Transforming Quality Management Practices: Applying the Hong Kong/China Experiences

July 2000
Volume 7 • Number 3

Contents

Transforming Quality Management Practices:
Applying the Hong Kong/China Experiences

Quality transformation is a process to enhance the forms and patterns of quality activities. It affects the adoption of quality management (QM) practices in individual firms and governs the development trend of QM in a nation or region. With the open-door policy in China and the escalating land and labor costs in Hong Kong, much of the low-cost manufacturing activities in Hong Kong have been relocated to China since the 1980s. Transplanting operations to China needs to be an integrated transfer of technical, financial, and management know-how, and in particular, the quality management concepts and practices. This paper reviews the quality development and transformation processes in Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries with special emphasis on the transfer of QM practices from Hong Kong to China during the critical period of extensive relocation of manufacturing operations. Before the 1990s, the QM practices in Hong Kong were unsatisfactory. In the early 1990s, the adoption and implementation of ISO 9000 systems had a significant impact on igniting the QM movement in Hong Kong. With the driving force of the ISO 9000 movement, many certified firms in Hong Kong have taken steps to adopt continuous quality improvement (CQI) strategies and are working toward total quality management (TQM). Many Hong Kong manufacturing firms in China have quickly adopted QM practices from their host companies. Hong Kong firms need to further assist their partners in China in committing to quality and increasing their own capability for continuous improvement. Achieving the long-term quality goal of TQM entails a very complex process with a wide range of effects. The currently adopted Hong Kong “ISO 9000-CQI-TQM” step-by-step quality model is recommended for China. The Chinese manufacturing industry in this paper refers specifically to the manufacturing operations in China with major investments from Hong Kong.

Key words: continuous quality improvement, ISO 9000, manufacturing, total quality management

by Richard C. M. Yam, K. F. Pun, and K. S. Chin, City University Of Hong Kong and R. Gill, Middlesex University

INTRODUCTION

Many leading nations (such as the United States, Japan, and Germany) have fought the global pressures of competition by becoming increasingly technologically advanced, moving up-market to more value-added products, and upgrading the skills of their domestic work force (Enright, Scott, and Dodwell 1997; Pun and Lee 1997). Everyone, everywhere is in pursuit of higher quality. The impact of quality is so enormous that it can affect a company’s competitiveness, both locally and globally. There is no exception for Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries.

Quality transformation is a process to enhance the forms and patterns of quality activities. It affects the adoption of quality management (QM) practices in individual firms and governs the development trend of QM in a nation or region. With the open-door policy in China and the escalating land and labor costs in Hong Kong, much of the low-cost manufacturing activities in Hong Kong have been relocated to China since the 1980s. Transferring low-cost activities to China does not mean that Hong Kong manufacturers can escape from customer-focused quality requirements. The global markets have become extremely competitive not only for high-end goods but also for low-value products. The transfer needs to be a total transfer of technical, financial, and management know-how–and particularly the quality management expertise–to China. For a successful transformation, Hong Kong manufacturers must make quality products better, faster, and cheaper than those of their competitors. Adoption of effective quality management strategies will be one of the most crucial factors for success in Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries.

This paper reviews the quality development and transformation processes in Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries with special emphasis on the transfer of QM practices from Hong Kong to China during the critical period of extensive relocation of manufacturing operations. Before the 1990s, the QM practices in Hong Kong were unsatisfactory. In the early 1990s, the adoption and implementation of ISO 9000 systems had a significant impact on enhancing the quality practices in Hong Kong. With the driving force of the ISO 9000 movement, many certified firms have taken steps to adopt continuous quality improvement (CQI) strategies and worked toward total quality management (TQM). Recent studies (Chin, Yam, and Pun 1995a; 1995b, 898-903; Yeung and Yam 1996; Pun and Lee 1997; Pun, Chin, and Poon 1999, 356-360) have shown that the Chinese operations of many Hong Kong firms have quickly adopted QM practices with the help and support from their host companies. Hong Kong firms need to further assist their partners in China in committing to quality and increasing their own capability for continuous improvement. Achieving the long-term quality goal of TQM entails a very complex process with a wide range of effects. Numerous failure cases have been reported in the literature (Schaffer and Thomson 1992; Tatikonda and Tatikonda 1996). The Hong Kong manufacturing industry is becoming transformed to a more quality conscious state through ISO 9000-CQI-TQM. With the close ties of the manufacturing industries between Hong Kong and China, this Hong Kong quality model is recommended for the Chinese manufacturing industry. The Chinese manufacturing industry in this paper refers specifically to the manufacturing operations in China with major investments from Hong Kong.

