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Evolving Paradigm: From Quality Control to Quality Assurance

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Victor Hugo probably was probably not referring to the Indian packaging industry when this statement was made. The thought, however, could not hold truer for the packaging industry, and paperboard packaging in particular. How does one track the evolution of an industry? Perhaps this can be done by mapping progress along the following parameters:
– Technology
– Human Resource Development
– Quality & Systems

From a technological standpoint, Indian printers have long been at par with their Western counterparts. India has traditionally relied on capital goods imports despite the stiff import tariff structure.We have preferred importing second-hand capital equipment from the West rather than using indigenous equipment produced in the country. Indian packaging front runners are well at par in terms of imported hardware.


Where we have been found very wanting is in the dual development of human potential and consequently in systems development. This has of late started changing. At IPP for instance,we have been recruiting the best of candidates from universities and technical institutes for whom the packaging industry is now a viable career option. It is now common to limit the minimum admission criteria of the workforce to an ITI qualification. A core requirement indeed for an industry where man is more important than machine!

This improvement in the basic level of human talent available has allowed packaging converters to implement systems such as ISO:9001, ISO:14001, BRC-IoP and HACCP within their enterprises.What is interesting is that packaging firms have customized and evolved such systems to suit their specific needs. Such systems are now implemented in both letter and spirit. Consequently, the “quality mindset” has both developed and evolved. While the importance of quality, per se, has been accepted, the concept of quality now covers supply chain, systems, environment, health and safety rather than just the product itself.

Gone are the days when a quality team was stationed on the shop floor to literally “control” quality. Given the exponential increase in volumes, it has been recognized that production has to exercise its own quality control. There is no way a quality team can ensure 100% defect-free supplies as is the requirement of every customer in the market. Sampling cannot guarantee a six-sigma result. This is true of both cartons and laminates where the packing of the final product is done online, and even one defective unit can result in a consumer complaint.

Quality Control has now evolved into Quality Assurance, covering the following core areas:
– Manpower Training
– Process training
– System Development
– Product R&D
– Supplier Development & Monitoring

Of course, we still have a long way to go, but the right ideas have taken root and it is a matter of time before we best the best!