Ensuring quality will be the foundation of South Africa’s economic success and a better quality of life for its people, as the need for quality applies to all spheres of manufacturing and service delivery, says national quality awareness organisation the South African Quality Institute (Saqi).
Saqi MD Paul Harding says quality must be understood as not only quality control, which is the only aspect that most people consider, but also quality assurance (setting standards) and quality management (defining how to achieve improved standards).
“We need to start at school level to educate learners on what quality is all about,” he says, adding that this is why Saqi runs its Quality in Schools programme and also distributes its quarterly newsletter on the subject at schools.
“A small number of people use online facilities to complain, but most organisations do not respond to these complaints. This is one of the reasons why we need to exploit every avenue to teach people how important it is to take note of quality and insist on it.”
Harding says quality is the critical success factor in competitiveness, as it entails not only conforming to a standard but also doing things correctly the first time, and continually improving efficiency and effectiveness.
“Without these improvements, it is difficult to be successful in a competitive market. We must also bear in mind that a customer’s quality expectations are not static. They are a moving target.”
People must start early in their lives to take pride in their products and services, he adds. “If you do not practise quality at home and in the classroom, it will be difficult to practise it in your business life.”
Harding tells Engineering News that, compared with countries such as Singapore, South Africa is lagging behind in terms of promoting a quality-centred mindset.
He says Singapore took the initiative in the early nineties to promote quality among its people. However, in South Africa, organisations such as Saqi are struggling to maintain focus on quality development, owing to a lack of support and funding.
Saqi is trying to improve the situation by supporting workshops organised by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations, as well as the sector education and training authorities’ training programmes. “However, these processes are slow and laborious, compared with the private sector,” concludes Harding.