TOWARD THE TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT PARADIGM

Spencer (1994) described TQM as one of the essential approaches in revitalizing a company’s competitive position. This description has drawn the attention of manufacturing industries all over the world. The development of TQM strategies, guiding principles, and a total involvement environment helps organizations work toward their corporate vision. The mission statement acts as a compass for the organization by providing an overall sense of direction and alignment. The guiding principles express an organization’s overriding values and beliefs, whereas the TQM strategy is an integrated and sequential milestone that can help track the progress toward improving quality-driven business processes (McDermott, Mikulak, and Beauregard 1993; Dale Cooper, and Wilkinson 1997). TQM is a nonprescriptive philosophy with limited solid instructions in putting principles into practices. Moving toward a TQM paradigm is not a simple process. Some recent researches in the United Kingdom and the United States have revealed that a large percentage of companies find TQM efforts fail to live up to their expectations (Schaffer and Thomson 1992; Spector and Beer 1994). Many authors (for example, Spector and Beer 1994; Taikonda and Tatikonda 1996; Shin, Kalinowski, and El-Enein 1998) have suggested that rushing into introducing TQM only results in a waste of efforts. Integrating TQM philosophy into an organization is a very complex process with a wide range of effects. Besides, quality improvement programs without a linkage to the cultural changes are doomed to failure (Harber, Burgess, and Barclay 1993; Dale, Cooper, and Wilkinson 1997).

Sinclair and Collins (1994) pinpointed the importance of quality culture toward the success of TQM implementation. Bowen and Lawler (1992) suggested five quality principles of total quality-oriented human resources management including quality work the first time, customer satisfaction, comprehensive and strategic approaches to improvement, continuous improvement, and mutual respect and teamwork.

For successful TQM implementation, some studies argue that a cross-functional matrix organization structure would expedite and coordinate across cross-functional interfaces (Dale, Cooper, and Wilkinson 1997). Besides, a flatter organizational structure is often preferred, with less social distance between manager and workers (Bounds et al. 1994). It is often beneficial to have a steering committee or cross-functional board of executives that can manage resources and coordinate quality improvement efforts. The formation of multidisciplinary quality teams across different departments can also facilitate the total quality efforts on a continuous basis. The process of change, however, has to be introduced gradually, and is required to have a shared responsibility with a cooperative work force; a harmonious, balanced, and team working relationship; and empowered workers. In summary, the success of TQM implementation relies heavily on the commitment and leadership of top management toward quality and the support of the right quality organizational culture and appropriate organizational structure and management system (Besterfield et al. 1995; Dale, Cooper, and Wilkinson 1997). The following sections review the industrial changes and quality management development in Hong Kong and China, and discuss the linkage of the TQM paradigm to a proposed generic framework that may help manufacturers in the process of quality transformation in Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries.


HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF HONG KONG INDUSTRY:
AN OVERVIEW

Like many developed countries, Hong Kong has been transforming the forms, nature, and practices of its industry (HKID 1996; Pun, Chin, and Poon 1999, 356-360). The transformation is changing the industry from a low-cost manufacturing base to a high value-added, design- and service-oriented manufacturing center. Hong Kong started its industrial development in the 1950s and went through its “early industrialization” in the 1960s, “diversification” in the 1970s, and “industrial doldrums” and the “gestation for new change” stage in the 1980s (SPI 1989). In the 1990s, Hong Kong manufacturing industries faced keen competition from other newly developed economies leading to an enormous demand for technological upgrading and product innovation (Berger and Lester 1997; Pun and Lee 1997; HKTDC 1998). Lack of land supply and scarce natural resources constrained Hong Kong from heavy and land-intensive industries, but allowed light manufacturing industries to flourish. Since the 1950s, the small- and medium-sized enterprises have dominated the industrial development of Hong Kong. Their success was attributed to their responsiveness to fluctuating market opportunities, price competitiveness, timely delivery, and cost minimization through specialization-oriented and capacity-oriented subcontracting practices (Sit and Wong 1989). For decades, Hong Kong has enjoyed the benefits derived from the low-cost manufacturing of clothing, consumer electronics, and plastic products; however, Hong Kong manufacturing industries declined very rapidly after the “golden” climax in the 1980s. Some prior competitive advantages, such as the government’s laissez faire policy and the industrious and low-wage work force (Sit and Wong 1989), were no longer sufficient for industrialists to meet with the new economic challenges and the keen competition in the 1990s. To meet the increasing demands of high-quality and technological goods from sophisticated local and overseas markets, the Hong Kong manufacturing industries must continuously improve their performances toward technology- and capital-intensive operations.

With the open-door policy of China, many Hong Kong manufacturers (especially those of low value-added and labor-intensive products) have shifted their production base across the border to the Pearl River Delta regions and other provinces in southern China (Sit and Wong 1989; FHKI 1992, 1993; HKID 1996; Berger and Lester 1997; HKTDC 1998). Transplanting operations to China needs to be an integrated transfer of technical, financial, and management know-how, and in particular, the QM concepts and practices. The out-shifting of low-cost operations also allows Hong Kong firms to rebuild their strengths and capabilities for competitive growth. Since the uplifting customer-focused quality requirements have been put not only on those high-value goods but also on low-cost products, Hong Kong firms should commit to a planned transfer of the QM practices to Chinese operations (Enright, Scott, and Dodwell 1997; Berger and Lester 1997). The quality transformation process has started, and a close bond of QM practices has been established between Hong Kong and Chinese manufacturing industries (Pun, Chin, and Poon 1999, 356-360).

QUALITY TRANSFORMATION IN HONG KONG
MANUFACTURING INDUSTRIES
The Era Before the 1990s

Previous studies of QM practices for Hong Kong manufacturing industry have shown that before the 1990s, top management awareness and commitment to quality were poor, with few companies incorporating quality strategies into their corporate goals. Quality objectives were often set at middle or lower management levels lacking support from the top to integrate quality through specific corporate quality strategies, policies, and manuals (Yam and Tang 1993; Yam, Chin, and Tang 1994). Quality barriers were attributed to the inability to plan for changes, ignorance of the cost of poor quality, a misconception of statistical quality control, and a lack of education and training in quality. Although large firms usually had better-documented quality manuals, difficulties in documentation and defining responsibilities were common diseases in all firms. Continuous processes for quality improvement were not common.

