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Quality management by Advantum

We need a sharper focus on quality management

In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive world, mere seconds lost translate into missed opportunities and possibly loss of revenue. In order to stay ahead of competition, it is important that businesses streamline their processes not only to function effectively but also to meet the needs of their customers efficiently.

What is quality?

Quality can be defined as the extent to which a product or service fulfils requirements and the results of these requirements are fit for use. In order to deliver a product or service that is considered to be of excellent quality, the needs of all stakeholders must be met.

With the definition of quality in mind, we can further say that quality management focuses on the processes of a business or organization, the customer and continuous improvement. An organization’s product or service depends on a set of requirements or specifications that were previously gathered. Conformance to these requirements is used to determine the quality of the end product.

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Why is quality management important?

According to an article posted by the American Society for Quality, the benefits of implementing quality management include:

  • A strengthened competitive position
  • Adaptability to changing or emerging market conditions and to environmental and other government regulations
  • Higher productivity
  • Enhanced market image
  • Elimination of defects and waste
  • Reduced costs and better cost management • Higher profitability
  • Enhanced shareholder and stakeholder value

How can the shipping industry strengthen its quality management process? In order to compete in today’s market, shipping companies will need to sharpen their focus on quality management in all aspects. Quality management is globally welcomed and it may be seen as a driving force in improving safety and service at all levels. With the development of standards and regulations, it is in a company’s best interest to include these standards in all projects that may be undertaken.

A standard, as defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is “a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose”. A series of case studies conducted by the ISO in 2010 revealed that companies may achieve the following key benefits from using standards:

  • Streamlining internal operations. Standards can be used to streamline internal processes by reducing the time needed to perform certain tasks, decrease waste, cut costs and increase productivity. The case study reports that “the contribution of standards to the gross profit of companies ranges between 0.15 per cent and five per cent of the annual sales revenues”.
  • Innovating and scaling up operations. Some case studies revealed that standards served as the basis for innovating business processes.
  • Creating or entering new markets. Standards have been used as the basis for developing new products or services and penetrating new markets, both locally and internationally.
  • Organizations which adopt industry standards are better poised to providing a more efficient product or service. The quality standards that are widely used include the ISO 9000 series, the International Safety Management (ISM) code and the International Security Management Association (ISMA) standards. Even though utilizing these standards does not guarantee quality, they can be used as a benchmark for measuring an organization’s commitment to quality.

An example

Here is an example of the importance of quality management in projects. Every day, more and more organizations are adopting quality management with their projects and service delivery. The recent opening of the Panama Canal’s new locks can be seen as a huge development for the shipping industry. An article published in June by World Maritime News said the new locks “promise more transits and increased revenue for Panama while bringing more cargo to the US East Coast and Caribbean ports faster and cheaper”.

It was surprising, however, that shortly after the opening, a neopanamax containership of 8,500 teu (the ‘Xin Fei Zhou’) struck one of the canal’s new locks. A study released by PGI Intelligence said the locks – measuring 427 meters long and 55 meters wide – were too small for neopanamax ships: “The largest vessels can measure up to 366 meters long and 49 meters wide, leaving a distance of just 6.0 meters across the width of the canal and 61 meters lengthwise, much of which will be taken up by tugboats on either end of the vessel to guide it through the lock. A joint study by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and Brazil’s Fundação Homem do Mar (FHM) found that, in windy conditions, the maneuverability of vessels would be compromised, making accidents likely due to the lock’s narrow dimensions.”

With the concerns brought forward by the study, one is left to wonder about the extent of planning and quality management that was conducted during the project lifecycle. Were all the measurements required prior to the start of building correctly assessed? Was the length of the containerships taken into consideration? Were the measurements continuously checked during the building of the new locks?

Using this example, we can see that it is imperative that quality is continuously measured in order to not only provide excellent service but also to mitigate additional costs that may arise.