Friday, January 30, 2009

Is Quality Relevant in 2009?

We first start to explore what happened to the Big Three automaker in USA. Ford, GM and Chrysler are the 3 top brands and are movers and shakers of the automobile industry in USA. We heard about them going to the Congress meeting and proposing a bail out plan to the Congress. You must be wondering what really happened to them, certainly their products do not lack in quality as compared to that of the Japanese giant like Toyota's.

In the past, according to ASQ Quality Progress Jan 2009 edition pg. 14, Toyota has a defect ratio of 1.5 defect per car compared to 3 defect per car for US automakers in the 1980s. Currently it is about level, i.e. Toyota has 0.9 defect per car compared to that of 0.95 of US automakers. So the quality is about the same which implies that quality did not cause the pitfall of US automaker. HOWEVER, the perception of quality did. Toyota cars are perceived to be high quality for the long commitment and continuous commitment to the capital Q. When we speak of Toyota, first thing that came to mind is quality, compact, fuel efficient and affordable. This bold well with consumer who has for a long time wanted to save on fuel consumption and have a good lasting car for usage.

Second area that we see defeat in US automaker is the COST. The CEO wages for US automaker is scandalous to start with and Japanese company like Toyota has a more hierarchical and controlled wage structure for them, even to the CEO, I believe. And in line with quality, Japanese company like Toyota also has a systematic quality, cost, improvement and effective mind set where continuous improvement is an everyday thing. What is inefficient is immediately taken care of. They do quality thinking everyday from top to bottom of the organization. At the end, since the quality right now is about the same, I believe the cost in producing a car of the same quality by both Toyota vs US automakers must be a huge gap causing the cost of non-quality being passed on to the user. Meaning if you buy from GM, Ford or Chrysler, chances are your car is more expensive than a Toyota not because it is better, but because you pay for 'a not so effective way of doing things'.

A summary from above, concentrate on Quality and Quality mind set across the organization, is the key to business survival in the long run.

And next question you may be asking, what about us Quality Professionals? Are we relevant or should we be the first on the chopping board because we are not exactly in the production line to produce goods for our customer? Or some management may brand it, it is time for survival fight, it is not time to think and spend more on Quality. Well, the time to invest and really push forward for us Quality Professionals is now.

In this economic environment, it is important that quality professionals demonstrate the ability and the promises of Quality as we have seen in articles, text books and concepts, adapt it into our environment and yield the benefits of it. Here are four ideas of how to start with:

1. Communicate the need of Quality across organization. Form action teams to get quality project executed with the buy in from management. Put yourself on the line, and get the buy-in from management to support such cause as to see the result that can be yield. As the environment is turbulent, go for short and effective projects that can yield a lot of savings for the organization or greatly enhance sales.

2. Communicate the need of Quality upwards. Speak to management using Cost of Quality (COQ) concept. Attempt to decipher and study the cost of failure and show how can quality projects and quality initiatives reduce that. Again put yourself in the line, and be pro-active to push through the understanding to management team.

3. Be pro-active and continuously look for ways to improve in terms of quality, processes, reduce wastage, improve output, reduce time and improve output even from each and every employees.

4. Record the results and outcomes of this projects as bolster for your future quality projects. This will be prove to you, your management and also to your organization that quality thinking and quality initiatives is important during good time, more so during the bad times. Sell Quality to your organization so that they embrace it.

So to answer the question, quality is relevant in 2009, and I can see that organization that is able to embrace quality by each and every employee shall emerge from this economic slump stronger, better and more competitive than ever before.


~~~ Life is an adventure where we search for the meaning of the outcome.
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    Winson has about 15+ years of working experience, 10+ of which is in the area of Quality Assurance in software/design industry. A senior member of American Society for Quality (ASQ), a member of IIST and an ASQ Certified Quality Manager or better known as Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence (CMQ/OE), Certified Project Manager (PMP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM). Currently, he has about 5 years in managerial position in charge of QA Department, managing a team of QA executives and IT Administrator, performing software testing, software quality assurance/audit and process improvement.

    He also handles area of certification and technical partnership for his current organization both for products and the organization. Currently he leads an independent team to study the software testing capability in his organization and suggest improvements for it.

    His passion is in the area of Quality, Process Improvement & Software Testing, and he is also active in Product Certification Processes, Team Building and Training.

    He is a visionary, thinker, motivator, teamwork oriented manager, communicator, proactive and forward thinker, who loves to work with multi-cultural and wide variety of people.