Quality Movement in the 1990s

The impact of ISO 9000    The ISO 9000 series of quality assurance and quality management practices has created an enormous worldwide impact on the quality movement in many countries including Hong Kong and China (Siu 1995, 41-45). It has become a very popular standard for quality systems, and it is anticipated that greater numbers of companies will be seeking and obtaining certification and starting to request their suppliers to be audited and certified against the requirements of ISO 9000. Since Hong Kong manufacturing industries were largely export-oriented (Sit and Wong 1989; Berger and Lester 1997), it would have been very difficult for them to penetrate the lucrative international markets without attaining ISO 9000 certification. Thus, in order to comply with the quality requirements of overseas markets, many Hong Kong manufacturers endeavored to implement ISO 9000. The findings of some empirical studies show that the awareness and adoption of ISO 9000 increased significantly from 1990 to 1994 for all sizes of firms in Hong Kong (Chin, Yam, and Pun 1995a; 1995b, 898-903). Since then, the concept of quality management has been increasingly accepted by the Hong Kong manufacturing industry. Manufacturers also realized that top management should commit to adopting companywide quality systems, with respect to corporate mission, strategies, and practices. Many companies recognized the need to achieve cultural changes through training by focusing more on employees’ behavior, attitude, and values toward quality. Many companies started to incorporate proper quality documents specifying the companywide quality system with respect to its policy for good manufacturing practices. Some companies had the slogan of “Doing the right things right the first time.” Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have also tried to keep up with the impact and changes of ISO 9000; regardless their efforts do lag behind the large companies.

The barriers of ISO 9000 implementation    Many empirical studies in the early 1990s addressed the barriers, difficulties, and problems encountered in implementing ISO 9000 in Hong Kong (Chin, Yam, and Pun 1995a; 1995b, 898-903). Table 1 summarizes the key barriers of ISO 9000 adoption and implementation. Owners and top management were, in general, committed to the implementation of ISO 9000 because of perceived market needs. Many of them, however, did not have the experiences and training to lead the implementation program systematically on a companywide basis. Many middle managers and supervisors, who grew up from the shop floor, had inadequate quality training as well. They had a lot of fear, and thus naturally resisted the changes. SMEs were found to be more flexible and efficient in adopting ISO 9000, for their simple organizational structure had fewer layers and employees. In SMEs, quality practices could be communicated quickly, directly, and clearly to employees, and quick responses could be made with few bureaucratic and departmental barriers. SMEs, however, had greater difficulties and problems than large firms in recruiting qualified people.

Most problems were quite similar to the findings of previous studies (Yam and Tang 1993; Yam, Chin, and Tang 1994). Irrespective of these drawbacks, the emphasis and implementation of quality management systems in Hong Kong manufacturing industries have improved remarkably in the past few years. The ISO 9000 movement is generally regarded as the main driving force.

Beyond ISO 9000 quality strategy: Continuous quality improvement (CQI)    The ISO 9000 system does not mention or make provisions for continuous improvement; its emphasis is mainly on assuring a company’s efficient operations at its status quo (Burr 1990). ISO 9000 does not address the quality performances of products or services nor it does it have sufficient customer focus (Corrigan 1994). Quality cannot be improved just by the imposition of rules and regulations. Without total commitment in continuous quality improvement, quality policy will merely be the first section of the quality manual. Management should be responsible for taking the necessary actions to ensure continuous quality improvement in organizations. CQI is defined as a closed loop, companywide program that continuously reviews and improves the quality of the company’s products and services by introducing gradual changes (Winchell 1991). It is a never-ending process and is an organizationwide amalgamation of various policies, concepts, and procedures that have been designed to achieve excellence. On the basis of ISO 9000 standards, a further commitment to CQI is imperative for organizations to strive for survival and enhance their competitiveness. In recent years, the increasing concern toward enhancing product quality has become a prerequisite for establishing and sustaining competitive edge. Hong Kong manufacturers have to go through a substantial cultural change toward quality consciousness and assurance. This is attributable to the pressures from internal improvement, marketing position, supplier control, and customer or regulatory requirements.

The ISO 9000/CQI integration    Sound ISO 9000 implementation can assure a company of maintaining its current quality level. ISO 9000 also establishes a strong foundation for assuring consistent quality performance and supporting the CQI practices in companies. As shown in Figure 1, customer demand, competitors’ performance, internal business strategies, and quality costs reduction are among the main driving forces to push the quality wheel up the quality hill. ISO 9000 has established a framework for assuring consistent quality performance in companies (acting as a “wedge”) to stop the quality wheel from rolling down. Previous studies have revealed that most ISO 9000-certified companies in Hong Kong searched beyond ISO 9000 strategies to further enhance their quality. Since customers are continuously demanding better-quality products at competitive prices, CQI has become the beyond-ISO 9000 quality strategy for Hong Kong manufacturing industries.

