Total quality management
Total quality management is a management technique which entails a continuous effort by the management as well as employees of a particular organization to ensure customer satisfaction, acquire their loyalty for future business opportunities, as well as attract other prospective clients.
This type of management approach has been in use in other industries for quite some time.
The shipping industry of today is very competitive. Due to reduced freight rates and increase in operational costs, profits have been steadily decreasing for ship owners. They have realised that in order to sustain their business they need to provide customers with a kind of service which will be rewarding to both, the ship-owners as well as the client. If the customer is happy he will be loyal to the service provider.
Total quality management is a customer focused management technique, which ensures that every single employee is working towards the improvement of work culture, processes, services and systems, ultimately resulting in the customer getting what he wants and maybe even more, in the required time frame, and the required quality.
For shipping this would mean good turnaround times, less cargo claims due to damage, zero lost time incidents etc.
The principles of total quality management
- Customer focus: The quality of service provided or the product is ultimately decided by the customer. Total quality management requires that whatever processes, systems etc are designed, they have to be designed keeping the customer in mind.
- Employee involvement: Not only the management but also the employees at the lowest level are involved in continuously improving the process for a better customer experience. In order to accomplish these employees will have to be empowered with right to make suggestions. A good and friendly work environment has to be provided as well as employee welfare.
- Process centred: Total quality management systems are process centred. In this case a process means a series of steps which takes inputs from suppliers and then transforms then into outputs or products/services to clients. In a well-organized system the steps would be defined and the outcome continuously monitored in order to maintain quality.
- Integration of systems: A large organization consists of many teams involved in different processes leading to the final product. Total quality management system focuses on the interaction between these teams. Everyone must understand the vision, mission, quality guidelines and policies, objectives as well as legal obligations.
- Strategic and systematic approach: As with any management principle total quality management focuses on having a systematic approach or plan to achieving an organization vision, mission or goal, with quality being the core component.
- Continuous improvement: Total quality management fundamental requirement is continuous improvement. Continuous improvement causes an organization to be more analytical and creative in finding ways to be more competitive, improve quality and meet customer satisfaction.
- Data acquisition and monitoring: TQM requires an organization to continuously collect and analyse data in order to improve itself. This will also improve decision making accuracy as well as allow prediction based on past history.
- Communication: A good and effective system of communications play an important role in motivating employees as well as keeping overall morale high. This is especially important when there is an organizational change.
How such management techniques can be used in the shipping/maritime industry
With regards to a ship, and our role as a chief engineer, our clients would be the company, ship owner and, charterer.
In regards to total quality management the important factors regarding customer satisfaction would be
- Zero cargo claims
- Zero lost time incidents due to failure of machinery.
- Zero detentions/deficiencies during vetting/psc inspections.
- Keeping operating cost down.
- No major NC or any deficiencies related to ISM.
- No losses or fines due to MARPOL violations.
- Good turnaround time.
Zero cargo claims:
Cargo claims can cause a huge loss for the charterer as well as a ship-owner. As a chief engineer it is important to maintain all equipment running and standby to be at optimum operating conditions at all times to ensure smooth loading, discharge and transit. PMS to be followed and also should be reviewed periodically and feedback to be given to company if it is felt that jobs added are inadequate for proper maintenance. All alarms, trips sensors should be tested ideally as per PMS and before every operation. Cargo heating coils to be tested for leaks. Cargo handling cranes to be tested and properly maintained. Cargo pumping systems to be run at optimum efficiency, same with cargo compression systems in gas carriers. All personnel responsible for maintenance of cargo equipment should be well trained and familiarised with the operation and maintenance. Critical spare parts to be identified and inventory to be kept up to date.
Zero lost time incidents due to failure of machinery:
Many ships especially containers are on a tight schedule and have to load and discharge within a stipulated time. Delay in shipping can lead to huge losses and possibly loss of charter. For this reason all machinery related to propulsion should be in optimum running condition. Regular testing of alarms and trips, as well as periodic maintenance, with special attention being given to critical as well as components subject to rapid wear and tear, should be done. All standby equipment to be tested and put into operation at regular intervals. Adequate spare parts to be available on board. Responsible engineers should be trained/familiar with the maintenance procedures of their respective machinery.
