Summary of the main issues discussed in the article
The study carried out by Wolfgang Kersten and Jan Koch is aimed at analyzing and measuring the relations between business success, quality management, and service quality in German logistics companies. The authors argue that currently these organizations rely on price leadership in order to gain competitive advantage while quality component of their work is not fully emphasized (Kersten & Kock 2010, p. 186).
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In their opinion, quality management can strongly contribute to the success of these companies. The authors discuss several important issues, in particular, the measurement of service quality in logistics companies and its overall effect on the functioning of these enterprises. The authors single out a set of criteria by which the work of logistics services can be evaluated (Kersten & Kock 2010, p 188).
Secondly, they examine the effects of various quality management techniques like employee development, leadership commitment, or continuous improvement on the quality of logistics services. Finally, the scholars examine the impacts of service quality on business success. From their standpoint, the results derived in the course of the study can be of practical use to quality managers. This paper will present a detailed critique of this research article.
Contribution of the article to the understanding of quality management principles
The main contribution of this article is that it shows how service quality can be decomposed into several elements or dimensions. On the basis of this classification managers will be able to better apply quality management techniques. It should be noted that Wolfgang Kersten and Jan Koch single out three essential components of quality service: 1) potential, 2) processes, and 3) outcomes (2010, p. 188).
To a great extent they rely on the ideas of Avedis Donabedian (1980) who also worked on the assessment of quality. In this case, the term “potential” refers to organizational resources, its qualifications and capabilities (Kersten & Kock 2010, p. 188). In turn, such component as process can be explained as the main internal activities of the company, and especially their interactions with their clients.
Finally, such element as outcome is primarily related to the lead time, delivery of goods and their conditions (2010, p. 188). To a great extent, this article has helped me better understand the concept of quality when it is applied to service organizations like logistics companies. Furthermore, if it is slightly modified, this classification can be applied to many service companies not only logistics firms.
Yet, the most important thing is that these authors establish a set of criteria that enables managers to evaluate the work of service organizations. Wolfgang Kersten and Jan Koch distinguish such standards as reliability of employees, adherence to security regulations, the time required to react to the queries of the customer, responsiveness, delivery correctness, and so forth (2010, p. 194).
Certainly, the authors relied on the works of other scholars, especially Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry who introduced quality measurement tools (1994). On the whole, this article has enabled me to systematize my knowledge of quality evaluation. It is also possible for me to say that this article only emphasized some of the things of which I was aware of.
Namely, it has demonstrated that quality should or even must be assessed from customers’ perspective. Each of the criteria identified by Wolfgang Kersten and Jan Koch is closely related to the clients and their perceptions. This research indicates that customer focus has to be the main quality management principle if they want to remain competitive and retain customers who are the key to the survival of logistics firms.
Overall, with the help of this article I have been able to extend my knowledge of quality management. Most importantly, this study has shown to me this element of performance can be decomposed and evaluated. Hence, this article really increased my understanding of quality management principles. It has been useful from theoretical and practical points of view.
The relation between the article and quality theory
This study is related to quality theory in several important ways. First of all, this discipline strives to single out various elements of this concept (Pfeifer 2002, p. 12). This is one of the tasks that Wolfgang Kersten and Jan Koch attempt to accomplish. The thing is that such concept as quality is very difficult to decompose into separate elements.
Its structure will depend upon the type of organization and its activities. The study that is being discussed examines quality in a very narrow context, namely, logistics companies. One should bear in mind that quality dimensions vary in different organizations (Basu 2004, p. 5). This study eloquently illustrates this argument.
In addition, modern science tries to find ways of measuring or quantifying quality (Pfeifer 2002, p. 12). Similarly these authors also measure quality by numerical means. Certainly, one should also speak about the use of quality management techniques or practical applications of quality theory.
One of the purposes of the given study is to measure the effectiveness of such practices or approaches as employee orientation, process management, leadership commitment, or continuous improvement ((Kersten & Kock 2010, p 192). Thus, one can say that these scholars work towards one of the most fundamental purposes of quality theory which is the improvement of services or products. These are the main connections between these study and quality theory.
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The main findings of the study and their applications
On the whole, the research conducted by Kersten and Koch has produced several important findings. First, existing quality management do contribute to the improvement of logistics companies. These researches identified a statistically significant relation between each practices and internal processes within the companies and their organizational resources.
In other words, their finding indicate that quality management practices facilitate order completion process, reduce reaction time, and prompt workers to comply with safety regulations (Kersen & Koch, 2010, p. 196). However, the scholars also point out that these initiatives do not always improve the outcomes such as delivery correctness or condition of goods (2010, p. 196).
In part, these results can be explained by the fact that logistics companies cannot exercise full control over force-majeure circumstances, traffic congestions. Besides, one should take into account that these organizations often cooperate with many subcontractors or third-parties and it is not always possible to monitor their work (Gudehus & Kotzab 2009, p. 11).
This is one of the reasons why quality management initiatives do not always affect outcomes. The results might have been different if Kersten and Koch focused only on those companies which can closely monitor the work of their subcontractors.
Apart from that, Kersten and Koch believe that service quality is conducive to business success (2010, p. 197). However, they do specify how exactly they measure business success. The notion can refer to the profitability of an enterprise, its customer retention rates, or other criteria.
This is the main limitation of their research. Additionally, one should keep in mind that the researchers examined only German logistics firms, and at this point it is not known whether these results can be applied to other countries or regions. As Kersten and Koch say an international survey of logistics firms must be carried out to validate the results. At this point, the findings cannot be viewed as definitive.
Overall, their findings have many practical implications. First, the tools that they have developed can be used by the managers who work in service organizations. It has to be admitted that these methods cannot be applied to any service companies since they were originally designed for the needs of logistics companies.
However, practitioners of quality management can benefit from their ideas by decomposing quality into separate categories like potential, processes, and outcomes. Most importantly, with the help of similar assessment tools they can measure the effectiveness of different quality management practices.
Still, the primary beneficiaries of this study can be logistics companies. As it has been noted before, these organizations rely on cost leadership, rather than quality leadership. The approach recommended by the authors will enable such companies to better retain customers and reduce their expenses. It is quite possible to assume that this study will soon give rise to further research that will also focus on international companies.
Basu, R, 2004, Implementing quality: a practical guide to tools and techniques : enabling the power of operational excellence. Cengage Learning, NY.
Donabedian, A 1980, The Definition of Quality and Approaches to its Assessment, Health Administration Press, Ann Arbor, MI.
Gudehus, T & Kotzab, H 2009 ‘Comprehensive logistics’, Springer, NY.
Kersten, W & Koch, J 2010 ‘The effect of quality management on the service quality and business success of logistics service providers’. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, vol, 27, no, 2, pp 185-200.
Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V.A. and Berry, L.L. (1994), ‘Reassessment of expectations as a comparison standard in measuring service quality: implications for further research’, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 58, no. 1, p. 111-124.
Pfeifer, T 2002, Quality management, Hanser Verlag, Cincinnati.