TRANSFER OF QM PRACTICES TO CHINA

Along with the substantial industrial relocation of manufacturing operations from Hong Kong to China, it is important to understand the impact of the transformation of QM practices from Hong Kong to China on changing the global competitiveness of the entire Hong Kong/China region. A previous empirical study analyzed the transfer of QM practices from Hong Kong to China through a questionnaire survey and structured interviews for Hong Kong companies with manufacturing operations in China (Yeung and Yam 1996). The major areas for investigation included quality policy, quality system, status of ISO 9000 certification, quality strategies beyond ISO 9000, and long-term quality management development for Hong Kong/China manufacturing firms. The commitment of Hong Kong/China manufacturers to quality management was reviewed in terms of awareness, attitude, intention, and practice toward quality management. The key findings of the studies are summarized as follows. Statements from the survey are quoted directly.

The Role of Hong Kong in Transferring Quality Practices to China

Quality management practices were basically transferred from the host companies in Hong Kong to their operations in China. “Provide training to managers in China,” “send quality professional to China,” and “train up quality staff in Hong Kong and transfer to China” were the major means of know-how transfer adopted by Hong Kong manufacturers to enhance the quality management practices of their plants in China. The majority of manufacturers in Hong Kong and China agreed that “quality is very important even for low-cost manufacturing products” and that “quality is the road to success.”

Quality System and Training

The firms in Hong Kong usually had better quality documentation than the firms in China. Firms in Hong Kong provided more quality management training to staff by stressing ISO 9000 systems and leadership training at managerial and supervisory levels, whereas companies in China emphasized technical training at the operator level. Firms in Hong Kong conducted comprehensive staff development programs linking staff performance with reward systems. Firms in China mainly relied on extrinsic rewards. Monetary rewards in China were the most effective incentive means.

ISO 9000 and Quality Status

More firms in Hong Kong than in China had attained ISO 9000 certificates. Most Hong Kong firms considered maintaining competitiveness as the prime reason for adopting ISO 9000 certification, followed by the needs “for better quality services” and “conformance to customer’s requirements.” A similar order was found for firms in China. The common reasons for not adopting ISO 9000 were “too much limitation” and a “complicated process.” The most difficult tasks in implementing ISO 9000 in both places were “ensuring everyone follows the rules,” “document control,” and “lack of quality awareness.” Moreover, SMEs had greater difficulties in getting top management support than large companies, whereas more large companies had more communication problems than SMEs. On the other hand, preventing nonconformities, clearly defining accountability and responsibility, and finding traceable defects were the benefits of ISO 9000 reported by most firms in both Hong Kong and China.

CQI and Quality Goals

Most companies in Hong Kong had practiced CQI and the rest planned to adopt CQI shortly. In China, fewer companies had implemented CQI. The ability to “focus on customer’s requirements” and “enhance competitiveness” were among the most significant benefits of CQI reported by Hong Kong firms. The majority of firms in both places did not put ISO 9000 certification as their ultimate quality goal, and most of them had considered CQI as the stepping stone for achieving their long-term quality goal toward TQM.

