Antecedents for Quality Management in Small and Medium Enterprises

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are fundamental pillars of any national economy, often employing more people than large companies. Unlike larger companies, however, they often lack systematic ways to improve their operations. Quality Management (QM) has become recognised as a viable way to improve the quality of products and processes and large companies often use QM ideas as part of their operations. Historically, the main focus for QM research has been on larger organisations rather than SMEs. Since SMEs have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, such as their personalised management and lack of financial strength, respectively, it is not always possible to use traditional QM ideas in SMEs directly. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate antecedents for QM ideas and practices in SMEs, thereby contributing to the knowledge on how to adopt QM in SMEs. Three papers are presented in order to achieve this aim. The first paper uses a case study to show a successful example of QM in a large company, which serves as a baseline for how a successful QM initiative may look. The paper also discusses the need to contextualise any improvement initiative in any company. The second paper is a literature review on the adoption of QM in SMEs. It synthesises and groups recommendations, creating a collection of important issues for SMEs to consider when adopting QM. The paper highlights the importance of external support for these endeavours and reinforces the idea that contextualisation is always important. The third paper is based on a case study in a small company, which successfully made crucial changes. The paper investigates this case in the light of Paper I and Paper II. Paper III reveals that although methods for small companies do not need to be very different from large ones, there can be some obstacles in the adoption process itself.

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