Zero deficiencies in Vetting/PSC inspections:
The tanker trade is heavily dependent on successful vetting inspections i.e zero observations during inspections by oil majors. Charterers prefer to give their cargo to a ship which has a good record for vetting inspection, and with newer ships the rules are even more stringent. Also many terminals require ships to have good inspection record before they will allow the ship to enter their facility. Same goes for PSC inspection, detention or a large number of deficiencies can be very harmful to the reputation of the ship-owner/manager. Also the cost of rectifying these deficiencies can be quite high, not excluding time lost and off-hire costs. Keeping all of this in mind it is absolutely necessary as a chief engineer to motivate the entire engine room staff to maintain high standards of housekeeping and overall performance of the ship. Just like in TQM all the employees involved should have same vision and goal.
Keeping operational cost down:
As with any industry profit increases when the operating cost reduces. Same goes for a ship. Running the ship at optimum rpm for better fuel efficiency as well as monitoring of engine performance and making subsequent changes can lead to reduction in fuel costs. Ensuring that an updated inventory is available on board for spare parts will reduce requisitions, thus reducing unnecessary expenditure of spare parts. While o/hauling checks to be made if the components can be reused before replacement is another way to keep costs down. Inventory and record of consumption of lube oils help in monitoring of lube oil consumption. Keeping inventory of consumables like chemicals and stores reduces unnecessary orders, also it allows the ship to order these things well in advance so company can plan to arrange for them in convenient port, so as to reduce shipping and transportation costs. Proper work planning and distribution of work can reduce overtime of crew.
A major NC during ISM inspection will prevent the ship from sailing, leading to off-hire as well as costs related to rectifying the deficiency, and damages the reputation of ship-owner/manager. Ideally everyone should be familiar with the ISM code, however all engine staff should at least be made familiar with the salient features of the ISM policy of the company. All checklist, procedures to be followed and documented as per the requirements of the ISM code. All permits and risk assesments to be completed before the job is carried out. It is the responsibility of the chief engineer to check and enforce these rules, to prevent any remarks during ISM audit.
No losses/fines due to MARPOL violations:
It is a known fact that all states are very strict with respect to complying with the requirements of MARPOL. Companies spend thousands of dollars in order to train ship staff about the regulations of MARPOL and how to comply with them. A detention due to MARPOL violation can be very detrimental to the reputation of a company. Also the fines/costs imposed due to a MARPOL violation can run into millions of dollars. It is also important to comply with MARPOL regulations to prevent imprisonment and personal fines. Hence it is the duty of the chief engineer to make sure that all engine staff are completely aware of the MARPOL regulations relating to the ship they are serving on and are also complying with them. All MARPOL related equipment to be in good working condition and well maintained, along with adequate inventory of spare parts. Proper documentation and logging down procedure to be followed. MARPOL equipment should be used and not just kept as standby only to be shown during inspections. All engineer officers to be trained in using MARPOL equipment, instead of delegating this duty to just one person.
Good turnaround time:
A ship which can load/discharge quickly, saves a lot of money in terms of port expenses as well as allows the charterer to plan more voyages. Maintaining the mooring winches and windlass in good condition will help in quicker mooring and unmooring operations thus helping in good turnaround. If the pilot feels that the manoeuvring ability of the ship is compromised, he will refuse to take the ship into port. This can lead to off-hire and high layup berth expenses. Therefore, it is necessary to keep main engine well maintained. If any maintenance has been carried out on main engine in port. Then checks should be carried out well in advance before departure pilot stations. Cargo plants to be ready well before operations can be commenced. Master should be informed about any special conditions/requirements or problems in main engine well before pilotage to avoid any surprises.
The above goals can be achieved only through teamwork. It is the duty of the chief engineer to foster a good working environment in the engine room. An environment which encourages suggestions and feedback irrespective of rank. Shortfalls to be identified and appropriate training to be provided. The chief engineer and master should ensure good relationship between both the departments.
This will improve the overall planning process and also ensure smooth operations, ultimately leading to customer satisfaction.