Author: Kagi, Jacques
Title: Six sigma in foodservices : evaluating the utility of the six sigma hybrid model in foodservice environment
Degree: M.Phil.
Year: 2004
Subject: Thesis (M.Phil.)--The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, 2004
Food industry and trade -- Quality control
Six sigma (Quality control standard)
Department: School of Hotel and Tourism Management
Pages: vii, 272, 20, [4] leaves : ill. ; 30 cm
Language: English
Abstract: A review of the most recent foodservice literature suggests that quality service research is important because it is directly linked to customer satisfaction and return behaviour. However, the literature also reveals that there is little theoretical understanding of quality systems and applications in the foodservice environment. While the utility of Total Quality Management (TQM) as an overall quality programme has had reasonable acceptance in the hospitality industry, there is a dearth of systematic quality-systems in existence in foodservice and catering operations, excepting for the likes of fast food operators such as McDonald's, and more recently by the Starwood hotel group. And yet, other service and manufacturing organisations e.g. banking, insurance, and electronics, have adopted sophisticated quality initiatives some decades ago. One such quality systems methodology is known as the Six Sigma. The Six Sigma approach, which originated from the Motorola Corporation, involves measuring and improving the capability of processes in order to produce defect-free products and services. Although technically, Six Sigma means a product defect rate of 3.4 parts per million, the introduction of a Six Sigma quality programmes means much more than just measuring failure rates in hi-tech organisations. On the contrary, it is argued that the implementation of Six Sigma can be very effective and includes incorporating a wide range of tools and methodologies in service organisations, in order to improve performance and, ultimately, significantly improve profits. Not surprisingly therefore, the increasing proliferation of electronic technologies such as automatic process monitoring, accessibility to large databases and rapid transfer of information has facilitated the more recent successes attributed to the Six Sigma quality methodology. In this context, it is suggested that the customer's post-dining decision concerning whether or not to return to the foodservice operation is the moment of final truth for the foodservice operator, as opposed to the customer's initial decision to go to the restaurant. As Lowenstein (1995) eloquently surmises, it is one thing to attract the customers, but quite another to keep them returning. If we are to accept the postulation in the service quality and satisfaction literature, that return or repurchase is a consequence of satisfaction, and that satisfaction is a consequence of a high quality organisation, then the decision to return to the foodservice operation indicates whether or not the foodservice operator's performance exceeded customer expectations. In other words: Return Patronage = Customer Satisfaction = High Quality Organisation For the foodservice operator, this also confirms whether or not the organisation's quality system and/or quality strategy has lived-up to customers' expectations, and whether or not that quality was effective or not. The implication here is that foodservice operators would be expressly interested in the symbiotic relationship between customer satisfaction and the organisation's quality systems. As noted earlier, the Six Sigma has proved successful in many organisations, however, to date scant literature exists about how successful or not Six Sigma has been in a typical foodservice environment. To date, the nearest hospitality related organisation to have employed Six Sigma is Starwood, which implemented the quality principles within their reservations and bookings network. At a hotel or foodservice level, there is, as already noted, substantive evidence, which suggests that the foodservice industry in Hong Kong SAR, as in many other advanced countries, is faced with challenges and that it exists in an environment, which is extremely competitive and dynamic. One can argue that such a business environment offers little in the way of choice to the industry professionals but to operate and manage their enterprises in a most effective and efficient manner, where they can no longer rely on the 'slash (costs)/increase (pricing)' formula to meet and increase the bottom line, but will have to derive their profits through efficient and effective quality management by optimising operational effectiveness, e.g. by reducing defects in the Six Sigma terminology, by reducing wastage of materials and other scant resources, and by fully utilising quality-focused and trained workforce coupled with adaptable, responsive and measurable, quality systems. Six Sigma, as an evolution of TQM principles, can be defined as follows: 1. A system of management to achieve lasting business leadership and top performance; 2. A goal that reaches near perfection for performance improvement; and 3. A statistical measure of the performance of a process or a product In the context of this research, the aim of the study is to evaluate and assess how the Six Sigma and/or Six Sigma hybrid was adapted and introduced in a foodservice organisation. Based on the above definition of Six Sigma, as well as the paucity of related studies which could act as supportive or supplementary information, the scope of this study, within the aims, is to evaluate and assess the Six Sigma quality system as "a system of management". In other words, the scope of this research will investigate the strategic management elements that contribute to the implementation, utility, and "business transformation" of Six Sigma in a foodservice organisation. Much of the past studies on quality in foodservice operations have focused on the end result or the front-of-the-house. At the same time one has to acknowledge that customer perceptions