In this issue of "Country of advice" policy in the field of quality is in the focus of attention of our experts.
Our respondents answered the following questions:
1 Which place does product or service quality occupy in activity of your company?
2 Tell us about the quality policy adopted in the company.
3 How is quality control performed?
4 Are there special divisions responsible for quality?
5 Which key problems do companies encounter in the course of fulfillment of quality problems: technological, organizational and personnel?
Anna Izmailova, head of market communications of Stockholm School of Economics:
1 Definitely first. We are providers of business education of European level. Sixteen years ago, Stockholm School of Economics came to the Russian market and since then it tries to provide European level of quality of provided services and followed Swedish standards set for the higher stage of business education – Executive MBA program.
2 First of all, we say that the school in Russia is a representative office of Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden. Quality standards are high. The school has EQUIS accreditation and we fully comply with all norms and requirements that are set for European educational institutions.
3 Quality is provided by representatives of the school in Sweden. First of all, this is dean of the school Dr. Anders Liljenberg who follows rules of Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden stringently, as well as academic director and heads of the sections responsible for selection of lecturers and for the program.
4 Because in Russia the school is a representative office of Stockholm School of economics in Sweden and the process is fully controlled by employees of the school in Stockholm there is no need for such unit now.
5 Answers to such questions usually differ depending on the industry and area of activity of a company. If this is a production company the answer will be in one plane, if we speak about services it will be in a slightly different plane. However, staff of the company, namely people who launch all business processes, represent the basis of efficient activity of any organization.
Valentin Vorobyev, head of the labor protection and industrial safety department of SKM Group:
1 SKM Group holding pays huge attention to the matters of quality of its products and services.
Since 2008, the company has implemented a quality management system that complies with requirements of international standard ISO 9001 that is functioning now. In 2010, ecological management system that is subordinated to basics of international standard ISO14001 was implemented into the existing quality management system. In July of 2011, integrated management system included a system of management of professional health and safety that complied with requirements of BS OHSAS 18001 standard. Efficient functioning of the system is confirmed by the international certification body in the form of ТUV SLID Group (Germany).
Activity of companies of the holding is carried out on the basis of systemic and process approach taking into account requirements of safety and ecology, which allows provision for production of high-quality products that satisfies demands of the buyer fully, as well as minimization of the risks related to appearance of nonstandard situations and consequences of incurring of damage on the environment.
Moreover, one of the latest construction projects of the holding passed certification according to requirements of LEED, voluntary system of certification of buildings that belongs to "green" construction.
2 The main document of the integrated management system is "Policy of integrated management system" approved by top management of the company. It reflects the main lines of activity for making of products on a level that complies with requirements of international standards and uninterrupted improvement of its quality on the basis of efficient feedback of consumers, suppliers and employees.
The policy of the company is applicable to all participants of the process of development of projects (contractors, subcontractors, suppliers etc).
It is drawn in the form of an independent document and is accessible both for staff of the company and for representatives of external organizations concerned.
3 Product quality control is one of priority tasks in the course of activity of the organization taking into account specific of companies of the holding. The main efforts are aimed at control over quality of construction that includes control of quality of the project solutions used, working documentation, purchased materials, fulfilled kinds of work, as well as undertaking of warranty and post-warranty obligations at all stages of projects development.
In practice the process of quality control is provided both at the stage of control of quality of project documentation and purchased/supplied construction materials, products and equipment and at the stage of control over fulfillment of work and construction process. Implementation and use of the aforementioned quality control process in the company allowed significant reduction of percentage of appearance of drawbacks or incompliance during fulfillment of projects. Naturally, this resulted in reduction of financial and other expenses on the measures for elimination of drawbacks including such measures in the framework of fulfillment of warranty obligations to the customer.
4 The company formed the service of technical supervision and quality control services. At various stages control over product quality from the stage of designing until putting of an object into operation is also done by employees of the project division, production technical service, department of technical customer, department of preparation of initial permissive documentation and department of material and technical procurement.
5 Because activity of the company implies use of the broadest circle of suppliers of services, the main organizational problem both during fulfillment of the project as a whole and during implementation of quality programs is adjustment of their activity to high requirements adopted inside of the holding. For fulfillment of this problem on all levels we carry out big organizational, explanatory and in some cases claim work.
