APPRECIATION of the importance of quality management and the implementation of such practices in Hongkong are increasing, according to a new research study. The report was prepared by John Romagna, who had previously written the Housing Authority's benchmark study, Quality Management in Public Housing. The study surveyed senior executives from 300 of Hongkong's largest industrial corporations, using an overlapping pattern of survey questionnaires, phone interviews and in-depth, group and individual discussions. ''To anyone working in the quality field, it was clear that a 'quiet revolution' was taking place in these last three years since we wrote our Housing Authority study,'' said Mr Romagna, who lives in Hongkong and is managing director of OSA-Mortiboysss, a quality management consultancy. ''This latest research documents the extent of this revolution.'' The findings show that, across all industries, Hongkong manufacturers rank quality of product and service as the most import factors for success. This was followed, in order, by market contacts, labour cost, production technology, and tariffs or quotas. The major exception to this was the garment industry, where tariffs and quotas ranked second, just behind quality. The study says all companies regard quality as being an important foundation of their competitive advantage, and a substantial majority have undertaken formal quality improvement programmes - most within the last three years. Many firms had made a decision to seek ISO 9000 certification of their quality systems, or were seriously considering such a decision. About 88 firms are certificated and 145 others have formally applied to Hongkong Quality Assurance Agency for certification, and others are considering the idea. The study says the two most common justifications for seeking ISO 9000 are customer request and the need for maintaining the company's position because of concern that competitors would use certification to their advantage. Most firms have taken steps to bring their quality management practices up to a level that conforms to ISO 9000. The indication is that Hongkong companies are doing more than just paying lip service to quality. According to the study, the biggest quality headaches faced by manufacturers are problems of developing and maintaining quality in their subsidiaries in China, and difficulties of finding high quality suppliers and subcontractors. Many firms are trying to address these problems by establishing closer supplier relationships. Mr Romagna said there were several factors that were causing and sustaining the ''quiet revolution''. ''First, there are customer requirements. This is particularly true in the construction industry, where major credit goes both to the Housing Authority for requiring ISO 9000 as a condition for remaining on tender lists, and for the positive co-operationof the Construction Association. ''But it is also true in many sectors of manufacturing, particularly electronics, because of overseas requirements, and now toys, because of the Chinese Government's decision to require ISO 9000 for export. ''Second, there is the positive work of public and private organisations in promoting quality. ''These include the Industry Department and 'resource groups', such as the Quality and Reliability Centre at the Hongkong Polytechnic. ''Third, there is competitive pressure. If you don't use quality improvement to make it better and more efficiently, with less testing, wastage and rework, you can rest assured your competitors will.''