Quality has remained a tradition in all industries for a long time. Quality in business management from a focus on products to an integrated approach which is used today entails total quality management in the company, its processes, and products. The evolution of quality control from a singular focus on products to today’s total quality management approach has had a great influence from international standardization, as well as national and regional legislation (Mangelsdorf, 1999). In the contemporary business environment, quality management has been integrated into the management process. This paper contains recommendations based on views by different quality gurus on how King Fisher Airlines can be revived, and remained viable and competitive.
Before embarking on giving recommendations on how to salvage the company based on concepts from quality gurus, it is important to have a brief review of the problem at hand. It is evident that Kingfisher Airlines Ltd started on a high note. The company gave high hopes to its customers for quality services from its onset. Dr Vijay Mallya was highly involved in the success of the company’s brand, in the initial years. The company grew at an unprecedented pace, and within no time, it had opened flights in novel sectors domestically and abroad. The airline also placed orders for new planes and airbuses while it apparently got support from the government (Agawal, 2011).
Things were even good for the airline as it acquired a low-cost carrier; Air Deccan improved it by raising its standards to that of Kingfisher. While other companies were affected by the global recession of 2008/2009, Kingfisher seemed to do businesses as usual. Nevertheless, the company now has to get its fuel on a cash basis as oil companies stopped giving companies oil on credit. Nevertheless, this did not affect the airline and everything was well until the last months of 2011 when the company started to dwindle. This has begun from a few flight cancellations and the problem escalated to the extent of closing several airports, while the workers went for months unpaid (Agawal, 2011).
Early in 2012, the accounts of the airline were even frozen by the income tax department due to failure of filing tax from its employees. The misfortunes of the airline did not stop at that as the International Air Transport Association also annulled its membership owing to its cancelation of flights without giving their customers or travel agents a prior notice or travel, as well as failure to pay its dues. The hospitality of the company was greatly affected. The downfall of the airline was linked to the lavish lifestyle of its chairman who is believed to own the world’s longest yacht (Agawal, 2011). All these changes of events have led to many customers being frustrated as they wonder what might have happened to an airline that was an envy of other airlines, yet it has now been reduced to India’s smallest airline. There is no doubt that winning the confidence and loyalty of these customers will take some time, but not everything is lost (Agawal, 2011).
One of the first quality gurus whose work will be very relevant in helping Kingfisher Airlines to maintain service quality, especially at this time of crisis is Williams Edwards Deming. Dr. Deming is considered to be the founding father of the principles of total quality management, although, he did not use the exact term in his work. Deming studied electrical engineering and specialized in mathematics and physics. His career as a statistician and consultant to the U.S. War Department made him start lectures and conduct seminars in Japan (Tang, 2008). He advised the Japanese to avoid copying the approach adopted by the American companies, but, rather to consider production as a system, hence, and find constant improvements throughout the system. He also urged them to respond to customers, and to regard vendors as partners. Due to the application of these principles, Japan improved from being a producer of poor products after the World War II, to a country highly regarded for its high quality products. As a way of appreciating Deming’s contribution, the country established the Deming Prize in 1951. The award is the highest business award in Japan and is the second only to a personal citation from the emperor (Tang, 2008).
The principles of total quality management articulated by Deming are in the form of 14 points, but for purposes of applying to the Kingfisher case, only those most relevant and suitable will be selected. One of the points that can help the company to revive and maintain customer loyalty is the first point which advocates the creation of steadiness with the aim to ensure the improvement of products and services. It is true that Kingfisher Airlines began on a high note. It gave high hopes to its customers that they will get unprecedented services from this new entrant into the industry. However, less than a decade down the line, the airline disappointed its customers when it started cancelling flights without even notifying them, or its travel agents. As if this was not enough, the airline failed to pay its employees.
As Deming proposes in his first of the 14 points, there is a need for the companies to declare to all stakeholders about their intention to stay in business (Tang, 2008). Apparently, Kingfisher did not do this. It just began from the top and saw phenomenal growth. Since the company has a second chance, it should learn from its mistakes and start on the right track. It should establish steadiness in its purpose. This requires the company’s top management to have an unwavering commitment to quality and productivity. The company should also commit itself to innovation of new products and services, and investment in research and education, as well as ensuring that it continuously ameliorates the design of products and services.