There are also certain difficulties that appear during interaction of services among themselves and with other structural divisions related to big remoteness of divisions and construction objects from each other. In this case building of unified integrated management system for all three main companies of SKM Group holding provides for coordination of actions inside of the organization and structures interaction among employees of departments and divisions.
Unified management standards allow reduction of time spent by the management on adjustment of data on activity of each of the controlled companies to common denominator, optimization of organizational structures, formation of the zones of responsibility of employees and outlining of their real powers.
Artem Garusev, executive director of CDNvideo:
1 Priority. Our entire business depends on the quality of the service that we provide to our clients. We are occupied with delivery of video content of our clients to the end users through our own Content Delivery Network (CDN). The main characteristics according to which clients choose the content delivery network are quality characteristics.
2 If we speak about the technical aspect of the matter we test all components and their compatibility to the maximal extent. If we speak about the technical aspect of the matter during launching of new products, support and improvement of the existing services we test all components for their compatibility in the most accurate way. Multiple reservation is obligatory for all important elements of our network.
If we speak about communications with the clients this is implementation of tickets, fine individual settings for various types of clients, round-the-clock support, convenient interfaces of personal offices of the clients. We try to have everything well considered in every point of contact with the client and we improve this permanently. We also work with our partners gradually and the goal of this work is improvement of quality of provided services.
3 We monitor the technical aspect of the matter by our own systems for proactive solving of the appearing problems. We also use the external specialized system of our partner to see the situation from outside. In assessment of quality of work of other divisions we take into account polls of our clients where we request them to evaluate the quality of work and what is necessary to be corrected.
4 Because quality is a really important and priority parameter of our services all divisions of the company participate in its increasing. There is no special division.
5 In my opinion, the main difficulties happen because of technological and personnel problems. Equipment breaks down unpredictably most often when it is handled incorrectly. But if professional and responsible employees work in your team and go deep into details of the clients' problems and can solve them quickly and with high quality it is possible to smooth down all negative aspects caused by equipment.
Roman Kharlamov, head of VKS company:
1 Since the moment of establishment of the company until now one of the main issues to which big attention is paid is quality of the offered products and the level of servicing of the clients. Since the first days, the main rule of my company is not to offer low-quality products even if competitors trade in cheap substitutes on the market. I usually answer surprises questions of the buyers "Why don’t you act as everyone?" saying that bitterness of bad quality remains even when sweetness of low price goes away. With regard to a high level of services I think that this cannot be otherwise, especially where business is based on permanent clients. Because in this case it is impossible to build relations on the principle "sell and forget," it is necessary to make the buyer your friend and agent who not only uses your services in the future but also recommends your company to the others.
2 The first step is the most difficult. This is choice of the partners: suppliers or producers.
We staked at leaders, chose the most successful products and achieved good conditions. Before presenting of the product to our client we obligatorily test it at loyal consumers, collect comments, perform monitoring of similar products on the market and only then we make decision on beginning of sales.
The second step is correct selection of personnel and teaching of product history to it, analysis of strong and weak points.
In case of appearance of claims to quality in the process of sail we mandatorily compose acts, make photos and send them to our suppliers. Quickness during consideration of claims is the main trump card.
3 For majority of the products offered by our company producers developed flowcharts, conditions of transportation, storage and use.
Because of this our main task is taking care about their observance, which is seriously associated with the human factor. That is why it is important to choose specialists correctly and to teach them methods of control. In turn, they are obliged to convey their knowledge of the product to our clients.
4 As a rule, these are separate specialists responsible for certain products. They know its properties and peculiarities better than the others. The main mission is increasing of the level of culture of production at enterprises of the clients during use of our products.
Work of the specialists is coordinated by commercial director personally. At stages of work with the claims we also use the department of purchases. Not a single decision is made without coordination with the head of sales.
5 During more than 15 years of activity I had to encounter many claims against quality and the major part of them was associated with the human factor that could not be ruled out by any automated process. As a rule, this is incorrect storage because decent warehouses have started appearing only now and mostly in the European part of Russia. The main part of our clients is represented by small companies with limited areas on which production can hardly be accommodated and, as a rule, materials are stored outdoors. Mistakes or direct breaches of production technology where the materials that we offer are used are widespread too. We often encounter breaches during assembling and operation of constructions in which our materials are used. These are usually aluminum windows and doors that are damaged during the finishing operations.
