What is the role of Quality within Organisations today

“Good business, which in turn means general prosperity and employment, is not something which comes about by chance. It is a result of the skill with which business in general is managed – and business in general is only the sum of the activities of the business units. Through all the years that I have been in business I have never yet found our business bad as a result of any outside force. It has always been due to some defect in our own company, and whenever we located and repaired that defect our business became good again – regardless of what anybody else may be doing.”

Henry Ford

According to Peter Drucker, “Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for”. (Drucker, 1993)

Introduction

There are differing degrees of customer satisfaction as some customers are harder to please than others. Increasingly differences in people’s income and expectations are putting pressure on companies today to find ways of satisfying their needs and wants, although mere satisfaction is not always enough. Delighting and thrilling are the order of the day, as companies believe these reactions in customers generate loyalty. To be perceived to have quality and to give improving levels of quality, whether it is in a product or service, is believed to be an important factor in encouraging people to buy from you and to return time and time again.

Aim

The aim of this essay is to investigate and discuss the role of quality within organisations today. In order to do so the essay will look at the following headings so that a gradual understanding of quality is achieved, further compounded by examples of organisations using ‘quality’ and studies conducted over the past three decades used at each stage:

– A Brief History. This brief section serves to orientate the reader as to the reasons and origin of quality theories.

– What is Quality? Here the author will attempt to capture the evolvement of ‘Quality’ since its inception by looking at the philosophies of Quality ‘gurus’ and the relevance their work has in today’s working environment.

– Quality within the organisation. Following a look at what has been contributed to the concept the author will attempt to define what it means in a modern environment using ‘Gallery Furniture’ as a study example.

– Managing Quality. In this section the essay looks at the relevance of Total Quality Management (TQM) and its role in implementing and maintaining quality within the organisation.

– Difficulties with implementing quality. As with many concepts problems ensue and this section will attempt to highlight generic problems encountered by many organisations. A look at a longitudinal study of the pharmaceutical industry hopes to capture some of these common issues.

– Guidelines for Quality. This penultimate section covers some of the guidelines and standards used today and how they play a role in defining quality in some organisations to enhance the reader’s basic knowledge and finally;

– In Conclusion. This final paragraph will capture the aim of the essay and explain the role quality plays within an organisation today by bringing out the main points discussed in previous sections.

A Brief History.

In order to fully understand Quality it is important for us to look at its origin. Along with many other modern practices the concept of quality and quality management was developed within Japanese industry after the Second World War. At the time Japan was a defeated nation with a few natural resources. It has become unable to feed a population of 90 million by itself. Consequently it began to export consumer products across the world market to generate the necessary funding needed to feed its people. These goods however quickly developed a reputation for being shoddy and their management systems were considered to be ‘feudal’ and ‘despotic’.

General Douglas McArthur realised the need for radical change to enable the regeneration of the Japanese economy. Old management and systems were replaced by younger, more willing men eager for change. Thus the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) was formed and shortly afterwards an American statistician called Dr. W. Edwards Deming was invited to present some ideas he had on improving quality in the industry.

Deming addressed the top business leaders, including managers from companies now considered household names such as Sony, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Toyota and gradually his forums and ideas led to the introduction of new management methods, including Total Quality Management (TQM), which resulted in Japan becoming the world leader in quality and productivity. Once implemented, his ideas led, during the 80s, to American businesses being battered by Japan’s superior industrial practices. (Sowerbutts, 2003) This does not explain however the thinking behind the concept as it is known today and so it is necessary to define quality by its development since its use in Japan.

What is Quality?

It is important to note that the quality practices and theories used today are not solely the work of Dr. Deming. Other Quality Gurus have added to the mix along the way and in order to understand quality it is worth considering some of their work. It is important to begin with Deming in order to establish a foundation as the concept was built partly from his ideas. He encapsulated quality in terms of reliability, dependability, predictability and consistency of product and service and further, according to him quality improvement was all about the reduction in process variation. By reducing this, with the aid of statistical control methods, variation in product quality is also reduced, thus better control leads to lower cost and improved productivity. He identified two types of variation:

1. External influences on the process, which he described as uncontrolled variation due to “special causes”. These being changes of operation, procedures and raw materials which interrupt the normal pattern of operation.

2. Controlled variations – due to chance, random or “common causes”. All of these are due to the process itself, its design or installation.

Furthermore improvements in quality involved identifying these two types of variation followed by the elimination of the “special causes”, before addressing the “common causes”. Deming insisted these processes be assisted by the use of Statistical Process Control (SPC) and various forms of simple control charts for use on the shop floor. He considered it the responsibility of Management to improve the process by redesign, which in turn would improve their ability to meet customer needs. Deming also advocated the need for a deep understanding of business processes if any progress was to be made and he later expanded his thoughts and ideas to cover the management of people, Leadership and training. (Oakland, 2002; Sowerbutts, 2003, Hutchins, 1990)

Joseph Juran is another major contributor to the development of the quality and quality management concept. He published “The Quality Handbook” in 1950 and this became the standards reference book on quality word-wide. Juran developed a TQM philosophy around three main processes:

1. Quality planning – the process for preparing to meet quality goals

2. Quality control – the process for meeting quality goals through operations

3. Quality improvement – the process for break through levels of performance

Juran agreed with Deming in that involving people was paramount to the success of implementing quality improvement throughout the organisation and that management’s understanding of systems was vital. Juran believed that getting the system right was more important than blaming failure on operator error. He also advocated the development of quality teams and their subsequent training in measurement and problem solving. (Juran, 1988, Hutchins 1990).

Kaoru Ishikawa is considered to be the father of the quality circle approach, involved in building shop floor teams. He was responsible for developing many of the tools and techniques used today in problem solving, measurement and analysis common to TQM principles. These tools include the Pareto analysis, Fishbone diagram, Stratification, Histograms, Control Charts and Scatter Diagrams. Without these tools TQM would be a nightmarish concept to implement. (Oakland 2002, Hutchins, 1990). All of the above have made a considerable contribution to the development of the quality movement and subsequent management systems to implement total quality.

In as much as these people developed and articulated guidelines for Quality and the Japanese industry, Philip Crosby popularised TQM through his consultancy college and through the development of training programmes now used throughout the USA (Sowerbutts,2003). Although brief in writing, the reader can see already that quality can have an impact where applied and much has happened over the past fifty or so years in terms of its evolution. On a grand scale it can kick start a country’s economy and it was this event that attracted the attention of other nations to the potential and benefits quality management systems and processes could bring to their own economies.