are controlled by the organisation.

This approach would definitely help the organisation to assess the processes in a pro-active manner and making a room to improve quality and productivity of the organisation.

ISO 9001: 2000 Quality Management System

This approach has been introduced as ISO 9001: 2000 Standard on Quality Management. This standard talks about the process approach and to practise that approach within the organisation, standard very clearly identifies five major clauses as given below set in a Plan - Do - Check - Act Cycle.

* Quality Management System

* Management Responsibility

* Resource Management

* Product Realisation and

* Measurement, Analysis and Improvement.

The beauty of this standard is that promotes incremental or continual improvement within the organisation with the practice of the quality management requirements.

The standard is not designed to provide details about how to run the business of an organisation. But it provides information related to best practices enabling an organisation to achieve business excellence.

In this context one of the important things is to conduct regular internal audits of the Quality Management System and to initiate actions based on the finding so that the organisation can always proceed in the right direction in achieving its set business goals and objectives.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Moreover the organisation can also consider a Total Quality Management (TQM) approach to improve the quality of the products or services. TQM is a management process to instill a culture of continuous improvement in an organisation.

Such improvements will balance productivity enhancement against the established quality criteria. The successful implementation of TQM programme defends on a technical and behavioral journey or an organisation. In other words technical areas address the specific disciplines and methodologies of the business activity whereas behavioral aspects address the organisation issues and human resource development activities.

It has been proved that TQM concept has helped the organisations to improve communications, develop better relationship with customers and reduce wastage by improving quality and productivity.

However it is very important to note at this stage that quality is everybody's business and therefore the active participation of all employees of an organisation and their fullest support and co-operation are very much important to make any quality improvement programme a success.

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