ISO 9000 certification
The ISO 9000 certification is a great performance for any company and it surely calls for celebration. After the excitement is created by ISO 9000 certification is over, there is likely to be a general tendency to relax. If this is not checked, it will defeat the very purpose of establishing a quality system. Implementing ISO 9000 is not a one-time exercise. Continuous effort is required from everyone to maintain an effective quality system and satisfy customer requirements.
It brings safety to business transactions at the existing level, or to the standard of product quality. The ISO 9000 standard needs management to be the quality level of the company’s products on the basis of its requirements and consistently to achieve this standard. In the context of export markets, ISO 9000 is the minimum standard of operation, ensuring that products meet contractual specifications and are delivered on time. Certification certainly helps in establishing credibility in global markets and obtaining first orders from customers.
However, subsequent orders will follow only if the purchasers are satisfied with the transaction and with their experience in dealing with the supplier. It should also be noted that a customer is primarily interested in the quality of the product he buys and value for money. He will not be overly concerned with the elaborately document system through which the product has emerged, except to the extent that it ensures consistency. As export markets are highly dynamic in nature, a supplier cannot take anything for granted. Products from different developed and developing countries complete with each other in quality and price. A company must therefore strive continuously to improve product and quality and reduce costs to maintain the competitive edge.
Planned quality improvement
A quality system based on ISO 9000 provides a very good foundation for further quality improvements. Having achieved ISO 9000 certification, an enterprise should utilize the quality momentum generated during ISO 9000 implementation to set increasingly higher goals in different areas of business and thus to continue to challenge company managers and staff.
Setting goals is a serious business and it should not be confused with general exhortations from management for better performance. After the company achieves ISO 9000 certification, management should carefully consider its strengths and weaknesses, as well as study the products being offered by their more successful competitors. This bench marking will indicate areas where they need to improve to remain competitive.
Some of the areas in which improvements can be planned are listed below :
Product design : to provide additional features, for example , to make the product more environmentally friendly, raise its functional performance and reliability, improve its styling and finish, etc.
Processes: to reduce variation, errors, cycle times and processing costs.
Maintenance : to achieve higher utilization of plant and facilities.
Control of subsuppliers : to reduce inventories.
Management and staff training : to achieve higher productivity.
There is always scope for improvement in many areas of business, but resource constraints often make it impossible to undertake more than a few organized quality improvement projects. Management therefore has to be highly selective in taking up such projects.
In the initial stages it is always better to select a project that will yield concrete results in a comparatively short time. Successful projects with visible results in terms of product improvement and cost reduction generate enthusiasm for further quality improvement programmes. It is important to set quality improvement goals that are easily measurable so that the results of improvement goals that are easily measurable so that the results of improvement goals that are easily measurable so that the results of improvement can be quantified in monetary terms if possible.
The improvement process
When the desired area of improvement and the goal to be achieved have been set, a quality improvement project team is constituted. Depending on the nature of the problem and the goal, the team may work on a product line, in a functional department or across departmental boundaries. Sometimes it is desirable to hire an outside specialist to provide the particular expertise required to solve the problem.
The team concept has the advantage of bringing together many experts to study the problem from different perspectives and therefore provides a greater opportunity for finding solutions. Furthermore, any improvement in process resulting from teamwork will be easier to implement because the team members from the different functional groups are likely to generate company-wide ownership of the new process.
The main steps in the improvement chain are set out below.
- Define the problem and set the objective.
- Study the current process, the symptoms of the problem, its causes and effects.
- Analyze causes and potential problem sources. Experimentation and measurement of suspected parameters to establish correlations may have to be carried out during this analysis.
- Identify the process changes that are required to bring about the desired improvement.
- Implement the changes on a trial basis, and evaluate results.
- Change process documentation if the results are satisfactory.
- Publicize the process changes throughout the company to create quality awareness among employees and to stress the need for continuous improvement.
When a quality improvement project has been successfully completed, other projects should be taken up, always moving towards higher levels of product quality and operational efficiency. This has to be a continuous effort because the road to quality has no end.
The ISO 9000 quality system strongly supports and consolidates the quality improvement effort. When the new processes evolved through the quality improvement project are incorporated into the documented quality system, their effective implementation is assured, thereby preventing slippage to the old process conditions.
Total quality management (TQM)
TQM is a concept that goes beyond ISO 9000. It needs to be emphasized that ISO 9000 and TQM are not two different alternatives, nor is there any contradiction between them. ISO 8402 defines “total quality management as follows:
management approach of an organization, centred on quality, based on the participation of all its members and aiming at long-term success through customer satisfaction and benefits to whole members of the company and to society.
The ISO 9000 quality system provides a strong base on which a company can build a TQM culture with a focus on the customer, involving all employees and demanding continuous improvement. It is advisable for enterprises in developing countries first to provide a formal quality framework in the form of an ISO 9000 system to create stability in the organization and achieve consistency in quality. When the system is well in place and has attained certification, the company can start using advanced concepts and tools to enhance motivation and operational efficiency.