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How Does Latin America Manage Quality Improvement?

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ASQ looks at quality improvement in Brazil and Mexico and shares its insights.

How do industries ensure quality in Latin America? Are there differences between services and manufacturing? Who is in charge of overseeing these changes?

These are some of the questions addressed by a recent study by ASQ, “Global State of Quality Research: Discoveries 2013.” ASQ, a global network of quality improvement professionals, surveyed more than 1,991 organizations from 22 countries about their practices, including how quality is managed in manufacturing versus service industries; how employees are trained and prepared for quality; and how leadership views quality as a strategic component.

Within Latin America, the organization focused on Brazil and Mexico, finding the quality improvement movement is finally integrating into many top performing organizations’ functional fabric, and have shown growing interest in customer-centered approach to high quality and competitiveness, helping industry in both countries to grow their industrial and service output at world-class levels.

In general, according to ASQ, Latin American companies can be broken down into two types:

Companies that are highly organized, action oriented, and provide real time performance indicators for process performance and quality output tend to work faster and more economically with fewer anomalies.

Companies without systematic approach to quality assurance — whether in healthcare, manufacturing or service industries — are still producing somewhat good products, apparently acceptable to the customer, at much higher efforts where rework has become part of the production line itself — low volume, slim margins, less effective overall. More importantly, there was no vision on breakthrough approach to increasing the level of quality performance.

With that breakdown research show, 90 percent of the respondent companies in Brazil and Mexico agreed or strongly agreed that their organization used standardized processes for managing quality.Thestudy finds that 69 percent of Mexican organizations thatincorporate quality tools use ISO (International Organization for Standardization) as a quality framework; and only 6 percent of Mexican organizations do not use any quality framework. 

In Brazil, 64 percent of organizations incorporating quality tools use ISO as a framework for their quality improvement; while 23 percent of Brazilian organizations do not use any quality improvement framework.

There isa high likelihood that the companies that do not use any systematic approach to creating and improving quality in their products and services are wasting a lot more resources compared to those who do.

According to the research, senior leadership — like a CEO or company president — governs quality in 21 percent of Mexican and 13 percent of Brazilian organizations. Respondents in Brazil, more than any other countryin the study, say they manage the quality process through a centralized committee made up of leaders from multiple functions within the organization.

Further analysis shows that nearly 75 percent of all organizations surveyed said their senior quality position reports directly to the CEO or equivalent. Mexico and Brazil claim a high percentage of senior quality positions that report to the CEO at 83 and 71 percent, respectively.

Providing quality measures to the right people at the right time on a standard schedule enables the decision-making process to be driven by data — not by intuition. 

While 35 percent and 23 percent of senior executives of surveyed organizations in Brazil and Mexico respectively receive monthly quality measures, nearly 24.4 percent of executives in U.S organizations receive monthly reports.

More than 80 percent of the respondents in both Brazil and Mexico said most or all quality reporting frequency is standardized across the entire organization. Therefore, selecting a common vocabulary — as well as the right quality measures and data — can have a powerful impact on overall performance.

Most companies provide training on quality-related activities — only 4 percent do not — but there is room for improvement in how staff is trained and ensuring all staff is trained. The opportunity may be tied to governance, since organizations that govern quality with a centralized group are more likely to provide quality training than those where senior executives govern quality processes.

According to all respondents, the far majority of organizations offer training for auditing, ISO and quality management, and Latin American organizations are no exception. More than70percent ofrespondents in Brazil and 67 percent of those polled in Mexico said their organization provides training in auditing, ISO and quality management. Forty percent of Brazilian organizations provide training in Six Sigma and Lean, compared to 28 percent of Mexican organizations, according to the research.

These findings are relevant for all organizations in order to move their quality efforts and integration to the next levels through the use of many powerful quality tools and standards, such as Lean and Six Sigma (L&SS), Toyota Production System (TPS), and various ISO standards for manufacturing as well as service industry.

As an active member of ASQ, motivational speaker, teacher, and business leadership coach, I have the privilege of traveling to Mexico and Brazil and visiting and interacting with many industry and its leaders. I am impressed how hungry the professionals are to learn and replicate the successes they see in their neighbors to the north. The results of this study affirm their unabated growth in moving forward towards ‘World Class’ comparisons.

Kam Gupta is executive and leadership development coach and president of Continuous Improvement Technology, Inc. based in Chicago, Ill., USA.  He is ASQ Lean Enterprise Division global community outreach representative and a former member of the ASQ board of directors. For more information and to access ASQ’s “Global State of Quality Research: Discoveries 2013” report, visit globalstateofquality.org.

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