Another problem during use of imported materials in Russian companies is represented by different standards and technical specifications adopted in Europe and in our country. Majority of the GOST standards that are in effect now have been developed many years ago and, as a rule, cannot be applied to modern construction materials that have appeared in the last few years. Attempt to adapt European standards to the Russian market are not always successful.
Andrei Beloedov, head of "Construction" business of REHAU (executive board of Eurasia region):
1 In REHAU quality and safety have priority importance for all business lines. We offer comprehensive solutions for automotive and aircraft-building industries, construction, sport installations (covers of trampolines) and for furniture production. In all these areas it is very important to observe high requirements to quality and safety because any deviation may result in serious consequences up to a threat to human life and health. That is why the main principle for us is Safety and quality first.
2 The main principles in the field of quality are clearly determined in our company. They are valid not only for our employees but also for our suppliers: we fulfill wishes of our clients and satisfy their requirements to quality. Quality is planned, produced and is controlled. It includes qualified processing of inquiries, provision of services and observance of timeframe. It is important to prevent mistakes and not to correct them. The reasons of mistakes should be eliminated immediately.
3 REHAU is certified for compliance with requirements of international standard ISO 9001: 2008. The system of quality management that exists in the company is permanently checked in the course of internal and external audit of all our processes. We have a base of documented procedures that regulate the procedure of various processes. We permanently check quality of all processes and products from the entrance control of raw materials, process of production and assessment of end products to permanent improvement of qualification of our employees with follow-up checking of performance and efficiency. This is applicable to all our structures: management/administration, plants and sales offices.
4 There is special division QPM (Quality and production management) that operates on the global and local levels. Every plant has a department of quality provision with its own laboratory for measurement of physical and chemical properties of raw materials and products. We also closely work with the organizations that check safety of products and technical instruments. These are mostly German TUV, as well as various metrological institutes.
5 The key problems are different. This is mostly provision of permanently high quality of raw materials that we buy on Russian and global markets, as well as qualification of the personnel. We have very specific processes and products and that is why it is fairly difficult to find the staff that has the necessary qualification. We often hire employees whom we train for a long time at our own expense and they go further to other employers afterwards. There also happen disputable situations between us and the client when our product complies with requirements or these or those standards but not specifications or expectations of the client. In the last few years, awareness of our Russian partners in the field of quality has grown significantly and this means that we should grow together with expectations of our clients.
Oleg Bezgin, head of the practice of strategic and managerial consulting of RDTEX:
1 To begin with, let us determine the notion of "quality" first. Initially, quality of compliance of a product or a service with certain established requirements of certain consumer, national legislative and normative requirements, international standards etc. This is the quality that the consumer sees. But for a commercial organization classic quality is not the main goal, an important component of such quality is represented by expenses on its provision. In other words, quality for a commercial organization is the optimal balance between profit from sales of a product (service) that complies with requirements and expectations of a whole group of consumers and expenses on production of this product (service).
Besides, quality is not only the product or a service proper. This is an entire range of actions that is implemented in the course of interaction of a company and its client from the moment when the client turns to the company for the first time to the moment of supply of a product and sometimes further. That is why quality has many components.
For RDTEX quality can be viewed in two aspects. First, our solutions help the clients to increase quality of their services, to be more efficient. Second, our corporate procedures and processes of management are oriented at provision of high quality and permanent improvement of the services that we provide to the clients.
In our solutions and in our system of management we try to ensure comprehensive approach to management of quality of activity of the company through arrangement of optimal processes and organizational structures, goals and systems of parameters for assessment of our activity, implementation of modern methods and technologies of management and solutions that provide for comprehensive support of the corporate management systems.
3 Result of our services is often intangible and it is impossible to consider it with assistance of a ruler of linear sizes or through weighing. In many cases it is impossible simply to take it and to assess "straightforwardly." That is why in order to ensure high quality of our services we should take into account all critical aspects from the very start of the project development, for example: completeness and unambiguousness of determination of all requirements to the result of a consulting project in the course of interaction with the client; validity of requirements and expectations of the client for results of the project in the course of its development; level of competences of staff of RDTEX company that participates in the project; use of specialized standards, methods and technologies during development of the projects; quality of internal communications in the team of the project, between RDTEX and the client.
