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Boost your credibility with Quality


QualityZonePaddington rail crash, Sellafield MOX fuel crisis, Bristol Royal Infirmary heart deaths. Names that have become indelibly etched in the public mind. These recent high-profile news stories have highlighted the need to have comprehensive quality systems and procedures in place. It is not just businesses which need quality.

Although quality systems are well established within the manufacturing industry, they are also growing in popularity in the service and public sectors. A quality system, of which there are many types, needs the commitment of management and employees alike. This was highlighted at Sellafield. The falsification of documentation at the MOX fuel plant cost BNFL £113 million in lost revenue. Although it had an ISO 9000 system in place, the work culture was ambivalent where quality was concerned. Happily, BNFL has realised this and is now embracing quality with gusto.

For some, quality is interpreted as the international standard ISO 9000, for others, it is the EFQM excellence model. Investors in People, Chartermark, statistical process control or total quality management. However, with over 70,000 companies registered in the UK, ISO 9000 is by far the country’s most widely-used quality tool.

Of course, ISO 9000 has undergone its most comprehensive revision to date. A recent survey in Quality World revealed some interesting attitudes to the new standard (Click here for details of Quality World and how to receive a copy - September's issue carries the full story). Seventy per cent of quality professionals are unhappy with some aspect of the new standard – most cited that they would have liked more use of plain English, others wanted to see reduced requirements for document control. But despite this initial negative response, 94 per cent said that they would be going for the new standard. Also, 84 per cent of those surveyed felt that there are tangible benefits to accredited certification. So it looks as though ISO 9000 is here to stay.

But the need for quality is a growing imperative for all areas of life. The government is faced with a growing crisis in the NHS and all areas of the NHS must now introduce a programme of ‘clinical governance’ – basically QA for clinical care. Each of the major professions and sectors has developed quality standards. Solicitors have launched a standard called Lexcel, barristers have one names the Barmark scheme. The voluntary sector is encouraging the use of the excellence model and IIP to improve standards in what have often been perceived as poorly-run organisations.

I suspect that we will be seeing an increasing call from, not only the media, but also from public and business figures for standards and systems that work, and deliver products and service to suit customer needs. For quality has become essential to success and survival. Businesses have learnt to distinguish themselves in terms of quality rather than price. With 86 per cent of customers expecting better service than they did five years ago, organisations have come to recognise that customer power no longer just talks – it walks.

Frank Steer MBE

Frank Steer joined the IQA as its Director General in November 1999. Prior to that he was the director responsible for the support chain in the Army’s equipment support organisation. Setting policy and procedures for the purchase and management of Army repair parts, he had significant budgetary and engineering management responsibility, including the management of a fleet of some 58,000 vehicles.


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