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Diagnosing quality improvement initiatives among European food SMEs

Xavier Gellynck (UGent) , Manoj Kumar Dora (UGent) and Adrienn Molnar (UGent)
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Abstract
Purpose: Quality has been one of the most researched concepts in the framework of business process improvement in the last decades. However, there are limited studies that focused on Quality Improvement (QI) practices (such as Lean and Six Sigma) among Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) operating in the food sector. The main purpose of this study is to diagnose the quality improvement practices among food SMEs in Europe and to initiate a future research agenda. Design/methodology/approach: A triangulation approach is used for the data collection in this study i.e., focus groups and individual interviews. Based on the literature and discussions with operation managers a comprehensive questionnaire was prepared to diagnose the quality improvement initiatives among European food SMEs. An invitation was sent out to 230 SMEs operating in the three countries- Germany, Belgium and Hungary, to participate in workshops on “Quality Improvement” practices. The workshops were organized in their respective countries in coordination with their associations to encourage a large participation. A total of 35 SMEs representatives, mostly CEOs and operation managers, participated in these workshops with a participation rate of 15.2 percent. Findings: The analysis of the questionnaire indicated that very few firms are implementing QI techniques such as Lean, Six Sigma, TQM and Lean Six Sigma. Moreover, QI practices are not found sustainable among the food SMEs in Europe where most of the firms discontinued such practices due to a change in focus and management commitment. The study showed that there is a lack of awareness of QI practices among food SMEs and those who have the awareness do not have the resources and motivation to implement these techniques. Food SMEs in general need a clear and well defined framework for the QI implementation considering their special needs and characteristics. Research limitation/implication: The small sample size limits the generalization of the key findings from this research. As this study is a part of doctoral research, several case studies and focal group discussions will be conducted in future to validate the results and develop a customized framework tailored to the needs of food SMEs. Originality/value: The originality of this paper is the diagnosis of quality improvement initiatives among food SMEs in Europe. The findings give an indication of the understanding and the current implementation level of different quality improvement initiatives such as Lean and Six Sigma.
Keywords
Food sector, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Quality Improvement

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Chicago
Gellynck, Xavier, Manoj Kumar Dora, and Adrienn Molnar. 2010. “Diagnosing Quality Improvement Initiatives Among European Food SMEs.” In ASQ Silicon Valley Quality Conference, Proceedings. Santa Clara, CA, USA: Network Meeting Center at Techmart.
APA
Gellynck, X., Dora, M. K., & Molnar, A. (2010). Diagnosing quality improvement initiatives among European food SMEs. ASQ silicon valley quality conference, Proceedings. Presented at the ASQ Silicon Valley Quality Conference 2010, Santa Clara, CA, USA: Network Meeting Center at Techmart.
Vancouver
1.
Gellynck X, Dora MK, Molnar A. Diagnosing quality improvement initiatives among European food SMEs. ASQ silicon valley quality conference, Proceedings. Santa Clara, CA, USA: Network Meeting Center at Techmart; 2010.
MLA
Gellynck, Xavier, Manoj Kumar Dora, and Adrienn Molnar. “Diagnosing Quality Improvement Initiatives Among European Food SMEs.” ASQ Silicon Valley Quality Conference, Proceedings. Santa Clara, CA, USA: Network Meeting Center at Techmart, 2010. Print.
@inproceedings{1248002,
  abstract     = {Purpose: Quality has been one of the most researched concepts in the framework of business process improvement in the last decades. However, there are limited studies that focused on Quality Improvement (QI) practices (such as Lean and Six Sigma) among Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) operating in the food sector. The main purpose of this study is to diagnose the quality improvement practices among food SMEs in Europe and to initiate a future research agenda. Design/methodology/approach: A triangulation approach is used for the data collection in this study i.e., focus groups and individual interviews.  Based on the literature and discussions with operation managers a comprehensive questionnaire was prepared to diagnose the quality improvement initiatives among European food SMEs. An invitation was sent out to 230 SMEs operating in the three countries- Germany, Belgium and Hungary, to participate in workshops on {\textquotedblleft}Quality Improvement{\textquotedblright} practices. The workshops were organized in their respective countries in coordination with their associations to encourage a large participation. A total of 35 SMEs representatives, mostly CEOs and operation managers, participated in these workshops with a participation rate of 15.2 percent. Findings: The analysis of the questionnaire indicated that very few firms are implementing QI techniques such as Lean, Six Sigma, TQM and Lean Six Sigma. Moreover, QI practices are not found sustainable among the food SMEs in Europe where most of the firms discontinued such practices due to a change in focus and management commitment. The study showed that there is a lack of awareness of QI practices among food SMEs and those who have the awareness do not have the resources and motivation to implement these techniques. Food SMEs in general need a clear and well defined framework for the QI implementation considering their special needs and characteristics. Research limitation/implication: The small sample size limits the generalization of the key findings from this research. As this study is a part of doctoral research, several case studies and focal group discussions will be conducted in future to validate the results and develop a customized framework tailored to the needs of food SMEs. Originality/value: The originality of this paper is the diagnosis of quality improvement initiatives among food SMEs in Europe.  The findings give an indication of the understanding and the current implementation level of different quality improvement initiatives such as Lean and Six Sigma.},
  author       = {Gellynck, Xavier and Dora, Manoj Kumar and Molnar, Adrienn},
  booktitle    = {ASQ silicon valley quality conference, Proceedings},
  keyword      = {Food sector,Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises,Quality Improvement},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Santa Clara, CA, USA},
  pages        = {21},
  publisher    = {Network Meeting Center at Techmart},
  title        = {Diagnosing quality improvement initiatives among European food SMEs},
  year         = {2010},
}