O Canada (and China and ...)

About the time this issue goes to press, many ASQ members, customers and staff (including yours truly) will be boarding planes to Toronto for the 58th Annual Quality Congress. A task force chooses the site for each congress years in advance, so this year’s location is a coincidence in light of recent news: ASQ’s board of directors approved the renaming of region 4 as ASQ Canada. Mere semantics? No, the change stems from Canadian members’ requests to have a more appropriate, national identity.

Such requests are not unique. ASQ has more than 5,000 members—nearly 5% of the current total—in dozens of countries outside North America, all part of one international chapter. The board’s decision to allow the formation of member units or subgroups of that chapter may open the door for members in other countries, such as Costa Rica, to follow ASQ Canada’s lead.

Membership is not the only way ASQ operates on a global scale. Since 2000, it has formed formal business relationships with 11 not-for-profit quality organizations, called WorldPartners, around the globe.

In countries that may not have private quality groups, ASQ is reaching out to governments. Another recent board decision joins the Society with the China Certification and Inspection Group, a governmental body, to establish ASQ China, a subsidiary company. Its initial focus will be to deliver training and exams for ASQ’s quality engineer (CQE) and hazard analysis and critical control point auditor certifications, all conducted in Mandarin Chinese.

This is not ASQ’s first foray into China. The CQE exam and courses have been available in Mandarin since 2002; they’ve also been translated into Japanese, Korean and Spanish. In addition, QP articles and ASQ Quality Press books have been translated into at least 15 languages besides English, and the books are distributed in 30 countries outside North America.

Some people would say ASQ has been slow to reach even this level of international activity. The point is we’re here now, and these initiatives reflect the fact that ASQ—and quality—are part of the global economy and community, along with many other organizations, fields and industries.

The negativity around U.S. businesses and jobs moving overseas is understandable, especially for people whose livelihoods have been affected. But remember, the movement goes both ways. Companies from other countries are opening or buying businesses in the United States, creating or preserving jobs. More low priced goods of increasingly high quality are becoming available to U.S. consumers, which economists say helps fuel spending. And though the trade deficit is still high, many U.S. companies are finding ready customers for their exports in rapidly developing countries such as China.

As business travels around the world, so does quality. That can only be a good thing for all concerned.

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