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Presenting at the conference were:
[L-R] Bob Kennedy, Jim O'Toole, George Wilson & Maurice Buckley

Conference Review

The conference was the first of its type in Ireland for decades and sought to recognise the contribution of quality management professionals to the success of our industries in all sectors.  Conference speakers and delegates represented: pharmaceutical and medical devices, the automotive sector as well as food, health and education.
Large multinationals and indigenous SMEs were catered for.

Opening the conference Dr. Bob Kennedy of IT, Sligo reminded everyone that while the contribution of quality management professionals in industry was recognised there was growing disquiet about it absence during the financial meltdown, the construction of sub-standard housing and the scandals in public office.  More and more he said students are challenging him to provide answers to these hard questions and that he hoped this conference might provide them.  The challenge facing the quality profession now is “How can quality prevent these travesties occurring again?”

Throughout the day nine speakers explained how their organisations promoted and supported quality in their own fields or sectors.

George Wilson from the Centre for Competitiveness in Northern Ireland and Irene Wilson CEO of Excellence Ireland Quality Association explained how well practised quality management significantly adds to the bottom line profits of all enterprises but that this takes time and requires a continual improvement approach.  “There are no quick fixes; success requires leadership, communication and a culture change in most organisation”.

Jim O’Toole, QA manager for Bord Bia
, raised everyone’s spirits with the success story that is Irish Food.  
“We have unparalleled access to all the major markets in Europe”
he said.  “The buyer and consumer like what we produce and its green, safe, quality image”.  These are not gimmicks but the result of a relentless campaign of standards and auditing that run from the farm through processing to point of sale.

Dr. Tom Kelly of Enterprise Ireland and Mr Niall Plunkett Quality manager of Abbott Diagnostics provided the main frontline industry insights.  According to both product-quality is now taken as a given by the customer and must be the same in the manufacturing facility.  The demands on the quality professional are to continually improve the efficiency and effectiveness of every process.  Facilitating and leading Lean initiatives that remove waste in all stages of the supply chain.  Compliance management is a fact of life for industries in the Lifesciences sector.  While the general thrust of the requirements remain pretty constant their interpretation and subsequent demands on the supplier are changing with technology and deeper awareness of risk.  The quality professional must keep abreast of these changes as quality requires a commitment to lifelong learning.

While Dr. Deirdre Mulholland, HIQA’s Head of Standards and Methodology, recognises the risk associated with any medical procedure she asserted that patient safety should never be in jeopardy.  She explained how HIQA is developing standards and procedures in a language that is easily understood and used by all practitioners from primary to tertiary care.  “Information is key” she asserted if carers and patients are to share a common understanding of diagnosis, treatment and realistic expectations.

The role standards have played in our industrial success was traced by Maurice Buckley CEO of the National Standards Authority of Ireland [NSAI].  He explained how the NSAI played a pivotal role in the development of the now ubiquitous and virtually obligatory ISO 9000 series of Quality Management Systems.  This role he said had gone unrecognised in Ireland’s industrial success and cautioned IT,Sligo that it needs to promote its own role as the key provider of quality management courses better.  Mr. Buckley encouraged the greater involvement of people in all sectors in the development of worthwhile standards for their products, services or sectors.  These he said can be developed and approved very quickly using the NSAI’s SWIFT approach.  Standards are essential for trade and the NSAI is able and ready to play its part in their development and interpretation.

Finally, it was time to turn to the possibilities that quality holds for us and the impediments in its way. 
Mark Fielding CEO of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association [ISME]
reminded the audience that while the contribution of large multinationals isn’t in doubt.  The contribution of the sector he represents in terms of trade and local employment is on a par and indeed sometimes exceeds multinationals. But he cautioned the quality professionals that they were doing a very poor job of explaining their worth to the hard pressed SME owner manager.  “Your language is too esoteric he warned and there is a danger that you’ll kill us with your fascination with graphs “Death by a thousand graphs” is how he summed it up a common misperception of quality.

Rody Ryan Director of Goldcert Management Systems brought the conference back full circle by reminding everyone that traditional quality approaches in industry is now the norm.  The challenge facing us as individuals, communities and indeed as a trading nation is to embrace quality as a culture that permeates all aspects of Irish society.  “Just as Ireland is associated throughout the world today with Riverdance there is no reason why the very mention of Ireland or being Irish should not equally evoke an association with quality” he said.  This is our greatest challenge and one we cannot shrink from.  To begin this great undertaking Mr Ryan launched a new initiative called “Quality Ireland” whose vision is “A better Ireland” and will promote and foster a culture of quality in Ireland to make life better for individuals, communities, organisations and society in general.  He encourages those in attendance to spread the word and join the LinkedIn group [see below].

Quality Ireland was immediately endorsed by Mr. Maurice Buckley of the NSAI who felt that its objective was very close to emerging government aspirations.  There was general enthusiasm for such a transformational initiative.  All recognised that the pathway ahead would be one-step-at-a-time and fraught with difficulty and uncertainty but that it was well worth the effort.

The conference closed with a sense of satisfaction that the importance of quality as a profession had been recognised and an awareness that it must play a greater role in all aspects of society to make sure that we all get the quality we are entitled to in a 21st century Quality Ireland.

Take your opportunity to get involved at: Quality Ireland LinkedIn Group

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