In today's environment where consumers have multiple choices, and retailers have options of sourcing from a variety of manufacturers, it is no-brainer that effective quality management is required for survival, writes Pradip V Mehta.


Effective quality management starts with a quality policy. Effectiveness is the extent to which planned activities are realised and planned results achieved. Policy is a guide to managerial action. A quality policy is overall intentions and directions or management philosophy of an organisation related to quality as formally expressed by the top management. Top management means the chief executive officer (CEO) or managing director (MD), and all those positions that report directly to CEO or MD.


The operation of any company reflects the underlying philosophy of those who lead it. The management philosophy shapes the culture of the organisation. An effective quality policy gives direction to an organisation in terms of purpose. It is a means of defining an organisation's aim, which all employees should be aware of. Quality policy brings clarity and unity within a company.


Employees and workers in any organisation make decisions on behalf of the top management every day. Quality policy is supposed to provide a reference point for every employee in their decision-making regarding quality matters. The content of the quality policy should be appropriate to the business, include a commitment to improvement and customer satisfaction and refer to the objectives to be achieved by the company. For a quality policy to be effective, it should be capable of influencing behaviour of the management as well as employees.


Here is an example of a generic quality policy:

The _____________ company is committed to delivering defect free products on time at the most competitive cost possible through continuous improvement of our processes and products. The _____________ company is committed to meet or exceed our customers' expectations each and every time.


Fundamental to quality policy is the definition of quality. Quality may mean different things to different people. For example, it may mean "the best money can buy," "meeting specifications," "no more than 1 per cent defective," etc. Whatever definition is chosen by the management, it is important that everyone in the company knows what that definition is. If different people in a company have different concept of quality, it becomes very difficult to manage quality. For example, where this author worked, poor quality or defect was defined as any condition in a product that will have an adverse impact on appearance, serviceability, or salability of that product, which can be anything such as a stain on the garment, a tear in the fabric, open seam, loose threads, mismatched panels in a garment, poor shrinkage performance in laundering, etc; and the list goes on. And a garment containing any one or more of these conditions (defects) was considered "defective." Our suppliers also knew how we defined quality.