Total quality management (TQM) is the organization-wide concept aimed to enhance the quality of services provided to the end customers through capitalization on employee training and continuous improvement. It encompasses an integrated set of practices that promote long-term thinking, process design, employee engagement, and competitive benchmarking (Sweis et al., 2019). Proactivity in deploying TQM practices is an important part of business strategies pursued by airline companies as customer-centric organizations. Specifically, it is critical for the flag carriers such as Emirates, the biggest airline company in the UAE and the Middle East, the largest Airbus A380 operator, and one of the top largest companies worldwide (Emirates, 2021). Hence, it will be further discussed how Emirates develops its quality standards through operations analysis, use of technologies in product and process design, and people engagement.
Characteristics and Performance of Operations
To understand approaches towards operations management practices undertaken by a particular organization, it is important to distinguish between characteristics applied to their key processes and evaluate performance based on specific indicators. For instance, in service-focused organizations, operations are primarily task-oriented and require following specific process guidelines until accomplished.
Meanwhile, manufacturing companies tend to use a more centralized approach, where product characteristics may vary depending on the product line and requirements; hence, requiring customizing operations from inception to delivery. However, the one aspect in common is receiving inputs and transforming those into outputs, while depending on the business model, it is executed in different ways. These alternatives are incorporated under the four v’s concept, which includes dimensions of volume, variety, variation, and visibility.
There are specific industry examples that could be differentiated by four v’s. For instance, fast food companies such as KFC or McDonald’s rely on high volumes of low-cost food produced in a short period of time, which requires a high level of work systematization to maintain the reputability of tasks. Considerably, organizations that use volume as a guiding principle for inputs and outputs control need to establish standards and procedures for each job to lower production costs (Alshubaily, 2017).
The variety dimension is natural for organizations that basically provide a single service within an industry but also have to consider the aspects of the flexibility of doing it. Variety might refer to the car rental business, where the company allows renting a car as a single service, while it is the customer’s decision on where, how, and how long to travel. The variation dimension is more conceptual and reflects on the differences in demand and degree of products or services provided and is often represented in the number of costs and volume. Finally, the visibility dimension refers to the ability of a customer to observe experience or track the progress of the operational process.
Applying the four v’s concept to the Emirates Airline, the following observations could be made. Being a service-oriented company that currently has five types of cabin services and one of the highest rates of scheduled revenues from the passenger kilometers completed, it is dependent on the high volumes. Similarly, the company has a high level of variety, since despite offering flight services, it covers many destinations, provides an opportunity to choose classes, and provides catering services and onboard entertainment.
Nevertheless, the company has a low level of variation since it does not operate in any segments other than aviation despite the large scope of activities included. Alternatively, the visibility is high since customers can track the booking status, feel the flight experience, and communicate with personnel directly during the flight. Hence, customer price for such services will be generally low, while it could become higher through experience customization.
In its turn, the performance of operations is measured through the five objectives. The first is quality, which is a consistent indicator of whether the process goes smoothly and is observed both by customers and employees. It is a fundamental principle of performance analysis and has a significant influence on customer satisfaction, which means that quality indicators should be used for potential improvements and cost reduction if process deficiencies are identified.
The second objective is speed, which denotes the turnaround time of ordering a product or service and receiving it. Speed is also associated with timely delivery, which is required to improve customer satisfaction; however, high speed should never compromise the quality. The third objective is dependability, which is a measure of organizational reliability and demonstrates whether customers will remain loyal or even recommend a product or service to others.
Another important objective is flexibility, which explains the organizational ability to change or adjust its operations to meet customer requirements. Some reasons behind this include competitive activities that provide better services at lower prices, changes in demand or behavioral patterns in the consumer market, issues with suppliers, and external shocks (Alshubaily, 2017). Finally, the last factor is cost, which is equally important to the business that does and does not compete on prices directly.
The application of performance objectives suggests that quality of operations is the focal point for Emirates Airlines. Moreover, it should be supported through the high speed of providing timely services and resolving conflicts and high dependability to ensure that the customer base remains stable. Further, it requires high flexibility to respond to competitor activity, as well as high-cost factors required to maintain internal operations at an optimal level. In practice, it is realized through the Emirates business model, a framework that directly relates to TQM and is similar to the one used by low-cost carriers. Its main components are a lean workforce and a flat organizational structure, which allows for keeping overhead costs low (Emirates, 2021). Furthermore, it is realized through the use all-widebody fleet, which further helps to decrease costs per unit.
