Quality In India: Five Decades

Featured Article From the QMD Management Elements and Methods CMC
By Suresh Lulla

Suresh Lulla is A distinguished alumnus of IIT Bombay, Suresh Lulla has made a mark through his work in the field of Quality.

Mr Lulla pioneered the quality movement in India by setting up Qimpro® Consultants in 1987. Often referred to as ‘the Quality Guru of India’, he was mentored by Dr J M Juran, ‘the Father of Quality’, who, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Shri amkrishna Bajaj form the trinity of Mr Lulla’s role models — he jokes that one thing he has in common with his role models is a bald head!

Qimpro has served reputed Indian Business Houses, MNCs, SMEs, and Hospitals. Collectively, these clients have saved in excess of INR 25,000 crore as a by-product of Quality Improvement; specifically, by strategically addressing their Cost Of Poor Quality (COPQ).

Suresh is a veteran professional with over 50 years of experience as a management consultant, speaker, trainer, author, and storyteller.

Selected stories from Quality Fables™


"Quality in India: Five Decades is a short roller coaster ride on Quality deeds done by select industry leaders."

I wish to add that the book does not deep dive into the rainbow of Quality methodologies that seem to have a predictable shelf life. The book basically focuses on a demystified version of Quality Improvement, as defined by Dr J M Juran. The four steps for the Juran on Quality Improvement methodology are:
  • Problem Definition
  • Diagnostic Journey: Symptom to Cause
  • Remedial Journey: Cause to Remedy
  • Holding the Gains
One of the Core Values for Performance Excellence is Continuous Quality Improvement. It serves as the oxygen for any organization, public or private. Based on my experience with the IMC Ramkrishna Bajaj National Quality Award, I believe Quality Improvement is a good place to start an Excellence journey. The big advantage is that Quality Improvement reduces chronic waste locked in manufacturing and non-manufacturing processes . This
chronic waste translates to Cost Of Poor Quality (COPQ). COPQ in any organization is about one-third of total costs.

Finally, I like storytelling. Quality in India: Five Decades is a compilation of select Quality Fables (from the three slim volumes authored by me), that will give the reader a flavour of the pioneering work of leaders over the past five decades. For obvious reasons, I have been silent on their identities.

Quality Handbook and the Art of Tractor Design
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Lessons Learned
  1. Definition of Quality: Fitness for Use (Juran)
  2. Field intelligence is an essential input to all subsequent activities
  3. Quality should be integrated into strategic planning
  4. Quality by Design can shut the hatchery that generates quality problems
  5. Leaders must be active learners
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Source: Quality Fables Book 1, Fable number: 4

I first met the Vice Chairman of a tractor company, in the mid 1980s. At that point, the company was a quasi-government enterprise. As it turned out, the Vice Chairman had personally designed the branded tractor, and was struggling to compete with others that had established international collaborations. Resultantly the share price of this tractors company was below par.

The Vice Chairman’s struggle led him to the only source of quality management he could afford – Handbook of Quality Control: Dr J M Juran & Dr Frank Gryna. How do you learn from a handbook? His answer: Page by page! What were the lessons that made the greatest difference? His answer:
  1. Customer defines quality
  2. Poor quality costs a huge amount
  3. Quality is an integral part of strategic planning
  4. Proactively induce beneficial change
  5. Select strategic quality improvement projects.
The Vice Chairman had experienced the power of Juran’s principles. They had helped him turn the tide.

As an example, on actually meeting customers in the Punjab region, he realized that Juran’s definition of quality – Fitness for Use – was very true. In fact he considered it profound. Punjabis use tractors for their wedding ‘barat’ (processions) and, to put it mildly, overload the body and every part and screw of the tractor. Obviously, his tractor’s bumpers and mudguards could not withstand the abuse! With design changes the company effectively turned the tide.

Thus, by the mid 1990s, this tractor company enjoyed a national market share close to 20% as a result of the introduction of customer-driven improvements. Competitors were left behind and, correspondingly, the share price of the company went into orbit.
Customer First, Always
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Lessons Learned
  1. Leaders walk their talk
  2. Strategic goals should be simple and clearly articulated
  3. Customer focus is no longer a choice
  4. Measurement is required in order to control and improve
  5. Get commitment of your people first. Behaviour will change thereafter and, hopefully, attitude
  6. A robust process can be simple, but must follow “Plan-Do-Check-Act”
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Source: Quality Fables Book 1, Fable number: 1

How often have we seen posters in organizations shouting messages such as “Customer First” or “The Customer is Always Right”? How often, as a customer, have you actually experienced this claim?