about quality is critical, however, studies that critically examine quality systems in a more holistic way, e.g. the back-of-the-house quality systems, are scant. In this study, a dynamic measurement of perceptions between senior managers, supervisors, and front-line staff of an alternative foodservice quality system, will be pursued. A descriptive research design was adopted which utilized a quantitative approach for collecting and analysing data. A questionnaire-based survey was developed and administered to the target population (to the Hong Kong Jockey Club's foodservice staff) to evaluate "importance" and "applicability" perceptions of the Six Sigma quality system. The perspectives of senior managers, middle managers and rank and file staff as well as service staff, food production staff, and administrative staff of a large local foodservice and catering organisation will be surveyed. The data-collection instrument was based and designed in accordance to the Six Sigma's Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) quality dimensions and protocols, and it is comprised of three main sections. After an exhaustive search of the relevant foodservice literature, no 'Six Sigma'-type research instruments were to be found that could be applied in foodservice and/or catering environment. The research instrument used was therefore, designed and developed for this study. The first section consisted of the Six Sigma's DMAIC quality statements or attributes (see Figure 3-1 on page 91) and was designed to measure the respondents' "importance" perceptions of the Six Sigma-hybrid quality model - 'Journey To Excellence' (JTE) quality system at the HKJC. Respondents were required to rate the importance of each statement by anchoring their answers on a Likert scale measuring from (1) "not important" to (5) "very important". In Section Two, respondents were required to provide demographic information in the second section such as their age, gender, rank/post, and previous foodservice experience and previous HKJC experience. The third section of the questionnaire was designed to elicit the respondents' perceptions about how JTE was actually operationalised at the HKJC. -Vis-a-vis the Verbal Frequency Scale, the respondents were required to respond to each statement indicating their perceptions of how the JTE precepts were actually applied at the HKJC by anchoring their answers from (1) "never", (2) "rarely", (3) "sometimes", (4) "often" and (5) "always". Alreck and Settle (1995) recommend the use of verbal frequency scale when it is highly desirable to know how often an action has been taken place rather than the strength of agreement within a given population. In this study, there were two strong incentives for using verbal frequency scale: (1) it offered the ability to array absolute activities, that is, the JTE quality activities at the HKJC, across a five-category spectrum for data description, and (2) it provided the ease of comparisons among same actions for different respondents (managers, middle-managers, and line staff). Findings suggested that there were relatively high levels of "agreement" when respondents were asked about the "importance" of quality attributes of the JTE However, gaps were identified when comparing "importance" scores to perceptions of "applicability" which can be interpreted as the fact that although the HKJC was successful in implementing the philosophy of JTE to the employees, there is still room for improvement in applying the quality attributes in practice. Several reasons have been identified as to why such gaps existed. Firstly, it may mean that the HKJC places more emphasis on certain areas of the JTE than in others. Secondly, it may mean that from a longitudinal perspective, the JTE is still in its infancy and has not had enough time to evolve and maximise its potential. Furthermore, when comparing the DMAIC quality problem-solving model with the process in which the JTE takes to improve quality and service quality standards, there is a clear indication from the quantitative findings as well as the qualitative research that unmistakable similarities exist. Most notably, it was concluded that the JTE also follow a process flow similar to the DMAIC in terms of defining, measuring, analysing, improving and controlling the quality standards. However, the findings also suggested that in certain areas of the JTE process, especially in measuring and analysing quality problems in a fact and data-driven manner, there is room for further development and improvement. For example, when compared to the Six Sigma DMAIC protocol, "Control", the ANOVA findings suggested a far higher "importance" and "application" perception when compared to other DMAIC protocols such as "Measure" and "Analyse" There is strong evidence that the JTE has been a success at the HKJC, and importantly so in terms of staff development and employee satisfaction. There is an indication from the findings that since the implementation of the JTE and the introduction of a customer and service oriented mindset, the motivation and attitude of HKJC foodservice staff has significantly improved. Secondly, through the introduction of a control mechanism for JTE quality, the JTE certification program, there is also evidence that suggests in terms of communication and the education of quality standards, standardised working procedures, and responsibility towards the customer, the implementation of JTE has assisted in the transparency between management needs and employee performance. For future research in this area, a longitudinal study of customer perceptions about the changes in quality and service quality over a period of time would be one of the best ways to truly measure how effective the implementation of JTE is from the end-user (customer perspective). Such research would provide firm support and evidence to measure how successful the implementation of the quality system such as the JTE was.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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