Another point advanced by Deming that may be helpful in ensuring that Kingfisher Airlines remains viable and competitive is the need for continuously improving each process for planning, production, and service. Deming advises that quality should be factored during the designing of products or services. He adds that there is a need for constant improvement in test methods, as well as the comprehension of the needs of the customer (Tang, 2008). Therefore, Kingfisher should ensure that its products and services are designed with quality as a consideration from the start. This is because rectifying a problem does not lead to any improvement, but instead, restores the system back to its initial status. In this case, the company is now struggling to correct its mistakes, but that does not mean that there will be an improvement in services, if all the mistakes are corrected. It only implies that the company has gone back to operate where it was before the mishap. Therefore, in order to avoid this mistake in the future, the company should ensure that the quality is factored in every step in its system.
Another quality guru whose work can be applied to help Kingfisher Airlines maintaining customer loyalty, as well as remain viable and competitive is Joseph Juran. Just like his colleague engineer Deming, Juran is an authority in quality matters. Indeed, the career lives the two gurus bear significant similarities. One of Juran’s highly acclaimed is his quality spiral. The quality spiral traces connections between quality and different activities in a product life cycle. The cycle begins with the design of the product and entails other activities such as manufacturing, inspection test, marketing, wholesaling/retailing, and use.
Juran advocates for quality improvement in every stage of the product life cycle (Phillips-Donaldson, 2004). As such, Kingfisher Airlines should also ensure that it maintains quality from the very start of the product or service life cycle to the end. In addition, Juran also stresses the importance of market research even before designing a product or service in order to ensure the viability. This will help the company very much in the future in case it decides to introduce a new service or product. Market research can also help the company in determining the level of customer satisfaction with its products and service, hence, paving the way for improvement (Wang, 2012).
Quality gurus such as Juran and Crosby have been known to promote quality leadership teams in companies. For instance, Juran advocated the use of steering committees, which he called quality councils. On the other hand, Crosby proposed the use of quality improvement teams. Steering committees are vested with the responsibility of establishing overall quality policy, as well as providing guidance on the implementation and evolution of quality in the company. Quality improvement teams are, on the other hand, used to offer leadership for quality at lower and middle levels of the firm. Apart from these two leadership teams, there also exists a problem-solving team. This type of quality team works to improve the quality through the identification and provision of solutions to particular quality-related problems that face the organization. These teams are sometimes known as quality circles (Tang, Tollison & Whiteside, 1996).
Quality circles meet briefly once in a week and work identifying a group of problems and singling out one of them to specialize. They then collect data on the causes of the problems and establish the most suitable move of solving them. As evident from the work of quality circles, Kingfisher Airlines can benefit a lot from establishing quality circles if they do not exist, or making them more active if they already exist. This is because they can be very instrumental in forecasting any problem that may affect the airline in the future, hence offer viable solutions to it before causing a mishap like the one facing the company now.
Apart from the use of quality circles, Kingfisher Airlines can also benefit a lot by using poka-yoke devices to help its employees in avoiding errors. A poka-yoke device is a system that helps in preventing a mistake from occurring or makes a mistake obvious at a glance (Hinckley & Barkan, 1995). This mechanism was devised by Shigeo Shingo, who is also credited with creation and formalization of zero quality control, an approach that depends much on poka-yoke. Kingfisher Airlines can implement poka-yoke devices of two categories: prevention and detection. The prevention devices will make it impossible to make a mistake, while the detection devices will signal the user when a mistake is being made so that he or she can quickly correct the problem.
Although it is possible to track the exact costs related to non-quality, the whole process requires a great deal of effort, and constant update to render it current. Aware of this tedious process which may underestimate the value of intangible costs, Taguchi established an alternative approach which emphasizes the potential losses caused by non-quality. He took quality loss to be the function that combines the distribution of produced products and loss as a function of deviating from the target (Albright & Roth, 1994). This function can be used to help Kingfisher avoiding losses caused by services and products that are non-quality by ensuring that focus on quality is done at the design stage, since it is much cheaper and easier at that stage. This is because if the company, for instance, delays flights, then this will lead to customers` frustration and this may adversely affect the airline. However, if flight scheduling is done with customer needs in consideration, quality will be achieved at the design stage, hence, avert possible losses.