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January 2001
Volume 8 • Number 1

Contents

Does ISO 9000 Give a Quality Emphasis Advantage? A Comparison of Large Service and Manufacturing Organizations

This research examines the relative importance attached, by the chief executives of 93 service and 112 manufacturing organizations, to internal and external dimensions of quality. It analyzes the relationship of these quality dimensions to the importance placed on the possession of Quality Certification (QCert value).

The analysis finds evidence that the emphasis on quality increases in service firms with higher QCert value scores, so as to provide a greater balance between internal and external dimensions of quality. In contrast, increased emphasis is only found on internal quality in manufacturing firms. This suggests that accreditation to an ISO 9000 standard has a more profound effect on service firms than on manufacturers.

Thus, it can be concluded that ISO 9000 quality management systems can give a significant quality emphasis differential to service firms. In contrast, there is little gain in differential in manufacturing. The lack of any marked quality differential in manufacturing firms suggests that any competitive advantages gained will be much weaker than for service firms.

Key words: quality certification, quality dimensions

by Gavin Dick, Staffordshire University Business School, Kevin Gallimore, Manchester Metropolitan University, Jane C. Brown, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust

INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW

Since 1987, when the International Organization for Standardization first published the ISO 9000 series of quality standards, the worldwide take-up of quality certification to the ISO 9000 standard (QCert) has increased rapidly. At the end of 1998, more than 270,000 firms, in over 143 countries, were certified to the standard, an increase of 48,000 on the previous year (ISO 1999). In the third quarter of 1999 in North America (Canada, Mexico, and the United States), over 40,000 firms were registered as certified to an ISO 9000 standard. This North American total represents a real growth of 32 percent from the total a year earlier and indicates the rapidly growing number of companies in the region that perceived value in adopting ISO 9000 quality management systems. The progressive increase in applications from manufacturing firms in the United States for approval to standards such as ISO 9000 suggests that QCert is viewed as important to competitive position by manufacturing organizations.

Recently, in Europe, the popularity of QCert has spread into service industries. No doubt, the increasing globalization of the service sector will see this trend spread to North America where only 13 percent of registered firms are from the service sector (Anderson 2000).

Implied in the pursuit of quality certification is the assumption that quality certification is associated with improved quality. However, although it is clear, from the research reviewed on business performance factors that quality does have a consistent positive relationship with better performance, the research reviewed on the link between quality certification and business performance suggests that no link is proven. Combining these findings leads to the inference that quality certification is not consistently associated with a greater emphasis on quality. Given the growth in ISO 9000 applications, it is clearly important to explore the relationship between quality certification and quality emphasis.

The research data analyzed in this article were obtained by questionnaire survey of 500 of the United Kingdom’s largest service and manufacturing companies. The survey examines the relative importance attached by chief executives to internal and external dimensions of quality. The relationship between these quality dimensions and the importance placed on the possession of QCert is analyzed.

The survey findings indicate that ISO 9000 quality management systems can give a significant quality emphasis differential to service firms. In contrast, there is less to be gained in manufacturing. The lack of such a marked quality differential in manufacturing firms suggests that any competitive advantages gained will be much weaker than for service firms.