Gerber Company’s Quality Practices

How do the various definitions of quality relate to the quality practices at Gerber?

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The quality practices at Gerber directly or indirectly relate to the various definitions of quality. Since its inception, Gerber has endeavored to ensure that it provides its customers with quality products at all times. From the case study, it can be argued that one of Gerber’s core values is quality because all its procedures and practices are geared towards quality assurance and improvement.

The concept of quality has various dimensions, the major ones being quality assurance, quality control, quality management, production, and checking. All these dimensions are aimed at capturing the multiple descriptions of the concept. At Gerber, the size of quality control seems to be prominent; for instance, the parents who purchase the company’s products think that Gerber is a synonym of quality, meaning that whenever they hear the name Gerber being mentioned, they always think of quality products for babies. The company has embraced the dimension by ensuring that it produces products whose outcomes are easy to predict. It has managed to accomplish this to some extent, and that is the reason why many customers associate its name with quality (Ahlstrom & Bruton, 2010).

The other dimension of quality that has been embraced by Gerber is quality management, which has to do with ensuring that an organization is directed towards optimization of performance by employing strategies that focus on quality improvement. As described by the 35 years Gerber veteran Mr. George Sheffier, the organization introduced teamwork as a way of quality management through the introduction of self-managing teams (Dixon, 1994).

Through self-managing teams, organizations encourage employees to work in groups instead of working independently. This enables organizations to benefit from the synergy found in groups. Working in groups gives employees an opportunity to exercise their creativity, innovativeness, skills, and talents. It also enables the group members to learn from the strengths of each other as well as from the diverse experiences of the group members. When employees work in groups, they know how to welcome positive criticism. Working in groups also enables the employees to generate new ideas that are implemented by an organization. This increases their motivation because they feel that the organization values their input (Dixon, 1994).

Teamwork is a necessary condition for employee motivation. There are two types of motivation, namely intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from the employees and is characterized by the need to achieve good results, passion for work, the ambition to acquire new knowledge, and the need to be successful at the workplace. Extrinsic motivation arises from things that are external to employees and include things like appreciation, rewards, increased salaries or wages, promotions, and congratulatory messages.

The motivation of employees makes them acquire positive values, beliefs, norms, and attitudes towards their organization. Positive values include things like hard work, faithfulness, commitment, respect, and appreciation. Examples of positive beliefs include believing that ‘it can be done’ and being optimistic in everything which the employees undertake. Employees who are motivated are likely to focus on quality than employees who are not motivated.

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Teamwork enables employees to have group norms, which are informal rules institutionalized by organizations. They govern the conduct of employees and constitute what is allowed and disallowed in different organizations. Motivation makes it possible for employees to learn new things from each other and from outside the organization. They also learn new ways and strategies for doing something or improving their operations at the workplace. This becomes part of organizational culture, which is sustained and passed from generation to the other in the employee fraternity.

The other dimension of quality in Gerber is quality assurance, which has to do with getting feedback from consumers about a product and making all the necessary efforts to ensure that products meet consumers’ needs. Even though the organization did not embrace the practice from the start, it realized that it was making a big mistake and established a mechanism to get customer feedback majorly through telephone calls and letters and integrated the feedback into the manufacturing of its products.

How does Gerber exhibit the fundamental principles of total quality?

One way in which Gerber embraces the principles of total quality is through customer and stakeholder focus. This has to do with ensuring that it involves its customers and stakeholders in the designing and development of new products. The idea is to have in place a production process that is based on information. Some of the stakeholders which it involves include the Food and Drug Administration agency (FDA), the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the employees through the SAS software, which enables them to access data about the final product in the production process.

As a way of focusing on customers, the organization introduced a feedback mechanism in which the customers could give their comments regarding the products and what needed to be done to make the products more satisfactory. As mentioned earlier, the organization introduced teamwork and hired professionals to train the workforce on change management in order for them to embrace the new concept of teamwork. After the training, all employees were able to embrace collaboration after realizing that it was long overdue (Ahmed, 1998).

The teamwork adopted by the organization involved ensuring that employees worked in groups and were allowed to micromanage their work in order to boost efficiency and effectiveness, thus increasing quality in internal organizational processes. In the spirit of teamwork, the employees were also involved in making decisions regarding the products, with the aim of ensuring that the production of new products met their expectations. The introduction of the thermal processing staff and the quality and safety departments was aimed at ensuring that there was a continuous improvement of the organization’s processes and products (Freytag & Thurik, 2010).

How did quality help Gerber overcome the crisis it faced in the consumer-tampering situation?

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One of the significant crises which Gerber witnessed was the consumer tampering instance in which consumers almost lost trust in the organization due to quality issues. There were some allegations that the organization was engaged in practices that could have compromised the quality of its products. The media picked up the claims and spread them far and wide, which brought the organization under focus by the FDA, an agency that checks the quality standards of products. FDA investigated the allegations for a period of three months and found out that the organization was not involved in any questionable practice, which could have compromised the quality of its products. During the investigation, the FDA focused on the organization’s manufacturing and documentation history. What helped the organization out of the allegations was its consistency in ensuring that there was continuous improvement in the quality of all its practices, products, and procedures (Ahmed, 1998).

If the FDA could have found some inconsistencies in Gerber’s internal processes and documentation, it could have put the organization in a worse situation. One of the significant repercussions would have been losing customers to its competitors. The lesson that this has on other companies is that there is a need for organizations to embrace acceptable practices, especially in the documentation and continuous improvement of quality and the organization’s internal processes. The course is not only good for the development of an organization but also for guarding the organization against false allegations, as it happened with Gerber.

References

Ahlstrom, D., & Bruton, G.D. (2010). International management: strategy and culture in the emerging world. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Ahmed, P.K. (1998). Culture and climate for innovation. European Journal of Innovation Management, (1) 1, 30-43.

Dixon, N. (1994). The Organisational learning cycle. How we can learn collectively. London: McGraw-Hill.

Freytag, A., & Thurik, A.R. (2010). Entrepreneurship and culture. London: Springer.

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