Small firms come on board

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 2003, 12:00am

Hong Kong may be going through a difficult period but the drive for excellence in quality remains high, with more winners and two companies sharing the overall winner title in this year's Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) Quality Awards.

'This indicates how keen the competition was,' says organising committee chairman Alfred Chan Win-king.

Despited the poor economic climate, 100 companies showed interest in the awards, and 18 submitted applications.

Mr Chan says the economic slowdown has not dampened enthusiasm for building a quality foundation.

'Companies are placing more emphasis on quality,' he says.

Meanwhile, the interest from industry is changing.

'We used to receive a lot of applications from multinational corporations, but now we are seeing more small and medium-sized enterprises. And we will be seeing more participation from Chinese companies.'

An increase in the number of property-management companies participating was also noted.

'This is a growing market. Hong Kong residents are focusing more strongly on their living environment and considering security, greenery, and clubhouse facilities,' he says.

This year's overall winners are Eurasia International (China), a shipping-management company and Urban Group, the largest property- and facility-management company in Hong Kong.

T.Y. Lee, chairman of the board of examiners, says the joint winners' performance was 'so good we could not distinguish between them'.

The organisers also pointed out that this year saw more winners than in previous years.

'In the current economic environment, quality is one way for organisations to survive,' says Dr Lee, who is director of the technical support centre at The University of Hong Kong.

'Companies today are more assertive in improving quality. The standard of quality in Hong Kong has been maintained, if not improved.'

The HKMA Quality Award is based on the American Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award judging criteria, and is the Hong Kong equivalent to the Japanese Deming Prize and the European Quality Award.

Assessment is based on written submissions, presentations and site visits conducted by the board of examiners. A panel of judges makes the final decision on winners.

This year's board of examiners comprises: Billy Chen Kim-cheng, executive director for membership services, The Hong Kong Jockey Club; Cliff Cheung Kam-pui, senior quality assurance manager, Hang Seng Bank; Samuel K M Ho, HK 5-S Association; Victor Hui Yau-leung, quality manager, Philips Electronics (HK); Ray Lau Wai-man, deputy administration director, Glorious Sun Enterprises; Leung Ping-him, manager, quality management and technical training, The Hong Kong and China Gas Co; and John Yeung Chung-tak, manager, quality programmes and implementation, PCCW.

Seven criteria categories are used to assess applicants. They are: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management and business results.

The leadership category looks at the leadership of senior management and how the organisation's performance is reviewed.

'A common feature among the two overall winners is that they have good leadership. Senior management have been able to foresee problems ahead of a crisis,' Mr Cheung says.

Marco Polo, a merit winner, is a good example.

'The hotel industry is probably the hardest hit by the outbreak of Sars [severe acute respiratory syndrome] crisis. Marco Polo's management has dealt with the crisis well as it has different types of contingency plans in place,' he says.

The human resources category examines how organisations bring out the best in employees. Jones Lang LaSalle, which received a certificate of merit, established a performance-based rewards system for its staff on well-defined terms.

'The management implemented individual plans for employees. Sometimes, this . . . is difficult but it may release an individual's inner strength,' Mr Leung says.

With respect to the process management category, Mr Yeung says: 'Both overall winners performed well in all seven categories. However, when it came to the day-to-day management processes, these companies were very good.'

The Urban Group established a customer feedback survey and senior management went on site to talk to residents in properties it was involved in. Similarly, Eurasia would delegate senior management to speak to ship owners to obtain feedback and opinions.

Key performance indicators were used in the design process at Manfield Coatings, a merit winner. The company, which specialises in pre-mixed paints for the electrical and electronic industry, was the only manufacturer shortlisted this year.

'They were very specific in that, if they did not meet their goals, they would analyse their shortcomings and implement process improvements,' says Mr Yeung.

In the business results category, the examiners looked at each company's performance and improvements. These included customer satisfaction, product and service performance, financial and marketplace performance, human resource results and operational performance.

The HKMA Quality Award was launched in 1991 and aims to reward and provide public recognition to companies for excellence in quality standards and management.

Previous overall winners include Ricoh Office Solutions (last year), COSCO (HK) Shipping and Hsin Chong Real Estate Management (2001), Parkn'shop (2000), and Glorious Sun Enterprises and The Hong Kong and China Gas (1999).