WHEN Rank Xerox Hong Kong won the inaugural 1991 Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) Quality Award it was an inspiring moment that changed the company, according to firm's quality manager, Katy Lam. She said the award had beneficial impact on the company. ''I would say there has been an impact on our business - our bottom line,'' she said. ''We are more widely recognised in Hong Kong and customers who are looking for not just quality products, but quality service, will give us an extra opportunity. ''There has also been a change in the way our existing customers approach us now with much higher expectations. ''That puts the pressure on us to improve more, and provide higher levels of service. We can never return to the way we were.'' The HKMA said the group had held ''a strong commitment from the top level to an established and comprehensive quality improvement system since 1986''. The award was given to Rank Xerox unanimously, as the only recipient out of a total of 17 entries. Ms Lam said her reaction, and those of her colleagues, was shaped by the ''team'' approach her company took: an effort involving a team of people doing the writing, accessing information, typing and packaging of the submission. ''We approached it very much as a team,'' she said. ''When we won the award, everyone who participated came to the [award] dinner so we had three to four tables. ''The secretaries who had typed the report were there and technical service people, too, those who had bound the book. Everyone who had helped was there to share in the glory. ''There was definitely a 'high' [created from the joint effort of workers], but it was a different sort of high [compared with] winning.'' Ms Lam said she believed the team approach had been the best sort of method for her company when approaching the award. ''Other companies use the efforts of individuals who sit at a desk alone. For some companies that approach may work. But, for our group, which has about 500 staff, it would not have been as meaningful and we would not have obtained the full benefits.'' Managing director Kenneth Wong said winning the award was the culmination of a drive by the company towards quality carried out over a number of years. He said: ''We had confidence we would win, but we were still not 100 per cent sure. ''[Afterwards] we had a lot of companies - small and large, as well as government departments - approach us with invitations to give presentations to their staff and senior people. Other companies approached us to participate in benchmarking,'' said Mr Wong. Rank Xerox had made between 30 and 40 private presentations to companies, and held a number of public seminars, since winning the award, he said. ''The pursuit of quality is a never-ending journey,'' he said. ''We try to achieve a 100 per cent customer satisfaction rating. Every year, we want to improve ourselves.'' According to the award's board of examiners, Xerox established a ''comprehensive quality system with many strengths''. The features of this system included: An understanding of key principles and concepts of total quality management, which was evident throughout the company. A long-term quality vision and a plan in place. A well-trained senior management team, versed in quality improvement principles and techniques. A clearly defined list of quality values, priorities and objectives. Ms Lam said the company had gained many advantages and benefits just from having entered the competition. ''For Xerox, we have a policy that if there is a national award in the country, we normally try to go for it - not because we like awards but because we recognise the value of those awards. ''It allows us to get an external assessment - a kind of report card - on what we are doing. ''Also, employees can have some short-term common goals, while it also demonstrates commitment, because it does take a great deal of commitment to produce a detailed submission.'' Rank Xerox broke down the requirements of the awards into sections and designated people to access the data and do the writing. At one stage up to 30 people were involved. Ms Lam said: ''It really was all worth it because it gives you an opportunity to say to your organisation, 'Wow! We really did these things'. It's very rare for an organisation to have the time to take stock of itself. It's like a kind of corporate resume.'' She said the company believed the award would continue to grow in importance in the territory. ''We have a lot of people showing interest in the award,'' she said. ''Some people are not convinced of the benefits yet because a lot of work is involved. ''But I would say the work pays off - regardless of whether you win or not.''