The importance of quality in creating competitive advantage
A Portakabin case study

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Page 3: Quality processes

Any form of production activity involves sets of interlinking processes.

Portakabin's factory-based production process combines standardisation with customisation. The modules to be assembled come in standardised sizes and shapes. However, the way they are put together and their interior design depends on clients' individual specifications. For example, modules that are assembled for Sainsbury's to train new checkout staff are different from those designed for an easyJet office.

To ensure that all customers get what they want, Portakabin deploys the Quality Systems approach referred to earlier. A Corporate Quality Team (comprising senior managers) is responsible for ensuring that individual teams understand quality processes.

Communication takes place by means of process charts. These are clear illustrations that set out the processes involved e.g. in creating a new set of school classrooms or laboratories.

The essentials of the Quality System are:

1. Say what you do

By studying the Quality Manual, teams working on a particular process know what the job requires. If in doubt, they can ask team leaders. This process enables everyone involved to understand and state the process and their role within it.

2. Do what you say

Once they understand the process, team members are able to implement it e.g. by constructing a new building for a specific client.

3. Record what you have done

Construction teams record all actions taken, so that all those involved know the current position, what has gone on before and what still needs to be done.

4. Review what you have done

Records are regularly reviewed both to ensure delivery targets can be met and to identify any problem areas.

5. Take remedial action where necessary

If problems or potential problem areas are identified, steps are taken to eliminate or reduce these.

6. Then start the process again

This procedure is followed for each stage in each process to ensure that everyone benefits from solutions to problems, which have already been devised.

These essential steps can be illustrated in the form of a hierarchy of quality processes:

An essential part of improving quality is to identify problems as and when they occur. These can then be addressed and resolved immediately. This is what Portakabin mean by 'zero tolerance'. To address any issues, Portakabin deploys a 'commando team' as part of its Quality Team. This team scrutinises products and processes from the customer's viewpoint. On one occasion the team found blistering on the walls of a particular building, a quick 'alert' to the manufacturing team led to the fault being eliminated before it became a problem for the customer. Teams complete quality reports with the purpose of:

  • fixing the immediate problem
  • identifying its cause
  • making changes to prevent the problem reoccurring.

Portakabin | The importance of quality in creating competitive advantage