Recently a World Bank study finds that the impacts of unsafe food cost low- and middle-income economies about US dollar 110 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses each year. Only a food safety management system can ensure proper quality in food. We can easily avoid food-borne diseases and financial loss there from by improving awareness about quality of food. Only making laws is not an easy way to overcome this problem; rather it needs people’s participation and consciousness about food, food quality and hygiene standards.
What is quality? If a product fulfils a customer’s expectations, the customer will be pleased and consider that the product is of acceptable or even of high quality. If his or her expectations are not fulfilled, he will consider that the product is of low quality. The quality of a product may be defined as, “its ability to fulfil the customer’s needs and expectations”.Quality is primarily increased through collaboration, innovation, and working to improve the output quality at every level of business and manufacturing. Importance of quality in business, especially in export business is very much essential. Quality contributes to business success and, ultimately, nation’s prosperity.
In our everyday life, we want to get quality goods and services for a hassle-free life, and save energy, money and time. We don’t like to check and inspect every item when we buy but we want smooth functioning of all goods. Standards provide the tools and process to ensure it properly.
Determining quality and standards in every sphere of our life is not possible for every citizen. Quality construction, assurance of public health services, healthy food and toys are some common and necessary areas of our everyday life. National standard bodies formulate and declare national standards for different types of goods and services of our daily needs.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) formulated more than 22,552 international standards that touch almost every area of our life. These standards provide specifications and requirements specific to individual product, service or system which helps and ensures that things are developed and are functioning as intended.
International standards provide an essential foundation to help organisation to ensure and improve quality. ISO 9001, for example, sets out the requirements for a quality management system applicable to all types of business, regardless of size and sector.
It is commonly believed that most quality problems are caused primarily by lack of interest or care on the part of the worker in the production process. However, it is usually not the worker who can be blamed for this, since the conditions necessary to carry out the work correctly do not exist.For example, instructions may be inadequate, the incoming material may be defective, the machines may not be capable of producing goods of the required quality, and proper conditions for conducting inspection of the product are not given to the workers and so on. Unfortunately the worker has no control over these factors but they are often blamed for defective work.
It is generally believed in developed countries that 40 per cent of quality problems are caused by poor product design, 30 per cent of quality problems are caused by wrong or defective materials being purchased from suppliers and the remaining 30 per cent are due to errors made during the manufacturing process.
Both design and purchase problems can be solved only through intervention by the management and workers have no control over them. One could argue that the remaining quality problems in manufacturing are caused equally by managers by not providing with adequate training to workers and by not paying adequate attention to machine settings.
Thus 85 per cent of problems come from management control whereas 15 per cent are under workers’ control. Here too the workers can be held responsible for the defects if he or she knows what he or she is supposed to do, the result of his or her own work and the means to influence the result.
There is another myth that product quality can be improved through propaganda and other motivational activities. This is based on false assumption that human errors are primarily the result of lack of interest or care on the part of the people involved. Experience shows that considerably better results can be achieved if it is ensured that proper conditions exist for doing work or getting things right at the first time, for example the product specification must be clear and unambiguous.
The technical conditions must be as per the quality requirements, for example, the materials must be appropriate for the work and the machines must be capable of producing the required quality. Everyone must know what to do to prevent poor work. Everyone carrying out work should be able to judge whether the result of his or her work complies with the quality requirements. Everyone must also know and be aware of the consequences of poor work for the organisation.
Nowadays products are produced to meet the demand of worldwide customers as per proper standard. Mobile phones, credit cards, computers, electronic products are produced in accordance with world class standard. Even our garments, pharmaceuticals and leather goods are produced as per standard, demand, design and desire of customers worldwide.
What is standard? A standard is a document which provides, inter alia, requirements, rules and guidelines for a process, product or service. Standards are the result of a consensus and approved by a recognised body. Measurement and calibration play a vital role in the manufacturing of products for the global market. And accreditation helps in improving quality of goods and services, as well as safety and trust.
To reach an adequate standard of quality, people at all levels must cooperate actively. Increased and effective use of human resources by providing systematic and continual training is necessary for high standard quality and product quality is essential to sustain in the competitive business world. It is important for an organisation to understand quality control and quality assurance for better management plan.
World Quality Day is observed on the second Thursday of November every year. Events are usually organised by quality professionals designed to spread the importance of quality in society. Chartered Quality Institute, British Quality Foundation, Quality Council of India celebrates the day in colourful ways, along with their stakeholders. Still we are not celebrating the day in Bangladesh in an organised manner.
The theme for last year’s World Quality Day was “Quality: A question of trust”. Broadly speaking, this means quality which faces reputation and trust. Individual organisations can promote awareness of quality and focus on the importance of quality in an organisation. The quality management professionals helps the organisation to consistently deliver its promise to customers and stakeholders. It also encourages and stimulates employees to work better and promote the gradual improvement of quality culture in organisations.
Made in Bangladesh and branding Bangladeshi products will be easier if we maintain quality in our products and services properly. Our policy makers, managers from public and private sector, as well as scientific and professional institutions must focus on quality culture in their respective fields. We must promote the importance of quality and its contribution towards business, growth and prosperity of the country.
The writer is a retired Additional Secretary.