I wish to share a story of an expatriate, in India, who actually made it happen.

In the mid-1990’s, India had graduated from a license raj regime to becoming a relatively more liberal economy. Policies had changed that permitted foreign organizations to hold more than 50 percent shares in the pharmaceutical sector. This is a classic story of an organization that had been led by Indian executives for decades but was now to be led by an expatriate, since the multi-national European parent had opted for 51 percent foreign ownership in India.

The person appointed to lead was of South American origin, who had had earlier postings in North Africa and South East Asia. He had never before set foot in India. The mandate given to him by his HO was “Transform the Indian operations into a customer-focused one in 1000 days”.

I met this executive (let’s call him Victor Fernandez) in his second week on the job. Victor looked relaxed in his office that overlooked the Arabian Sea. Torrential monsoon rain lashed the windows. After the professional formalities, he explained to me his 1000 days’ mission and what he had already accomplished. He said he had already achieved his goal! How? Victor taught me the importance of execution. He also taught me the power of simplicity. His prescription was:
  1. I (Victor) called all the senior executives to the board room on my second day at work.
  2. Next, I asked each executive to take a foolscap sheet of paper and to list their customers on the left of the sheet. Of course, each executive listed the dealers, chemists, etc.
  3. I corrected their perception of customers and defined it as the person who receives the output of the work one does. Each executive listed more customers than the others in the room. It seemed a status symbol.
  4. A moment of truth followed… “What do you deliver to your customers?” There was silence in the room. “How do you measure your performance with your customers?” Not a clue.
  5. “When did you last meet your customers?” Prompt came the answer… “Daily! In the car pool and cafeteria!” “No, no” I said, “when did you last meet your customers proactively?” Heavy silence.
  6. “Never mind”, I said, “let’s make a simple plan. I would like you to list your ‘A’ category customers. I would then like you to proactively meet each customer for 10 minutes at their desk, weekly. The agenda for each meeting will be: How can I improve my offerings to you? Next, I would like you to log what you have agreed. I, Victor, will come and audit the log and action, weekly.”
Victor explained the first round had been completed. He was going to execute the second round that week. And the next week he would request the executives to cascade the same process down to the next level. He would request them to audit the performance of their respective managers, and he, in turn would audit their ability to audit! Quite simple.

Victor underlined the simplicity of his process. He made me understand the Plan-Do-Check-Act theory underlying his approach.

But that was not all. There was another by-product to this approach. The whole organization learned from the grapevine that Victor spends his time reviewing deliverables to customers. He is customer-focused and walks his talk. Victor had faith in the grapevine for communication – efficient and effective.
How Hong Kong Airport Improved ERP in India!
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Lessons Learned
  1. Leaders who are driven by perfection, push for out-of-the-box solutions
  2. Leaders must be learners, particularly from crossindustry perfection
  3. Leaders who set stretch goals, apart from results, enjoy the by-product of employee motivation
  4. Risk management is a top-down responsibility
  5. Right-brain creative thinking is one of the most underemployed assets of an organization
  6. Reducing the legacy time, reduced COPQ
  7. FMEA is a quality planning tool
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Source: Quality Fables Book 2, Fable number: 43

Ahyoung and progressive Managing Director of a family owned medium scale pump business in Western India, had awarded an assignment to a reputed international consulting firm to implement ERP at his single location factory. The assignment was now 18
months old.

Qimpro had also been awarded an assignment to build a Quality Improvement culture at the 700 employee strong factory. Tangible results had surfaced in terms of Cost Of Poor Quality (COPQ) reduction within six months. Consequently, Qimpro had earned the respect of not only the Managing Director, but also the senior management team.

The new Hong Kong airport had been inaugurated and offered full service from the very first day. There were very minor glitches. Only in luggage handling. The Managing Director was at the new Hong Kong airport on the first day. He was most impressed by the efficiency of the airport processes, as well as proficiency of the staff and workers.

