Today, a majority of managers agree that the main reason for pursuing quality is to satiate customers. This is in line with the characterization adopted by the SixSigma Institute which states that quality signifies “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy customers” (SixSigma Institute). This perception of quality as a satisfaction of customer needs is known “fitness of use.” Many modern companies consider the fitness of use as one of the most crucial factors in financial success given that customers expect them to evolve to meet their ever-changing needs continuously. In this report, the author shall present a case study analysis of Executive Holloware, a firm that fabricates cutlery and tableware items, in connection with the concept of quality. In summary, the case study highlights concerns raised by the managing director concerning the recent rise in reworking costs and customer returns. The main points under highlight include the significance of quality to Executive Holloware, the meaning and specification of quality, the underlying problems, the recommended indicator of quality, and general recommendations regarding the current situation.
To begin with, quality is important to Executive Holloware because the company’s core business operation involves the production of high value products. One of the major products is the handmade, silver plated Georgian set, which, as described in the case study, is expected to meet customers’ expectations with regard to eminence and luster. Hence, the quality is related to the final end product and its acceptance in the market. Given that the company has already established itself as an industry leader in the UK in the past, the aspect of quality is also of great consequence to the organization. All raw materials, internal processes, methods of production, and final products are required to be superior and excellent in order to beat the competition and increase profitability. Lastly, quality is needed in order to counter the current rise in costs and customer returns.
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Essentially, the term “quality” means different things to different people. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) describes it as “a subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition” (Newcomb 43). Thus, the meaning has changed through time owing to the different ideas, methods and philosophies that have emerged. Perhaps an important property of quality concerns the customer’s point of view as well as the processes involved in production. The customer’s point of view regards quality as the fulfilment of customer requirements while the production process refers to the product’s reliability (Evans 7). Because the modern business environment relies heavily on high-performance and standardization practices, quality depends on the effectiveness of carrying out the production process as well as the ability of the produced products to meet the needs of customers consistently. For that reason, the quality aspect is not only related to the product, but also to the entire operations of the organization. Companies must adopt quality measures and standards with regard to the description of components, raw materials, parameters, as well as evaluation and inspection processes. At Executive Holloware, the quality control involved inspection of cutlery and tableware for both surface finish and dimensional accuracy through a batch sampling basis.
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Quality with regard to the operations carried out by Executive Holloware can be specified through reliability and aesthetic value. Notably, the company produces products made out of valuable metals such as silver, which must be free of bruises and scratches according to client standards. This necessitates the company to use specific raw materials and product specifications in order to ensure reliability. Further, the Holloware products are made with an aesthetic appeal given that the company specializes in high end kitchen and tableware. This means that the company must avoid any form of defect when it comes to the appearance, especially as pertains to color, size, and durability. Lastly, Executive Holloware can also specify quality with reference to the internal processes. These processes need to be standardized in a manner that harmonizes well with the goals of production.
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There are various causes that underlie the scenario presented in Holloware’s case study. Firstly, there lacks a specific definition of a defect in the production process. It is cited that the senior shop foreman lacks a defined description of a defect, which implies the probability of categorizing products incorrectly as either deficient or non-deficient is high. Secondly, the different departments involved in production operations do not have close communication links pertaining to the maintenance of quality. During Paul Stone’s survey, it was noted that departments placed blame on each other about the bruises and scratches on some of the products. Additionally, the finance director lacked a clear understanding of the scenario and did not exercise effective communication or maintain optimal internal process control. Finally, since quality assurance is a responsibility of every member of the organization, the quality assurance department, having been assigned with this task, was not able to hone it effectively owing to the relationship between the numbers of products produced and wages.
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To attain quality, Executive Holloware should measure quality at each stage of the production process by evaluating the stage that generates the highest number of problems, emphasizing on the areas to be prioritized, and showing relationships between departments through a combination of tools and techniques of measuring quality. For instance, the Pareto diagram can serve as an effective tool for organizing data in order of importance in order to identify the most significant problems. Other tools applicable in the plating, assembly, and polishing stages include graphical tools – such as scattered diagrams which show relationships between factors -, statistical process control charts – which monitor and predict process performance – , as well as check sheets, histograms, Gage repeatability and reproducibility tools, and cause and effect measurements (Borror 280-84). Generally, this range of measurement tools can be used to collect and assess collected data in order to identify relationships and to draw inferences.
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In conclusion, the quality assurance manager can implement a sequence of four steps to improve quality which include planning, doing, checking, and acting (PDCA) (Matthews 3). Planning involves identification of the problems by use of tools like why-why diagrams, brainstorming, employee inputs, and Pareto charts. Here, the assurance manager should determine the performance measurements and explore alternative solutions. The “Doing” stage encompasses execution of the planned solutions and necessitates the implementation of an action plan through the assignment of responsibilities. This stage requires proper coordination and effective communication between concerned parties. The “checking” step embroils evaluation of performance with a range of tools such as check sheets, control charts, and histograms, among others. Lastly, the “acting” stage defines further improvements and standardized solutions for the identified issues. Altogether, this iterative four-step management method will help in the continual improvement of processes and products at Executive Holloware.
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This part of the paper presents a personal reflection of the case study analysis. Reflection is crucial in learning as it enhances memory and recollection through exploration of the reactions and evaluation of experiences. The reflective elements will include my development in the following key skill areas: Communication, numeracy, ICT, problem solving, and collaboration. In general, the analysis of the issues experienced by Executive Holloware enlightened me on the importance of effective communication, collaboration, use of tools of data analysis, and problem solving in production.
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Primarily, I learnt the importance of communication in the management and operation of production processes as well as how its deficiency is connected to various problems that arise in different stages of production. At Holloware Executive, there was limited knowledge in various departments concerning activities that were executed on different departments. This posed detrimental effects on the production of goods and their quality. According to (Stewart 101), the goal of organizational communication is production. Thus, structural communication is created in order to enhance the output of goods, services, information as well as to coordinate tasks related to production. In the case of Holloware Executive, effective communication would augment the flow of information from one production stage to the next and facilitate the knowledge of the underlying problems. Thus, in future, I am obligated to participate fully in organizational communication on joining an organization in order to relate well to certain concepts, people, and work stations in a manner that results in productivity, cooperation, and satisfaction. I will begin this course by gaining the necessary communication skills and engaging in meaningful conversations in preparation.
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I also gained a deeper insight into the use of information and communications technology tools in the evaluation of problems as well as in the streamlining of production processes. Cases in point of tools that would aid in production, as realized in the case study, include computer-generated scatter diagrams, statistical process control charts, histograms, gauge repeatability and reproducibility tools, among others. This means that ICT has not only moved from “back-office” accounting to a strategic asset, but also as an accurate tool for managing production processes. The modern business environment compels companies to use ICT in quality control in order to boost production effectiveness and quality. Therefore, it is my duty to acquaint myself with various tools of data analysis in order to be fully compliant with modern standards. In doing so, I will visit the library, read literature and research on the internet to fetch and review the current tools and technique.
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Lastly, I observed that problem solving skills and collaboration are key in the management of production-related operations. Due to the many factors involved, problems are bound to develop in the process of fabrication. Thus, there is a need for personnel to acquaint themselves with problem solving skills to guarantee faster generation of solutions and their accurate implementation. Therefore, I intend to gain problem solving skills by refining my critical thinking skills through critical analysis of ideas, assessment of relevant arguments, and identification of errors in reasoning. I will augment this by practising collaboration with my peers by asking them for information, evaluating their ideas, and monitoring their work.
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