4 For our company quality management is inseparably connected with activity of every employee of the company, first of all, various managers: top managers, heads of structural divisions, managers of projects.
We do not wish to repeat one of mistakes of implementation of the quality management system when an established division like quality department, quality management service etc has been de facto considered responsible for quality of the entire organization. That is why every manager on every working place is responsible for quality in our company. Besides, we have established a small division that is responsible for conduction of internal audit, training related to quality issues that is actually an internal consultant for quality issues for other divisions of our company.
5 I would single out the following key problems. First, top managers do not pay due attention to quality management issues and implementation of the quality management system considering this an affair of medium rank managers. In other companies top management sees only a certificate of compliance as a pinnacle of the iceberg called "Quality management system" and forgets about everything after its obtaining. Second, quality management is often viewed separately from the rest of the corporate management system. During implementation of the quality management system companies create parallel structures and processes of management that become foreign for the company practically immediately and are rejected very quickly. Quality management standards should be implemented into the existing processes of a company harmoniously reinforcing them and bringing to a new level of perfection and efficiency. Third, cases when an organization understands a need for structuring of activity and implementation of a quality management system but does not allocate enough resources for such project are encountered often. A project is ordered to an employee and is considered an additional work with a lower priority than that of the main activity. It is necessary to mention lowering of the level of requirements to the quality management systems on the part of certification bodies additionally. De facto assessment of compliance of the quality management systems with requirements of the standard is done according to formal signs: requirements of ISO 9001 standard that determines the minimal requirements to the quality management systems. After passage through a psychological barrier in the form of certification work on development of the quality management system is either slowed down significantly or goes to a format minimally necessary for maintenance of the certificate. Finally, implementing quality management standards companies try to fulfill several mutually opposite tasks simultaneously, "To obtain a certificate and to demonstrate it to the parties concerned," "Not to distract attention of the staff to implementation/development of the quality management system" and "To prevent anything from changing and to preserve status quo in the company." I think that result of such fruitless attempts is obvious.
Alexander Filimonov, junior partner of Artisan Group Public Relations:
1 The market of PR services is an extremely competitive environment, that is why permanent increasing of your own intellectual potential and quality of provided products and services are, by and large, among the main principles of work of any marketing agency. If we bear in mind that activity of PR agencies is arranged around management of client's reputation (they either make contribution to development of the client's reputation or in case of the relevant contracts are occupied with its management directly) and maintenance of their own reputation is a matter of work on the market for them in general. In turn, it depends directly on the quality of offered services. That is why high internal requirements both to provided texts of external communication and to communication documents, communication reaction, work with the target press etc are important for the agency. For us a high level of quality is the main principle of work of the company.
2 Every document offered to the client and every text of external communication passes at least through triple check before sending to the client. We use the principle of Roman cohort: junior employees start working on it, afterwards more experienced employees correct it. The text is approved by the most experienced member of the working group or on the level of management of the company. Intermediate versions of the document may contain some drawbacks, this is normal. However, if they are found in the final document sent to approval or to mass media sanctions against the persons who have allowed these drawbacks vary from reprimands to penalties and even sacking.
3 There is definitely control not only over products but also over quality of communication with mass media and counterparties. In the working group that works with this or that client its head not only carries out strategic and tactical management of work and coordination of business processes but also control over the quality of activity. This is his direct duty. These or those drawbacks that could carry a certain threat to quality of provided services are reflected in the managerial report composed by heads of the groups and senior managers on the regular basis.
4 There cannot be such divisions in PR agencies in principle because staff of such companies is usually small and inclusion of a special control division into pricing means significant increase of the contract costs up to 50% exceeding of the average market values. Assessment of efficiency of work of such divisions is an even more difficult issue. So far, there are no solutions for control over heads of the working groups on the market that do not remind an old Caucasian fable about the watchmen who watch the watchman.
