Quality Assurance in Hospitality

A brief history of quality assurance

Any business – especially in service-oriented industries such as in hospitality and tourism should consider engaging with Quality Assurance and establishing service-related Standards of Performance.

This is easier said than done. Let’s have a brief look at the history of quality management and what our industry can learn from it.

How quality management came to the forefront

The concept of “quality” started in the USA in the early 1900s as part of the accelerating industrialisation. More and more companies produced goods on a large scale and volume. At the same time competitiveness increased.

Consequently, industrial companies had to enhance process efficiency and increase productivity in order to satisfy the increasing consumer demand and take advantage of new business opportunities.

This required to systematically streamline work practices and to “moulding” workers to do the job. Human engineering of workers was introduced with one man guiding or instructing other men. The term “Management” was born – “Man over Men”. At that time, management didn’t consider worker-welfare – all that counted was productivity and output.

In order to check on the quality of production, companies employed “inspectors” for testing products. One of the inspectors was called Otto Klein. When he approved a product – he signed with “OK” – stating that he is satisfied with the product. Today it is a common abbreviation to show our approval of something. Well, that’s the story I had heard. Let me know if I am wrong.

Quality and efficiency programs came to the forefront especially during the war-years in the 20th century. Predominantly during WWII, when the USA was engaged in two major battlefields, enormous quantities of war-supplies were needed.  The requirement for mass quality production was of utmost importance. At the end, the economic strength of the USA played an essential part to succeed in these major conflicts.

Learning from the Victors

After the Second World War, something interesting happened.

The principles of Quality Assurance (QA) were introduced by the victorious Americans in Japan after WWII to re-establish Japanese industries. However, there were substantial differences between the American and Japanese way of working. The US management principles had to be amended.

Foremost, Japanese companies adapted the QA principles to their own cultural requirements. This meant that each worker was his/her own quality-inspector. Consequently, the product quality improved dramatically. More “inspectors” – better quality.

Japan built, amongst many other products cars which were then sold in the USA. The American consumer quickly found that Japanese cars are much more reliable and of “excellent quality” compared with US cars. The US car manufactures had to play quality-catch-up. And it was not just about cars – other companies such as Sony, Panasonic etc stormed the US markets – with better and cheaper products.

What were the reason for Japan’s quality success?

Four characteristics stick out:

  • the absolute insistence to produce quality
  • staying competitive
  • ability to copy and improve the original product and
  • planning for the long-term future.

At the base of this approach lay the following quality assurance principles:

  • a strong and unified management commitment
  • proper planning and
  • targeted investment – all focussing on achieving quality products.

Most importantly, the success was driven by massive quality-oriented staff training programs in combination with empowering staff to perform at their best within the overall management system.

At the core of quality assurance training programmes lay the “standards of performance”. These standards were the guiding tools and corner stones to accomplish the desired quality product. If every worker followed the set standard – consistently – the product was deemed to be a quality product.

What can we learn about quality assurance in hospitality?

The hospitality industry must embrace more vigorously those quality assurance principles. I firmly believe that a quality driven business will out-perform other businesses. In other words: a business which embraces quality assurance will have the competitive edge over other businesses.

I will touch more on relevant issues concerning quality assurance in the hospitality industry and how to develop and use standards of performance. Stay tuned.

Contact me if you like to comment, seek more information or to discuss your quest for quality.