A Quality Transformation Model for Hong Kong/China
Manufacturing Industries

Since the early 1990s, many Hong Kong manufacturing firms have attained ISO 9000 certification. The ISO 9000 standards have set a foundation for CQI to integrate different organizational functions effectively. CQI has been recognized by many Hong Kong manufacturers as the prevailing quality campaign next to ISO 9000. The development of QM practices in China is lagging behind Hong Kong. Many Hong Kong manufacturers have also taken further initiatives to introduce quality concepts and practices to their operations in China by transferring the quality management know-how, quality systems, training, and development to their workplaces in China. The gradual, widespread use of ISO 9000 certifications and CQI practices in China indicates that many firms in China have picked up quality management practices from their host companies in Hong Kong. Furthermore, Hong Kong/China firms have deliberately considered TQM rather than ISO 9000 as their ultimate quality goal, and have taken initiatives to integrate ISO 9000/CQI/TQM for sustaining their competitive edge. This quality transformation process has become a popular model path for China to follow. Figure 2 depicts the quality transformation movement in Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries in the l990s. It is anticipated that the quality transformation model starting from ISO 9000 via ISO 9000/CQI to TQM would be a feasible path for Hong Kong/China manufacturers to climb up the quality hill. The transfer of the established ISO 9000/CQI quality practices from Hong Kong to China has stimulated the quality movement in China, which would contribute significantly to the synergy of Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries.

THE TRANSFER OF PRINCIPLES OF QM PRACTICES

An effective transfer of QM practices between two regions requires the support from a closed and solid business relationship between the two places in which one region has more successful QM development experiences than the other. Hong Kong and China have developed strong and successful business collaborations for decades. Hong Kong is historically a leader in a more advanced business region playing the role of mentor to support the development of TQM for an emerging region in China. This situation has been found to be very favorable for the transfer of QM practices from Hong Kong to China.

The successful development of QM in a region requires a stimulant to initiate the changes in the region and a continuous driving force to push the changes for further improvement. In the early 1990s, the ISO 9000 movement stimulated the changes in QM practices in Hong Kong with marvelous accomplishment. The transfer of this catalytic effect of ISO 9000 to China has also helped extensively to ignite the QM movement in China. The timing of the launch of the ISO 9000 system in Hong Kong matched, coincidentally, very well with the relocation of manufacturing operations from Hong Kong to China. Throughout the 1990s, Hong Kong was always several years ahead of China in QM development.

A well-established, step-by-step process is also very important to facilitate the development and transfer of QM concepts and practices. With the successful adoption of ISO 9000, the push for further improvement in quality requires the determination to go for continuous quality improvement (CQI) in organizations. This ISO 9000-CQI step-by-step process has provided a quality path for organizations to advance in their journey toward TQM. The real driving force behind the quality wheel is the market force and the continuous demand from customers. CQI is just an organizational mechanism to convert this driving force to quality. This concrete and tangible ISO 9000-CQI path has facilitated the effective transfer of QM practices from Hong Kong to China.

The successful transfer of QM practices also requires the establishment of appropriate operations environments, effective organizational infrastructure, and quality culture in the recipient organizations. A complete cultural change and restructuring of the traditional practices are required for manufacturing operations in China. Top management must recognize the importance of quality. It should totally commit to the development of QM practices in organizations by setting up appropriate corporate quality objectives, strategies, and workable plans. Hong Kong manufacturers should convince their partners in China to commit more resources to quality and to build up their own capability for continuous improvement toward TQM. Manufacturing firms in China should initiate the organizational changes progressively, and ensure that concrete quality improvement is achieved before further deployment of quality efforts. Organizational structures should be revised accordingly along with the changes in quality cultures. The processes of change should progress continuously and gradually, leading to shared responsibilities among the empowered work forces under a harmonious, balanced, and team working environment toward TQM.

CONCLUSION

Global manufacturing competitiveness has been complicated by the accelerating pressures of industrial transformation, dynamic trading conditions, ever-changing market demands, and uplifting quality requirements. These pressures have sharpened the industry’s focus on developing viable strategies and tactics in gaining and retaining their competitiveness. In the past two decades, many Hong Kong firms have moved up-market toward the manufacture of more sophisticated products with higher technology and better quality, notably upper-end consumer products. At the same time, the industry has also experienced a remarkable inward transfer to mainland China (HKID 1996; Pun and Lee 1997; HKTDC 1998). In order to manage the transformation pressures, adoption of effective QM strategies can be a critical success factor. The impact of quality is so enormous that it can not only affect a company’s performance but also change the global competitiveness of an entire region; Hong Kong/China is a good example.

