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Focus on quality and continuous improvement
B Muthuraman, Vice Chairman, Tata Steel Ltd, spoke at the 14th National Convention of National Institution of Quality and Reliability (NIQR) at Chennai. Excerpts:

"Quality movement is a leadership movement. A good leader leads transformation, has the ability to change mindset, recognises the power of the worker and truly believes that the customer is the king.

“Industrial organisation is 400 years old. All major changes have taken place during this period, bringing about enormous prosperity. The continuous upward movement of GDP was the result of 400 plus years of industrial growth. Industry has done a lot of good by expanding skills, creating customers and energising the economy.

“Few companies have survived over a 100 years. And those who have, had four characteristics: oneness with society; adaptability to changes; decentralization; and natural prudence.

“The Japanese quality guru Dr Noriaki Kano, indicated two broad ways to improve performance:

1.    Employ lot of resources, money, technology, equipment, employees and improved ambience.

2.    Continuously focus on improvements.

In the first, a few directors of the company work for change. But not all people of the organisation are involved. The second involves everybody, costs very little and is far more fruitful than the first.

“You’ll have to do both, but do the second one first. The Japanese focused on continuous improvements. Standardise the hundreds of processes relating to production, marketing, HR, etc. Set very narrow limits for validating standards set. Like, if the benchmark is 90, set limits as 89.5-90.5.

“In the early 1990s Tata Steel was in trouble.  But our focus on TPM, TQM, six sigma, and quality circle with aggressive participation from the work force meant that by the end of the decade we emerged as the lowest cost producer of steel in the world.


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