Companies shift their focus back to quality control

Robert Chalker Managing Director, ASQ. (SUPPLIED)

Economic crisis saw companies struggling for survival and forced to adopt various measures to control costs. In many cases, it meant quality controls took a backseat.

According to analysts, taking their eyes off from quality controls resulted in organisation bearing a greater cost.

Citing the recent case of a leading car manufacturer withdrawing a certain model from the market, Robert Chalker, Managing Director, American Society for Quality (ASQ), said: "In the long run, this would bring organisations back to focusing on quality as markets become much more competitive."

He said consumers are more selective. "Now companies have to deliver a certain level of service and meet higher customer expectations," he told Emirates Business.

In the UAE, awareness levels are much higher compared to many other countries, he said.


How did the crisis impact the importance of quality controls?

Although it is too early to comment, initially it probably had a negative impact. Companies focused too much on survival, a recent example being that of a car company that was forced to recall a model.

In the long run, this would bring organisations back to focusing on quality controls as markets become much more competitive. Today, consumers are more selective. Now companies have to deliver a certain level of service and meet much higher customer expectations.

Have you started to see the implementation along with the awareness on the need to pay attention to quality?

I absolutely think a lot of firms have started doing it. Organisations realise that they would be competing for a smaller pie. In such a situation it becomes critical for them to offer better products and services. What we are seeing is an increase in education and in training. We are seeing top leaders in organisations stepping back and seeing how they are doing things.

What has been the impact of economic crisis on quality controllers?

Initially the workforce, particularly the manufacturing-oriented ones, lost their jobs, saw reduced benefits and lower salaries. This included engineers, mid-level managers, executives, etc.

However, now professionals are moving into industries they were not traditionally into. A large number of them, for instance, have moved into sectors such as banking and healthcare.

That's a positive side. They are thinking differently. In terms of industries, it means quality control consciousness is spreading across various sectors.

I think these industries have realised these skills were not there in the industry.

Given that organisations have grown highly conscious about controlling costs, would hiring quality professionals not add to the cost?

Quality professionals can command a salary that is equal to their knowledge or contribution to the company. If you put it in other terms, they deliver.

Which are the sectors where quality control awareness is increasing?

As an industry, banking sector is relatively new to quality control. There are some banks that have been practicing quality controls and using Six Sigma, TQM. Besides that, in education and healthcare we are seeing more emphasis on quality control. In primary schools, principals want to apply basic quality principles. They look at basic things and listen to students.

How is the services industry implementing quality controls?

When it comes to quality, the general perception was that quality control is largely related to manufacturing sector. Quality is about doing things the right way, doing them with customer focus, making sure you are doing it cost effectively and providing a high quality service.

You can take the traditional tools and apply them in any industry, any business.

There are tools and capabilities that apply across all industries, such as Six Sigma, statistical process, etc. These can be used to help companies do better.

But now a lot of organisations in service industry are implementing it.

You meet with different companies, what is your impression on quality awareness in the UAE?

The expectations of service is much higher in this country compared to many places in the world. And the region meets these expectations. In hospitality, for instance, it is a part of the entire culture.

Do you have plans to forge a tie-up with the Dubai Quality Group?

At ASQ, we are looking at growing our presence. Our purpose being similar, we would look forward to an association.


PROFILE: Robert Chalker Managing Director, ASQ


Chalker, who joined ASQ Global in February 2009, is responsible for developing a global network of quality professionals and experts who focus on educating the world on the principles of quality. Most recently, Chalker was the Director, Global Development and Strategic Planning for SAE International. He joined the organisation in September, 2003 and was a

member of the organisation's Senior Leadership Team. From September 2003, until April 2008, he was the Director, Global Sales and Marketing, responsible for Society's $57 million (Dh209.3m) in revenues and setting the sales and marketing direction for the organisation


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