Quality Assurance: Company's Fundamental Value


Recently, I conducted a research into automobile fuel additives in Shenyang and Shanghai for clients, interviewing quite a few car owners, independent car repair shop owners, managers from 4S stores as well as gasoline station workers. I strongly feel after the project that gasoline and fuel additives are just the same as other types of products, in the sense that their quality varies and is difficult to detect. Once customers find out that they have consumed inferior gasoline, severe damages to their cars have already been made, such as instability of engine, loss of power, etc. Therefore, under the above circumstance, insiders remind car owners to beware and choose big-brand gasoline stations (e.g. CNPC, SINOPEC) when refueling their vehicles. When purchasing additives, they are also advised to go for big brands, especially foreign brands. At the same time, car owners raise vigilance to avoid fraud. Such is the environment we are living in, worrying about inferior products and illegal businessmen who produce off-grade products by any means possible in pursuit of personal interests. It is disturbingly confusing whether the moral standards of some enterprises and people have died.


The Thought-provoking Volkswagen Scandal

When conducting this fuel additives project, I had been hearing research respondents speak highly of the quality of German cars and consider German companies to be rigorous and well-managed with stringent quality control. Unexpectedly, the other day, there were massive reports on media about Volkswagen’s cheating on its automobiles’ exhaust gas test results. Under the pressure, Volkswagen was considering calling back 11,000,000 cars worldwide within the following weeks, which would definitely bruise Volkswagen’s performance this year.


Volkswagen has long been regarded as the representative of German’s outstanding craftsmanship; dramatically the US government revealed Volkswagens’ cheating scandal on September 18th. According to the regulators of US Federal and California State, diesel cars from companies like Volkswagens, Audi escape Clean Air Standards by using softwares and other methods. The software makes exhaust gas of vehicles look cleaner than it actually does. Furthermore, the German automobile parts giant Bosch, the company providing the cheating software, has officially warned the illegality of the software to the public in 2007. According to a German newspaper, Volkswagens’ technician has made it clear that cheating in test results is against law but the problem didn’t get fixed. 


Related automobile companies’ stocks in European stock markets plunged thanks to the scandal, and sentiments in American SPIF market has also been adversely affected, followed by a sharp decrease in platinum price. Reuters quoted an analyst’s warning that this crisis might evolve into the most fatal threat to the German economy.


Review of Enterprises’ Ethics

Volkswagen’s scandal provoked me to ponder on enterprises’ ethics as well as their management processes and quality control practices. Although regulators impose considerable number of policies and enterprises themselves stringent standards, enforcement is the key. All of the employees should have clear consciousness and moral sense. When a cheating activity has been discovered by employee, prompt measures must be taken to address it; otherwise, the system is vulnerable to frauds without implementation or moral standards, and consumers are exposed to potential danger.


Moral Standard Matters More in Healthcare Industry

Recently, an international healthcare institute invited our team to conduct a consumer research into a healthcare product. Prior to commencement, our team was required to receive a training, familiarizing us with the company’s vision, mission as well as how to handle emergencies like patient’s side effects as the result of using the product in the course of the project. I sincerely respect the company’s rigorous attitude after the training and hope that those missions and visions are not just words, but are deeply rooted in every employee’s mind.


Confidence from Third-party Certification

Actually, given that the quality of products and services varies in nearly every industry and that accurate judgment is difficult to make about a company’s moral standard, we tend to believe in well-known brands and large corporations (Although sometimes untrustworthy either), or rely on some third-party certification institutes, in the hope that the certification could bring more confidence.


In the market research industry, there are also situations where I cannot tell the quality of a research company. Recently, one of my research projects was to be conducted in four Southeast Asian countries as well as mainland China. Despite our long-term partners in Asia, it remains a major concern that in some remote countries like Turkey, our local partners might fail to satisfy clients’ demands, lowering our projects’ overall quality. Therefore, when looking for local partners, I will check whether the company holds membership of any professional association or has passed any third-party certification, in addition to searching for its size, history, clients and cases on the internet. Apparently, third-party certification contributes to my confidence.


How do Companies Pass Third-party Certification?

From the beginning of this year, our company has started the preparation for a third-party certification examination. The first certification that came to our mind was ISO9001 quality management system, which is the most common certification acquired by other market research companies. ISO9001 is to certify an organization’s capability to provide products that satisfy clients’ demands and meet regulatory requirements, in an attempt to boost clients’ satisfaction level, to strengthen the reputation of products, to reduce time-wasting testing, and to protect different parties’ benefits including producers, retailers, users and consumers. This certification is fair and scientific, free from the influence of monetary interests.

During this year’s March to July, our company appointed a management representative and an internal auditor, together with two ISO consultancy firms, in order to pass the certification examination. In the past six months, I have been repeatedly emphasizing the importance of this certification. Not only it is a selling point but also a golden opportunity for the whole company to perfect our operational procedures and execute strictly according to them. With the spirit to set clear goals and make continual improvements, we endeavor to lay a solid foundation for future development.


At the end of September, an external auditor from an ISO certification company arrived in Shanghai to meet with me and my other colleagues from different departments. After several days’ communication, the auditor agreed to recommend our company to acquire the certificate, which really cheered us up. I believe that the whole experience is a memorable learning journey for each of us and we will together hold on to the spirit which emphasizes quality, encourages innovation and the customer focus attitude. Of course, we will continue cultivating our moral standard, the core of the company’s culture and competitiveness.