ISO 9001 Standardization
As a part of TQM, companies are encouraged to pass ISO 9001 certification, a quality management standard that helps to develop a process that improves productivity at lower costs, increases efficiency, and ensures workforce sustainability. Emirates Airlines approached the certification process through the introduction of specific requirements, production frameworks, and overarching policy. First, the company developed customized surveys which were populated among key customers to gain a deeper understanding of present issues. Survey results led to the formulation of specific objectives that were used as a basis for systematic reviews of production capacities in line with system planning. It has further helped to distribute roles and responsibilities against evaluated capabilities and experiences, as well as to develop plans for the certification.
In the processing part of the ISO 9001 assessment, Emirates Airlines introduced a review and management system of investment resources. As a part of this strategic decision, the analysis of employee skills and competencies followed by the gap identification was conducted. Further, the company introduced a set of employee training techniques and structures and implemented a model of enhanced value addition to improve the quality of delivered services. Furthermore, during the planning stage, the company reviewed the approach to managing infrastructural resources. It resulted in the acquisition of modern aircraft, enhancement in customer care effectiveness, and revamping of corporate strategy for public relations management.
In the monitoring part, several innovative actions were taken as well. To assess customer satisfaction, the company developed questionnaires randomly distributed among the customers and introduced complaint recording systems. On both employee and customer sides, safety analysis and improvement suggestion systems were deployed to ensure that complaints and recommendations are forwarded directly to the service improvement department. Additionally, the monitoring and evaluation systems were introduced to report whether the aforementioned efforts reached customers successfully and brought any improvement to company operations and reputation. Consequently, the company managed to receive an ISO 9001 certification in 2004 following the successful recommendation of an independent ISO 9001 consultant, further successfully passing consecutive assessments.
The acquisition of discussed industry standards helped Emirates Airlines in several ways. First, the optimized cost structure allowed the company to purchase new airbuses, including A380, and, consequently, open new travel destinations. Second, the robust employee training and retention systems reflected their loyalty and contribution to the job, which led to a rapid increase in annual passengers inflow of 14% (Hung-Chung et al., 2020). Finally, the company managed to develop one of the strongest branding campaigns in the industry’s history. Overall, referring to the current company stance discussed in the introduction, it is evident that these and other mechanisms still successfully operate nowadays.
Product and Process Design Technologies
For both process and product designs, Emirates Airlines uses a set of technologies that help the company to visualize operations and create the mock-up models used for future improvement. For airline companies, product design assumes that a dedicated team of designers, engineers, and architects should collaborate together to determine passenger capacity, plan routes, or estimate the number of cabin crew required. Given that the company has additional services on board and covers many flight directions, the best technological approach is using a combination of computer-aided design and special applications. For instance, to manage an enormous number of tickets booked and sold through requests coming from different external platforms, Emirates Airlines uses large-scale data systems such as Amadeus and Galileo (Papiewski, 2017).
The technology allows automatically detecting flights available per destination and managing sets and pricing availability. For aircraft control, inbound systems, GPS, and fly-by-wire technologies for managing automated steering are used (Papiewski, 2017). Finally, in aircraft design, computer-aided programs, which allow calculating the power of engines, tracking the performance of aircraft parts, and testing aerodynamic capabilities, are deployed.
Unlike product design, process design technologies in the airline industry are based on envisioning and operationalizing specific activities that involve people interactions and service delivery. For instance, Price et al. (2019) admitted that the contemporary methodological approach in aviation is thing-centered design, which leverages recent technological innovations in machine learning and the Internet of Things. Alternatively, process design is subject to the use of common TQM analytical tools such as fishbone diagrams or Pareto charts integrated as separate modules in internal enterprise systems.
Consistently, Emirates Airlines developed a set of integrated systems incorporated in a large management information system that is used for both input and output of the large data arrays. Hence, depending on the size of the aircraft, security requirement, and type of customers, the system allows for generating consolidated reports and processing thousands of user requests at a time against specified inquiries. Overall, both product and process design approaches in Emirates Airlines are well-optimized and follow TQM standards.
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Emirates. (2021). About us. Web.
Hung-Chung, S., Ta-Wei, K., & Linderman, K. (2020). Where in the supply chain network does ISO 9001 improve firm productivity? European Journal of Operational Research, 283(2), 530−540. Web.
Papiewski, J. (2017). Uses of computers in the airline industry. Web.
Price, R. A., de Lille, C., & Bergema, K. (2019). Advancing industry through design: A longitudinal case study of the aviation industry. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 5(4), 304−326. Web.
Sweis, R. J., Ismaeil, A. S., Amayareh, I., & Al-Sayyed, N. (2019). The relationship between total quality management (TQM) implementation and organizational performance: Evidence from the airline companies in UAE. International Journal of Information, Business and Management, 11(1), 58−79. Web.