Series promotes corporate image
TOTAL Quality Management (TQM) is now a force to be reckoned with in Hong Kong, following the rapid spread of the ISO 9000 standard among smaller companies in the territory.
Edmund Sung, the divisional manager of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, said ''quality'' would be the corporate buzzword of the 1990s.
Companies which ignored the challenges posed by improving quality and establishing a quality culture in the minds of their managers and employees could, ultimately, pay the price with their existence, he said.
''In the 1990s, quality will be the main attribute for continued growth and survival of a business,'' Mr Sung said.
''In the past, quality didn't have as great a status.'' The Hong Kong Productivity Council, a government-subsidised organisation, has, as its objective, the promotion of productivity growth in companies through consultancy, training and industry support.
In 1989, the council, in collaboration with a British consultant, completed a TQM pilot programme involving ISO 9000 for nine companies in Hong Kong, and, since then, it has never looked back.
Now, more and more companies were adopting the standard on almost a daily basis, he said.
''We launched TQM in 1989. At that time, we focused on three main areas: people, systems and technology,'' Mr Sung said.
''But, after conducting a pilot survey in Hong Kong to gauge the readiness of Hong Kong companies to do TQM, we found many of them were not ready in all three areas.
''Some of them didn't have a structured system, the understanding of their employees was not as good, and there was not much technology support. We decided to go for a step-by-step approach.'' The council then selected the system it thought best for Hong Kong - the ISO 9000 international standard.
''We selected the ISO 9000 because we found it to be a practical standard and it has international recognition.'' The ISO 9000 series for quality management is published by the International Organisation for Standardisation or the ISO. It is based on the earlier British Standard 5750 which was first issued in 1987.
According to the Productivity Council, the five standards in the series - ISO 9000-9004 - tell suppliers and manufacturers what is required of a quality-oriented system.
The standards can be applied by all companies of various sizes. They identify the core disciplines and they specify the procedures and criteria to ensure that products and services meet the requirements of customers.
A council spokesman said the ISO 9000 standard had now extended its influence throughout the corporate world, so that the standards were adopted by over 40 countries as their own standards.
There are now literally thousands of companies throughout the world which have been assessed and certified by second or third parties against ISO 9000 standards.
Mr Sung said: ''There are two main reasons why companies adopt the standard. Externally, it promotes a company's quality image, which can help it in doing its business internationally.
''Internally, the ISO 9000 helps a company eliminate waste. It reduces costs, boosts productivity and streamlines delivery.'' Mr Sung said another reason for the growth of ISO 9000 certification was the fact it was unique to the territory.
''The turnover of staff in Hong Kong firms is considered among the highest in the world,'' he said.
''Therefore, a well-documented business system is essential when new staff or managers come to a firm, to help avoid problems and to rectify errors. The existing documentation can also become training documentation.'' The council does warn firms embarking on measures to improve quality not to regard the ISO 9000 as the end of the process.
Mr Sung said: ''ISO 9000 is just a stepping stone towards TQM.'' He said the special nature of Hong Kong business - the large number of small companies run along family lines - was, initially, a hurdle to TQM's penetration throughout the territory. But, over a short time, the advantages of quality had been widely accepted.
''We want to introduce a quality culture so that everyone, whether consciously or unconsciously, acts with quality in mind. That's the ultimate goal,'' he said.