Farrow, John H. (1990, ASQC) Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee, WI
The years ahead contain many challenges for American industry. Foremost among these are the challenges pertaining to competition in the international marketplace. At this point, the United States can no longer behave as an isolated economy. Markets and suppliers may be located in any part of the world, resulting in a wide variety of new inputs to the overall business process. Because of these new inputs, the current concepts of total quality control must be expanded into a global concept. It is necessary to maintain traditional quality at a high level in order to compete in today's markets; however, this is not enough. The quality function must be expanded throughout the organization and beyond. Quality systems must be in place and functioning in areas which are not usually considered in this regard.
In the international marketplace there are many new links in the chain which must be examined to ensure that they are strong enough to meet the quality test. For example, differences in language may create problems in accurately determining customer requirements or in conveying needs to suppliers. Differences in standards and dimensioning practices can create the potential for misunderstanding unless safeguards are in place. Cultural differences also contribute to potential misunderstandings. Other factors such as variations in business methods and fluctuations in currency value affect the overall product cycle.
Different government regulations, tariff restrictions, and quotas require that companies within the international marketplace have systems in place to prevent the "small" errors which can cause large dollar losses. Difference in skill levels of operators or service providers as well as expectations will have a definite impact on business relations. Even such diverse items as climate changes, distances and time differential complicate the business process and put greater emphasis on doing right the first time. All of these pressures necessitate viable functioning quality systems above and beyond those required for single country operations. One important tool in forging and maintaining these systems is the Quality Audit.
Audits will become more necessary in pinpointing weaknesses and potential problems so that they may be avoided or solved in advance. Audits can also pinpoint strengths which can be exploited to improve market position. This paper will discuss some of the additional challenges for global quality and their audit implications.
Although the basic audit fundamentals remain the same, audits on a global scale bring many new implications to complicate the process. Many factors are similar to those affecting the overall corporate picture, but some will have specific ramifications with regard to audit conduct and personnel requirements. One example of audit complications would be audit scheduling. Because of global locations, it will be more difficult and time consuming to conduct audits. This may result in reduced frequency or inincreased personnel requirements or both. Because of the multiplicity of requirements resulting from dealing across national boundaries, the education and training requirements of auditors will be higher than at present.
These and a wide number of other factors will be explored in this paper.