The quality management systems of ISO 9000 registered firms in a range of manufacturing sectors in Saudi Arabia
The objective of this study is to investigate the quality management systems of ISO 9000 registered firms in the manufacturing sectors in Saudi Arabia. For this purpose, different aspects were studied; a study of the characteristics of firms; an investigation into their quality systems, which includes some ISO clauses and other elements; and a comprehensive study of the implementation of ISO 9000. To achieve these objectives, 140 questionnaires were distributed to all possible known firms holding an ISO certificate. 97 were returned, of which 83 were considered usable. In addition, 10 postal questionnaires were sent to assessors in Saudi Arabia, 3 were returned; and interviews were conducted with three SASO officials. The chemical and petrochemical sectors had the largest number of ISO registered firms, followed by the metal sector, and ISO registration was adopted by all sizes of firms. Moreover, the largest number of firms, were joint ventures, and approximately 90% of all the firms were involved in exports, the majority comprising the chemical and petrochemical ones. Most of the employees in quality-related positions were expatriates, while the 12 Sabic firms employed a higher percentage of Saudi nationals than other firms did. Two thirds of the firms were registered to ISO 9002 and one third to ISO 9001, while no firms were registered to ISO 9003 or to ISO 14001. The study also revealed that a third of the firms were implementing TQM, and the remaining ones were not. Large firms and Sabic's companies were more likely to implement TQM than others. The Western Region housed the largest number of firms, followed by the Eastern then the Middle Region, while the city of Jeddah came first, followed by Riyadh and then Jubail. The study concludes that ISO registered firms performed well in terms of the quality system elements, and in their compliance to ISO clauses. Among these, TQM firms generally performed better than Non-TQM ones in executing quality system elements and were significantly better in some aspects such as training, relations with suppliers, qualitative tools, SPC, quality culture and measuring performance. However, many ISO firms tended not to implement advanced and other techniques such as QFD; benchmarking; cross-functional teams; a vendor rating system; failure mode and effect analysis; and quality circles. Nor did they use sophisticated techniques to measure customer satisfaction and performance. The study also showed that ISO firms substantially fostered quality culture. The commitment of top managers to ISO was significantly higher than their commitment to quality in general. By applying factor analysis, it became evident that the 19 motives to ISO registration were grouped into 5 factors: increase market share; improvement of functions; international marketing; cost reductions; and joint venture influence. It was also found that there was a positive correlation between the international marketing motives for ISO and the extent of involvement in export. A large number of firms, small and large alike, appeared not to take sufficient preparation measures before implementing ISO. Approximately 53 % of firms relied on external consultants, and some of them used their registration agencies for this purpose, which constituted a conflict of interest and a violation of ISO 62. The most important factors in helping in the implementation were top management commitment; a well-structured system of procedures; and the contribution of the internal auditors. The private training agencies ranked first in training for ISO, followed by the chambers of commerce then the registration agencies, while SASO ranked fourth. The participation of the registration agencies in training their clients may question the conflict of interests matter and the integrity of the registration process. Firms, when choosing their registration agencies, considered such criteria as their reputation and image, their knowledge about their industry, and their experience in Saudi Arabia. It was also found that small firms tended to use subjective factors more than did large firms when choosing the agencies. Before contracting agencies, many firms did not adequately assess their operations and work. The study showed the dominant role of the British agencies in the ISO scene providing more than 80% of registration and the known private training. For those who did not choose SASO, this was because the certificate of the foreign agency was more prestigious, valid, and credible. About 88% of the firms achieved registration in the first audit, and more than half of all firms achieved it in less than a year; the smaller the firm, the faster. It was found that the British agencies and SASO conducted two surveillance visits a year, while the Germans and the Americans did so once a year. The most significant problems with agencies were their high fees, the confusion of choosing the appropriate agency and the complication of the assessment procedures. However, the level of satisfaction with these agencies was high. In arranging the quality manual, about 85% of firms did so according to ISO clause sequencing, and more than half of all firms relied on consultants to write the manual. The majority of firms showed satisfaction with the manual, although some expressed annoyance with certain shortcomings, such as: the involvement of a large administrative burden; being too theoretical, and leading to a loss of flexibility. However, the severity of those problems was not great. Internal costs and consultancy fees incurred about 90% of all expenses, but could be avoided if firms used their own resources. Firms were generally convinced that ISO benefits were worth the costs. By using factor analysis, the 20 benefits of ISO were reduced to 5 factors: internal benefits; marketing benefits; efficiency benefits; inspection benefits; and quality benefits. About two thirds of firms used the ISO logo as a promotional tool in their advertisements and publications. The majority of firms were satisfied with ISO, the larger the firm the more likely it was likely to be uncomplaining. However, they did not think that ISO guarantees good quality products, nor that ISO alone could establish a sufficient quality system, but both ISO and TQM together may do so. Moreover, many respondents and assessors felt the need for the amendment of ISO clauses. When evaluating the role of SASO in ISO implementation, it was found that the organisation played a minimal role in terms of registration, publications, and training for ISO, and had not been accredited to ISO 62. The chambers of commerce provided training for ISO more than did SASO, and were led by the chambers in the Eastern Region. The Saudi government was found not to play an active role in ISO implementation.