March 22, 2013

QRM Mini–Project Reflection

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Over the course of the Quality, Reliability and Maintenece module (during the lectures and seminars), I have come to realise how significant quality is to business survival. The videos and case studies in class have made me aware of how a minute error can lead to a catastrophic event, why it is important to understand the implications that neglecting minute details may cause (so that they would not be ignored) and the role that people play in quality assurance. I was assigned the mini-project on comparing and contrasting the EFQM model and ISO 9000 and indicating the strengths and weakness from each approach. This entry entails my understanding on topics that were discussed in my group presentation. In order to be able to compare the models, it will be necessary for me to explain the two models.

The ISO 9000 standard

The ISO 9000 is a family of standards that entails a list of procedures and tools, which a company should follow to ensure that they meet customer requirements and improve their quality standards. It was founded by the International Standards Organisation and its family include ISO 9001, ISO 9002, ISO 9003 and ISO 9004. Each of these standards describes how the organisation can ensure quality in particular business processes. It is based on a number of quality management principles that include the motivation and implication of top management a strong customer focus, process approach and continual improvement. A company can only be recognised as ‘ISO 9000 standard compliant’ only if an audit is carried out to find out if its quality management system is working. The audits are usually carried out by the certification body or the company may invite its clients to audit the system themselves.

Strengths of the ISO 9000 standard

From my knowledge, the goal of every business is to make profit therefore a major strength of the ISO 9000 is that it ensures that a company’s products are aligned with the customer requirements and this will lead to increase in profits and market share. It a well defined and documented standard which entails the procedures that a company will need to follow to ensure that quality of its processes is improved hence, it make the investigations of areas of improvement easy and decision of steps to be taken simple. These procedures help to reduce the cost of production because over time because they reduce variations in the company’s operation processes.

Weaknesses of the ISO 9000 standard

From my understanding of the ISO 9000 standards, they are more of guidelines than a standard. They describe the steps a company should follow to ensure quality but do not allow them develop their own steps towards achieving the quality standard. It is wrong because not all companies can operated with the same guidelines, the guidelines should have been customized according the company’s operations. This makes work boring for its workers because they cannot suggest improvements to management therefore they continue to do the same job repeatedly. The last point leads to another weakness- it is focussed on specifications rather than understanding the need for improvement and this can lead to failure of its implementation if the company is more focused on certification rather than quality. An example of this was seen in the United Airlines flight 232-crash, the airline followed all the government standards and procedures but a simple defect was undetected probably because someone was not briefed on the implications of a slight mistake. The excessive need of the organisation to follow these procedures and long documentation usually makes work stressful sometimes leading to loss of interest in following the procedures. The last weakness is that it requires a lot of paperwork before it is successfully implemented.

The EFQM Model

EFQM is a generic model and non-prescriptive model because it can be used in all an organisations business processes and it recognises that there are several approaches to achieving sustainable excellence. It was founded by the European Foundation for Quality Management and it is focused on organisational development with through ensuring continuous development. It is frequently updated with information from organisations all over the world. It is a nine-box cause and effect diagram in which the enablers are the causes and the effects are the results. Organisations use the enablers (leadership, people, policy and strategy, processes, resources and partnership) as criteria to investigate its operations towards excellence. The results are usually the achievements of the organisation and they are caused by the enablers.

Strengths of the EFQM Model

I feel that a major strength of the EFQM is that it allows a company to tailor its techniques towards excellence by investigating the factors that will lead to it and the results caused by these factors. It leads to flexibility in the way the company delivers its strategy and allows the management to see the link between operations and strategy. It is also updated with information from companies on their best practices on achieving excellence which provides them with a wide database of knowledge and procedures they may adopt to improve their processes. The enablers aid the management of the company have a holistic view of the company when making decisions and this gives them a clear diagnosis of the company’s activities. Edward Demming says that it necessary for people to know what to do so that they can be able to do their best. With this knowledge, an additional strength of the EFQM model is that it identifies people as one of the factors that will help a company achieve excellence; it provides them with a clear picture of direction of the company because of their actions.

Weaknesses of the EFQM Model

I believe that the main weakness of the EFQM model is that it is non-prescriptive. It could have been more structured because the degree of comprehension on how it can be implemented will vary across organisations hence, its aim might not be achieved. It requires many resources (such as training) to implement it therefore a shortage of resources can lead it being abandoned. Another weakness is that it is focussed on improving a company’s internal processes over a long period of time that is usually not recognised as relevant to the customer and therefore it may not immediately lead to profits for the company.

Similarities between the Models

From my discussion and research, I think that the main similarities of the two models lie in the general advantage of using them. Both processes aid a company to identify the areas of its company that require improvement and they provide provisions or milestones with which their progress can be measured. They also provide a basis for continual improvement and provide basis for recognition in terms of certification and awards. Another similarity in the two of them is that they are adopted by companies who wish to improve their quality standards through organisation planning and improvement.

Differences between the Models

Although both models have similar aims for their adoption, however, I discovered that the companies that are ISO 9000 certified adopt it for external reasons such as improving its image and its customer’s perception of the quality of its products and services. On the other hand, EFQM is adopted by companies for internal reasons such as improving the way they make corporate decisions, improving the way they plan the organisation towards excellence and sustaining excellence. This discovery leads me to suggest that ISO 9000 is focussed on ensuring that a company adheres to product requirements thereby leading to customer satisfaction and increased profits whereas, EFQM is focussed on the various approaches a company can follow towards enhancing its overall performance and promoting improvement through understanding. A company can only be certified with ISO 9000 if an audit has been carried out by a third party on the other hand, EFQM is certified by self-assessment. A lot of time and money is wasted when getting ISO 9000 certified due to bureaucracy however, this is less likely for EFQM. Another difference in the two standards is that ISO 9000 views inspection and testing as important procedures during operations but EFQM does not place importance on inspection and testing because it should be prevented by ensuring that people understand the processes.

Conclusion and Recommendation

ISO 9000 provides a company with the short-lived benefits of profits but EFQM on the other hand helps the company to understand its operations, how it can achieve its goals by identifying and improving the particular areas in its business. An investigation into the industries/companies that these quality models will be best suited for lead to the discovery that there are actually companies that implement both models therefore, I would recommend that both methods be used by companies to ensure quality. This will help them to ensure that they are delivering their goods/services in accordance to customer requirements and at the same time ensuring that it can be maintained by improving their internal processes towards sustainable excellence.

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