5 As we can judge by our clients, nobody implements special programs for improvement of quality in pure form (probably except for markets of mass products). The absolute majority of the implemented programs, first of all, pursues the goals of optimization of working processes: cheapening and acceleration, desirably without loss of the level of quality. We are not in Japan and "average" quality of products is characteristic for majority of the Russian companies. They do not strive for provision of the products that approach the border of economic justification from the standpoint of their functional properties with regard to the level of quality. As to the services, majority of Russian companies (both small and big ones) is occupied with modernization of their quality not in the proactive mode but in the mode of anti-crisis reaction when either a part of their services or all their services cease satisfying the clients. As long as they do not have decent competitors (competition is not only a matter of high-quality products and services but also a matter of quick and serious own promotion on the market), the processes of quality improvement take place in these organization extremely limply. Technological and organizational problems related to improvement of quality (or work in a new way) characteristic for the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s are seriously exaggerated in majority of cases now. Any company occupies with optimization of business processes or implementation of solutions for improvement of quality of products or services has a clearly formulated form that outlines all procedures of training, reorganization support etc in detail. Along with this, hiring of additional specialists is usually not expedient. As a rule, personnel problems appear not with regard to implementation of certain solutions but rather with regard to contradictions between personal convictions of an employee and changing policy of the company. These problems are consequences of mistakes in the system of motivation and not in the procedures of increasing of quality criteria but in majority of cases it is possible to solve them. The problems that do not have a solution yet appear when internal requirements of an employee to product quality stably exceed requirements of the company and the company is not going to change anything in the near future.
Natalia Yakovleva, president of AVIS group:
1 AVIS group specializes in representation of foreign companies in Russia and chooses and offers the best innovative international technological solutions in the agricultural sector.
Quality of services and products that we offer to our clients and partners is very important for AVIS and this is our specialty.
2 The quality policy is simple: this is offering of only products and services that are necessary for our clients and our agricultural sector!
3 The entire business portfolio of AVIS consists of the international technological companies that are leaders in their segments. Before signing of a contract on representative services in Russia management of AVIS gets acquainted with international reputation of the future partner, visits the company, plants for making of products and big foreign players – clients of its future partners. We create a "filter" for assessment of quality of imported technologies and products for the Russian market.
4 There cannot be special divisions given our specific of business. Selection of high-quality products and technologies is the basis of formation of the business portfolio.
5 The key problems are information hunger on the market of agricultural sector connected with the fact that all new technological solutions are described in the English language. That is why industrialists receive news in the field of technologies from suppliers of foreign equipment, unfortunately, not the best for the Russian party.
Elena Bakanova, director of the quality service of CROC:
1 We pay much attention to the quality of services. For improvement and control of the work fulfilled we developed and implemented a quality management system. At present, CROC has certificates that confirm that this system complies with requirements of Russian standard GOST ISO 9001-2011, as well as international standard ISO 9001: 2008.
2 This policy is offered in CROC by the general director and is coordinated with heads of the structural divisions. In this document management determines the main priorities and value orientations that the company follows with regard to all its parties concerned, as well as the main principles on the basis of which the quality management system develops. The policy in the field of quality is the basis for us for setting and analysis of goals in the field of quality.
3 Multi-stage control is carried out at all stages of the life cycle of products made and services provided.
At the stage of opening of a project we initiate the process of assessment and analysis of the contract. During this stage it is very important to check the terms outlined in the contract to prevent appearance of mistakes and errors that appear in the process of fulfillment of contractual obligations.
During work on preparation of the draft contract, coordination and analysis of the draft contract and signing of the document with the customer we conduct analysis of observance of legal norms and legal provision of interests of CROC, registration and solving of the revealed problems. After signing of the document up to completion of work we carry out control over observance of the terms, if necessary we correct them and draw completion of the stages of the contract.
Work on a project proper starts from choice of the model of the life cycle of the project by the manager. This is done with assistance of typical solutions for organization of project work to prevent mistakes at the stage of planning. The typical solutions for every element of the project life cycle outline a certain set of the kinds of work, project roles, persons responsible for the areas and results of the project work.
In the course of development of systems we perform control over quality of work fulfilled, testing and trial. Various kinds of tests are planned taking into account specific of the implemented system and according to requirements of the contract. For instance, for testing and trial of software we develop test plans, programs and methods of tests depending on the project specific. The problems revealed in the course of the tests are registered and solved.
