Lee Tat-yee, chairman of the award's board of examiners, believes the characteristic of Hong Kong's management quality is customer-driven. 'Many Western companies take the initiative to do quality improvement but, in Hong Kong, it is only done when there is a request from the customers,' said Mr Lee, who is also director of the Industrial Centre of the University of Hong Kong. 'You cannot say it is good or bad. It is just Hong Kong. 'If there is no need, you may waste a lot of time and resources.' The characteristic may be a result of the OEM (original equipment manufacturing) nature of the SAR's industries. For decades, local factories manufactured products according to designs provided by overseas customers, which helped form the customer-driven culture. Even in the service industry, such as freight forwarding, people did not think of introducing the ISO 9000 management control system until overseas clients asked for it. Mr Lee has been an examiner for the award for two years. 'It is a very useful experience because it gives me the chance to get to know such well-managed companies. I learn a lot during the process,' he said. The judges first examine the applicants' submissions and give scores. Then they decide whether a site visit is necessary. This year, judges visited four companies, talking to senior managers and workers about their roles, training and contribution to the management systems. Based on their observations, they picked the most outstanding. 'This year, the applicants' submissions were more clearly prepared than before,' Mr Lee said. 'Last year, many applicants put all they had done together, making it difficult to judge. 'This year, they put their achievements under different categories. 'Also, maybe because business results take a lot of points, most companies provided plenty of information on this aspect. 'All winners have improved a lot in terms of business performance in the past few years.' The Industrial Centre is in charge of designing and making equipment to support research work of the university and providing training for engineering students. Mr Lee has also served as a judge for the quality award organised by the Industry Department for four years. 'The economic downturn provides a good opportunity for Hong Kong industries to improve their management quality and raise the overall awareness of the concept among management and staff,' he said. 'In good times, companies could make money without making much effort to improve quality. Now, in bad times, you will not survive if you don't improve quality management.'