Quality and efficiency: a possible combination?

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It is necessary for the companies to be flexible and open to change
It is necessary for the companies to be flexible and open to change

We all talk about quality, but nowadays do we really know the right meaning of this concept? Why is it so important today? How can we make it real?

The concept of quality started during 1900 in correspondence to certain prefixed system standards and, in the course of the years, it has modified until reaching the globally recognised definition for the normative standard UNI EN ISO 9001:2008. Nevertheless the concept of quality has far more distant origins. In the Babylonian society, for example, the code of Hammurabi regulated the procedures that needed to be applied in case of buildings failure and during the Middle Ages only those who had demonstrated productive ability and capacity to maintain high the name of the arts were admitted in the Arts & Crafts guilds. Ultimately, if on the one hand it can be said that the action of control of quality is typical of human nature, and as old as man, on the other hand it may be added that in the last decades, as a result of large scale productions of goods/services at low costs, it has become overwhelming to understand how to exercise correctly a coherent choice of action with the satisfaction that can result with it. It is proved that the demand for quality products and services is one of the fundamental characteristics of modern society and one of the elements that should characterise a western country not able to compete in terms of costs with the countries of the Far East. In order to be competitive, the industrialised countries must respond to the aggressive and competitive pricing policies with the continuing search for an excellent product and a high level of service. Consequently, manufacturers of goods/services have to adapt to the demands/needs of consumers and increasingly demanding customers.

In order to achieve this, in general, a company has to consider the following aspects:

  1. The client is becoming increasingly demanding and unpredictable in his requests; from this must originate a policy oriented towards a rapid identification of changes that may be necessary to activate;
  2. The rapidly changing demands may cause production techniques and quality management to be reviewed and resolved in a short period of time; it is therefore necessary that the company is flexible and open to change;
  3. The cost of quality may appear high, but the cost of non-quality, if correctly identified, can appear even more daunting.

Ultimately when you manage to get a mix between the cost of the product/service and customer satisfaction, you can find quality: if the customer is satisfied with the product or service that the company offers, they will buy again in the future, ensuring the continuity of the company. For this reason, customer satisfaction becomes the company’s real operational priority, because the quality of what the customer has purchased will affect his next purchase. Furthermore, producing quality products means entering a process that sometimes challenges even well established schemes, affecting all aspects of the production process, without stopping after an objective has been achieved – on the contrary, this should be considered always partial in order to constitute the reason and the starting point for a further step forward.

The cost of quality may appear high, but the cost of non-quality, if correctly identified, can appear even more daunting

In conclusion, today the crucial aspects concerning quality are:

  • The identification and implementation of a quality system that relies on a management that involves everyone working in the creative and production cycle of the product/service Total Quality Management (TQM).
  • The attention to the people who need to work in the right conditions to operate at their best.
  • The attention to the processes and the monitoring of such processes through selected indicators.
  • Quality Certification understood as a guarantee of a series of actions, measures and controls capable of governing in every phase of the operating conditions and to provide supporting production documentation.

Innovation for textile resource efficiency

During the international conference “Innovation for textile resource efficiency – energy, water & materials”, co-organised by Euratex, the European Apparel and Textile Confederation and the European Technology Platform for the Future of Textiles and Clothing, Europe’s largest expert network in the field of textile research and innovation, many speakers made it clear that constantly rising resource utilisation costs, tightening environmental legislation and seriously emerging market requirements for more sustainable products constantly push companies: (1) to do more with less, (2) to use and re-use resources in multiple cycles and (3) to better measure, monitor and communicate their resource efficiency.

Major challenges for industry therefore include: the difficulty to invest in resource efficiency solutions in the face of resource price volatility and unpredictable market and policy changes; the lack of in-house competences of companies, especially SME’s, to optimize existing processes for a perfect combination of productivity, quality and resource efficiency; a holistic resource optimization along the complete value chain from raw material to final product as opposed to a single process step optimisation; the lack of innovative technology solutions that address European industry’s needs for efficient short lead time, highly flexible, short run/small batch production; the lack of capacities to invest large scale in new technologies coupled with still limited industry readiness of some potential breakthrough technologies; the need for sound sustainability criteria and related management and communication tools to better distinguish truly resource efficient solutions from mere “greenwash”. More information available here.

by Stefano Dotti