Next day, back in India, the international consulting firm informed the Managing Director that the ERP implementation at the factory was now complete. That was good news. However, they added, it was advisable to run the legacy systems in parallel for the next three months.

There was a deafening silence before a verbal explosion. The advise was simply not acceptable! In terms of complexity, his factory was a fraction of one percent of the new Hong Kong airport!

On an impulse the Managing Director called me to his room and lamented about the ERP tragedy. He needed help. He wished, at best, to run the legacy system for a week, and then switch it off.

The following rapid fire conversation followed:
“What can you do for me?”
“I don’t have any experience with ERP.”
“Think. Aren’t there any quality tools?”
“Think. There must be.”
“ Well. If you are open for an experiment….?”
“Tell me!”
“I can try using Failure Mode & Effect Analysis. It’scalled FMEA.”
“How many days do you need?”
“How many experienced minds can you give me?”

We formed ten teams. FMEA was applied by each team to one of the ten critical processes over the next 24 hours. The risks were identified. Innovative solutions were implemented to contain the multiple risks.

In three days the Managing Director switched off all the related legacy processes. In two weeks the ERP system functioned as smooth as silk.

Reducing the legacy time, reduced enormous COPQ.
Sweating the Training
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Lessons Learned
  1. Training starts at the top
  2. Leaders must be extraordinary trainers and coaches
  3. A cascading model for training is the most cost effective
  4. Debriefing is a key step for effective training
  5. The training process starts with debriefing; and ends at coaching the next level
  6. In a cascading model, the pre- and post-training effort is at least ten-fold more than the actual training man-days
  7. The key concepts included in the training get internalized, and therefore become easily actionable
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Source: Quality Fables Book 1, Fable number: 10

In the 1990s, a multi-national business machine manufacturer was a preferred employer at engineering and management schools. Candidates considered it an extraordinary learning organization.

So why was the Chairman, the primary investor in this joint venture, sweating it out in his chamber? And car? And home? This was biting Delhi winter!

Well, as it turned out, he had been directed by the European office to attend a top management training program in Switzerland.
“That’s nice” was my reaction.
“That’s not nice” was the Chairman’s correction to my reaction.
“Why Sir?”

As I recall, the debriefing included the following guidelines:
  1. You will be attending this top management training program and be expected to absorb the content from a trainer’s paradigm.
  2. Next, you will be required to replicate the training for your senior managers. The senior managers will in turn be required to replicate the training for middle-level managers. The quality of training must remain undiluted.
  3. Your role when senior managers conduct their respective trainings will be that of a coach to each of these senior managers.
  4. As a first step, please get familiar with the course materials contained in this packet.
I now understood this young Chairman’s predicament. Even though he was a recent Ph.D.

People Listen to What You Say; They Believe What You Do
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Lessons Learned
  1. Top management actions define an organization’s culture
  2. Continuity in customer-focused culture is vital for survival and success in a competitive market
  3. Professionalism starts with respecting one another’s time
  4. Get the commitment first. Change in behavior will follow
  5. Keep your promises to be trusted by your colleagues
  6. Hearing the voice of the final consumer is the best education for all levels of management
  7. The secretary is a treasure of information
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Source: Quality Fables Book 1, Fable number: 21

Leadership is all about “Walk Your Talk”. People listen to what you say; they believe what you do.

I refer to an established organization that appoints a Chairman every five years, through a transparent process extending over a couple of years.

This is an organization that is known for its focus on customers in a competitive national market for consumer products.

On an extended assignment with this company - involving monthly visits for facilitating and coaching Quality Improvement Teams - I was impressed by the diligence of the members. Monthly assignments were completed to perfection.

Yet these team members were all salesmen! In normal course they were hardly ever in office. In fact not being in the field was considered a cardinal sin. To top it all these salesmen had high frequency transferable jobs.

These professionals were organized. They were well educated and groomed. They respected one another’s commitment to Quality Improvement of the Sales Processes, and made sure each was present at the weekly two hours meeting. In addition, they coordinated their own time during the week to complete the tasks assigned to each individual. In spite of all this extra load they never lost focus of the customer.

I have heard of “Customer is Number One”, but here it was live. It was a culture in this organization. The system supporting the customer was simple and robust. Obviously, it all starts at the top.

