Quality management plays a key role in a company's operations in order to perfect products and services. Companies that stand out from their competition are those that maintain high quality despite a volatile economic environment. Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) was awarded the gold prize in the HKMA Quality Award this year. 'It is a great pleasure to receive the award,' says Lilian Chan, general manager of marketing and customer service at Hactl. 'We think of this as a learning process. The assessment process helped us identify our strengths and our weaknesses, so that we can make improvements.' The purpose of the Quality Award includes providing public recognition to those organisations that have achieved outstanding standards of quality management, and valuable information from the board of examiners and the panel of judges, who are some of the most experienced and respected quality experts in Hong Kong. 'I think we were able to impress the judges and examiners because we put a lot of focus on the process and our people,' Chan says. 'We went through a difficult process and what we achieved in the end was more than just a gold award. We were able to enhance our internal co-operation and make further improvements according to the examiners' comments and suggestions.' As the leading international air cargo terminal operator in Hong Kong, Hactl plays a key role in cultivating the city's position as an international air cargo hub and a gateway to the mainland. Therefore, the company makes sure it is one step ahead of the competition and maintains its role as an innovator. To achieve this goal, executives of the company make sure the company's regulations and strategies are known to all staff. They also believe in two-way communication rather than top-down. 'We hold regular meetings and provide training to all employees to make sure everyone knows what they are doing,' Chan says. These may only satisfy a few of the seven criteria of the competition: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results. All the criteria are aligned with the requirements of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the United States. Hactl devoted a lot of time and effort to prepare for the competition. Representatives from all departments within the company teamed up to discuss and work on fulfilling the seven criteria. Representatives contributed to the written submissions and were responsible for preparing relevant information for the examiners during the site visit, the presentation workshop, and the question and answer session with the panel of judges. 'The examiners paid attention to every detail. Therefore, it was very important for the company to work as a whole and present the best of the company to the examiners and judges during the difficult assessment process,' Chan says. Examiners were able to view Hactl's state-of-the-art facility and the automation of the company during the site visit, but this would not impress judges unless the company incorporated its core values, development goals, and quality management with their facilities and people. 'We try our best to create a sense of belonging for all staff through quality management,' Chan says. 'We believe our employees' dedication to the company is the most important thing.' Hactl did not lay off any staff or cut salaries during the recent downturn, so the company will not have to face any problems, including a lack of expertise, when the economy improves. 'Although everyone may not be working towards the same goal, we try our best to help everyone at Hactl understand that our long-term goal is to stand in a much better position in the future,' Chan says. Hactl sets up clear long-term goals of providing customers with greater efficiencies and services of added value, and drives all staff towards those goals in order to guarantee high quality in their services. The company serves nearly 90 international airlines and 1,000 freight forwarders together with its wholly-owned subsidiary, Hong Kong Air Cargo Industry Services. 'We strive to be the first in Hong Kong's air cargo and logistics industries and make Hong Kong the leader in the world,' Chan says. 'To remain a step ahead of our competition, we devote a lot of resources to making sure our process and people are of the highest quality.'