During purchase of equipment it is necessary to track compliance of products with requirements set. For this purpose the divisions that do purchases of equipment permanently analyze potential and actual suppliers. The purchased equipment passes through the entrance control procedure.
Assessment of subcontractors is done in case of an order for subcontractor work. Choice of subcontractors is done on the basis of their ability to comply with the terms of the contract including requirements to quality. In the course of fulfillment of a subcontract we track all requirements set.
Because CROC develops big-scale and often territorially distributed projects with participation of a big quantity of specialists it is very difficult to plan and to watch the course of fulfillment of project work without use of automated means. Quite recently, CROC implemented an information management system on the basis of Clarity PPM. This system automates activity for management of projects, project teams, resource groups and also records working time of the employees.
For additional external control over quality of work done during development of projects we conduct audit. It allows not only improvement of the quality of work but also increasing of profitability of projects on account of cutting of costs of elimination of incongruence. During audit of the projects we check: observance of the contract obligations, requirements of the Russian law and requirements of internal regulation documents.
To receive clear understanding of requirements and wishes of the customers, to know what is the real assessment of products and services of CROC, we conduct annual assessment of satisfaction of customers with the quality of our work.
One of the most important mechanisms for assessment of activity of CROC is represented by annual internal audit of the quality management system. The incongruence and the observations registered in the process of internal audit are used for understanding of results of the quality management system and search for improvement options. Control is also done due to the permanently working quality commission.
4 Yes, quality system functions in our company.
5 As a rule, these are organizational and personnel problems. One of examples is misunderstanding of the fact that development and implementation of the quality control system requires expenses not only on organization of consultations and certification audit by the management. Top managers in such companies try to build quality control systems at small costs, do not include the necessary specialists into the staff and do not establish a separate organizational structure in the form of the quality service. As a result, the quality control system is developed by casual people who are not exempt from their main activity in other units. Practice shows that there exists positive correlation between the overall quantity of the people who work in an organization and quantity of people in the quality service. For organizations with 100-500 employees this activity should be carried out directly by three dedicated specialists, for organizations with 500-1,000 people these should be three or four people, for organizations with 1,000-2,000 people these should be four to seven specialists etc.
Zufar Khakimov, general director of Sintegro:
1 Quality of services that are provided by our company occupies one of the central places in Sintegro. Confidence of clients in us is actually based on the quality of work. For integrator companies it is very important that the systems implemented by them bring a result. So, product quality is our priority.
2 To begin with, it is necessary to say that our company has passed through certification according to ISO 9001 standard.
Towards the client we pursue the following policy. For the company it is extremely important when clients are content with the result of our work so much as to recommend us to other clients. In other words, we take care about our reputation. Good reputation is impossible without good recommendations.
We undertake only the kinds of work that we can do in required time and with provision of required quality. To avoid reputation risks we do not undertake the work for which we will not have enough resources for qualitative completion.
The company pursues a policy of maximal honesty and openness towards the client. If the obligations that we undertake cannot be fulfilled due to these or those reasons the client will get to know about this immediately. In exchange we offer alternative solutions. Along with this, customers receive full information about our client, its achievements and capabilities.
We persuade clients to buy services only if we are convinced of their necessary. In disputable cases when our opinion contradicts the client opinion we carry out diagnosis to find out the points of lack of contact.
3 There is a certain set of procedures in Sintegro created to control the quality of our services permanently. For instance, one of them (the most popular and efficient method about which people forget often nonetheless) is polling of clients. For control over production quality we have a special department responsible for testing of new products and retrofitting of the products that are already used. Thus, a product is handed over to the client only if it has passed through full check and all possible mistakes are ruled out. The department that specialized in observance of the quality management system also works on issues of control over product quality.
5 Much time is necessary to find a sufficiently qualified person for the testing department and time and resources are spent on his training after that. The reason is that the testing department is a fairly specific division and not every professional will be suitable for it. In Sintegro testing plays one of the key roles. So, from a certain standpoint it is possible to say that our problem is of personnel kind. But this is a pleasant problem. When we solve we set up a certain quality level bar for the offered services and this is what really distinguishes our company on the market.