Quality is the key to sustainable business growth
The term “quality management” is in the spotlight again in the business community
as owners of Korea’s famous business groups, such as Samsung and Hyundai, have
placed first and foremost priority on “quality” policies for corporate management.
As products become more complicated and advanced, even small defects in quality
have a greater impact on the entire line of products, which directly affects the corporate
image and its competitive edge.
Frequent talks about quality management prove how difficult it is for it to take root
in businesses. Although innovative technology or design is possible through the research
and development efforts of just a few talented people, quality management is not possible
until not only the CEOs but all organizational members take an interest in quality
improvement through constant care and attention to the issue. More than anything else,
it must be supported through improvements in the field. Sustainable quality management
is possible and can bear fruit when not only the staff in the office but many other people
on site work together to improve quality. Whether in the manufacturing or service industry,
problems are apt to occur on site. This is why “quality team” activities have been attracting
renewed attention as a hidden driving force for quality management, as teams solve
challenging problems in the field based on the ideas of many people who have a proper
sense of the problems.
In the early 1970s, Korea introduced and spread small-group “quality team” activities,
mostly to exporters, to overcome low quality and production limitations. Quality teams
in the public sector became active in the late 1990s. Quality teams in the service industry
began to participate in quality competitions a few years ago and gained excellent results
through presentation of their improvement cases. Advanced countries have already
adopted various quality management techniques in the service sector, including medical
and educational services and information technology, to produce tangible results.
Quality teams have grown to become leader groups for quality innovation to solve many
impending issues by collecting latent individual competencies and using scientific
techniques such as the seven quality control tools. The efforts and enthusiasm of
numerous team members, working hard in the industrial field nationwide, have
positioned Korea among advanced manufacturers and provided energy for the birth
of world-class brand products in many areas, including automobile, chemical, steelworks,
shipbuilding, and mobile phones.
Currently, quality teams are in operation in Japan, China, the United States and
about 50 countries across the world. In Korea, 580,000 team members and 1,300 quality
masters on 53,400 teams are playing a pivotal role at 8,700 workplaces nationwide.
In companies with more active quality teams, the management has a stronger will
to perform quality activities and employees more voluntarily participate in these
activities. Quality improvement activity in the field has brought a tangible effect of
1.3 trillion won every year and a representative Korean car-maker has recorded
a cost reduction of 1.5 trillion since its introduction of quality activities. A survey of
quality management implementers showed that the intangible effects of quality
management included the practice of improvement activities in daily life,
quality improvement, labor and management collaboration, and formation of teamwork.
The World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI) was held in Pittsburg
in the United States in May this year. There were heated discussions and enthusiastic team
activities for over 2,000 quality experts from across the world. The event renewed the
importance of quality management. Also, the 37th National Competition for Quality Teams
was hosted from Aug 22 to Aug 26 in Seoul, a prospective “smart” economic city.
About 260 teams which had won municipal and provincial competitions for their
outstanding performances in improving quality and productivity participated
in this national competition.
Quality is the answer to the production of the world-class products. Quality has now
become an uncompromisable yardstick for both producers and consumers. However
excellent technology and design are, consumers will turn away from products if producers
do not consistently assure quality, and as a result producers would be unable to achieve
sustainable growth. Continued interest and support for quality teams will be instrumental
for quality management to take a firm root in businesses and pave the way for Korea
to become advanced in quality assurance.
Chang Ryong KIM CEO and Chairman of KSA
Chang Ryong KIM
CEO and Chairman of KSA