Existing quality management practices in China are inadequate. Managers in China have not been given sufficient training and education in quality. The centralized planned economy in China has no concept of customer. Fortunately, since the open-door policy, many Chinese people have already tasted the benefits of the market system. The concept of customers is gradually evolving and becoming more important. Furthermore, the general standard of living in China is still well below Hong Kong. Monetary incentives work pretty well in China. Chinese people are very eager to get jobs in the Hong Kong-based companies because of higher salaries–often many times higher in Hong Kong-based companies than in Chinese ones. Staff and workers are very keen and highly motivated. The problem of introducing and implementing quality management and systems in China is not that employees and management don’t want to do it; the problem is that they don’t know how to do it. Therefore, training is very effective in China, and resistance to change is very minimal. Hong Kong firms should provide appropriate training to Chinese firms starting from the top management and extending down to all levels of employees. It is very important that quality concepts be introduced to China as early as possible, in particular when China’s manufacturing industries are still at their infant stage. At present, most Hong Kong firms only introduce quality management to their China operations by simply transferring their existing practices from Hong Kong. Many Chinese firms are still relying heavily on the quality support from their host companies in Hong Kong. They have not yet built up their own strengths in quality. The role of Hong Kong in effecting quality management practices in China is not only to transfer QM practices but also to help China diffuse QM concepts into its own operations. The effective way is to educate and convince top managers to get their commitment in multiplying the quality concepts and practices to all levels of employees. China must build up its own quality capability and seek continuous improvement itself.

The role of QM and the transfer of QM from a more advanced business region to an emerging region have significant impact on the development of the manufacturing industries in the entire region. The successful QM transformation experiences in Hong Kong/China in the 1990s have demonstrated the importance of this visionary statement. The quality transformation process described in this paper also provides practical insights for the Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries to enhance their QM practices through the “ISO 9000-ISO 9000/CQI-TQM” model.

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BIOGRAPHIES

R. C. M. Yam is an associate professor in the department of manufacturing engineering and engineering management of the City University of Hong Kong. Yam is the program leader of the master of science program in engineering management. His current research interests are in the areas of engineering management, quality systems, and management for Hong Kong/China manufacturing industries. Yam may be contacted as follows: Dr. Richard C. M. Yam, Department of Manufacturing Engineering & Engineering Management, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong, Telephone: 27888417; Fax: 27888423; E-mail: mery@cityu.edu.hk.

K. F. Pun is a lecturer in the department of manufacturing engineering and engineering management of the City University of Hong Kong. Before joining the teaching profession, he worked in industry as an operations executive, researcher, and engineer in the areas of quality assurance, production control, and marketing management. His is a Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom and a Professional Engineer in Hong Kong, Australia, and Europe. His current research interests are in the areas of strategic management, quality systems and management, and the use of information systems in industry.

K. S. Chin is an associate professor in the department of manufacturing engineering and engineering management of the City University of Hong Kong. Before joining the university, Chin had more than ten years of experience in the manufacturing industry, in which over eight years was in managerial positions of quality assurance and management, operations management, and product design and development. He is a Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom and a Registered Professional Engineer in Hong Kong. Chin is currently chairman of the Hong Kong Society for Quality. He is also the course leader of the undergraduate course in industrial engineering and engineering management at the City University of Hong Kong. Chin’s current research interests are in the areas of product design and development and quality management systems beyond ISO 9000 for Hong Kong and China.

R. Gill is the director of research and postgraduate studies of the School of Engineering systems and the head of the Lean Enterprise and Mechatronics Centre of Middlesex University in London. Gill has developed an automated dispensing system for nuclear medicine, and is researching techniques for the rapid design of medical preparation systems for laboratory automation. Gill is the principal grant holder for a number of Teaching Company Schemes, and has published more than 50 papers in journals and at international conferences. In 1993, Gill was elected Life Fellow of the International Society for Productivity Enhancement (ISPE).

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