I was led to the Chairman’s secretary... she shared the Chairman’s diary. Every even week, a day was dedicated to walking the streets in a different city or town or village. The Chairman would talk to the ‘kirana’ shopkeepers and ‘paanwallas’ and their customers; also to any common man he felt like striking a conversation. His objective was to see with his eyes and hear with his ears all that is possible to know about the end consumer of his or competitors’ soaps, detergents, toothpastes, talcum powders, tea, ice creams, etc. I was informed by the secretary that this discipline had been observed Chairman after Chairman for decades. She knew.

Hence, it was quite natural for the salesmen on my Quality Improvement assignment to pursue the customer-focus culture. In fact, they explained that every executive, regardless of function, was advised to spend time in the field whenever the individual had a couple of slack hours.
Training for the Enemy
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Lessons Learned
  1. Training should not be the subject of a strategic goal
  2. Training should be the means to achieve strategic goals
  3. People in an organization are an appreciating asset
  4. Education without action is easily forgotten
  5. Managers tend to educate the idle people in their department
  6. Training can be a COPQ
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Source: Quality Fables Book 2, Fable number: 49

In 2009, the head of HR at a multinational organization was given ownership of a strategic goal: Increase the man-hours of training per middle-level employee from 25 hours per year to 30 hours per year.

The upgraded goal meant factoring 5000 hours of additional training! Across five regions.

As would be expected, the head of HR got the Training Manager to work out an appropriate Training Calendar. This calendar was announced on the intranet and middle-level managers registered for the courses or workshops that were of interest to each of them.

Some of the classes were overbooked. Others had few registrations. The latter presented a problem. In order to host a workshop, the class was required to have a minimum of 12 registrations.

It is Friday. The Monday workshop that is three days ahead has only seven registrations. Where will the five come from?
“Hello Tejas, my friend. I need to fill five seats for Monday’s workshop on How to Write an Effective Business Letter?”
“Sorry Jack. I cannot spare anyone from my department. Oh yes, there is Prem. He has returned from a long holiday in Kashmir.”
“Great Tejas. Send Prem at 8.30 am to the Lotus Room on Monday.”

Similar calls were made by Jack to his friends in transport and maintenance.

Jack made his goal of 12 registrations.

Did the company benefit? Three of the five had already submitted their resignations!

Training had declared itself as a Cost Of Poor Quality (COPQ). One did not need rocket science to arrive at this conclusion. After all, education without action is easily forgotten.

So what was the remedy?

The multi-national organization stopped treating Training as a subject for a strategic goal. Instead, it started treating Training as a means to achieve strategic goals.

The organization results in 2010 indicated a drop in training hours for middle-level managers to 18 hours per employee. These managers believed they had actually appreciated in value.
Where have all the Spares gone?
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Lessons Learned
1. Inspection of incoming materials defies logic
2. Samples can be lucky or unlucky; they come from
the same process
3. Lowest cost procurement criteria is faulty
4. Purchase process capability from SMEs
5. Train the purchase department on how to conduct
process capability studies
6. Joint costing is a powerful tool to build trust

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Source: Quality Fables Book 1, Fable number: 14

I recall a long-term consulting assignment with an American diesel engine manufacturer in Western India. This Indian company earned profit primarily from the sale of spare parts! Why?

The spare parts were purchased from SMEs primarily on the basis of lowest cost to company. Quality was practiced by the materials department inspecting samples of incoming goods received from SMEs. Some samples were lucky. Others were not.

Customers of the diesel engine manufacturer steadily complained about non-availability of spares, field failures, excessive downtime of earth moving equipment/ marine engines/ generator sets.

At an international conference of all sister diesel engine manufacturers, the Japanese member shared that:
  • They procure 70% of their sub-assemblies and components from SMEs
  • Their criteria for procurement is process capability of the SME
  • The purchase department is trained to conduct process capability studies
  • They are transparent about their costing with the SMEs; the SMEs reciprocate
  • Joint costing is the basis for optimization
  • Apart from the purchasing department, the manufacturing / design / costing departments are involved in SME assessments
The Japanese company made profit from the sale of diesel engines. Not from spares.

The Indian company benchmarked the managerial practices of the Japanese counterpart. Diligently.

Today, it is the preferred supplier of select diesel engines globally.
News Quality Management Division 05/10/2021 11:31am CDT


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