Zero Defect, Zero Effect

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In India’s pursuit for becoming globally competitive, Prime Minister has pitched for “Make in India” with ‘Zero Defect, Zero Effect (ZED)’ culture with twin focus on customers and on society. By zero defect he means that the quality of the products has to be very high and by zero effect he means that there should be no adverse effect on the environment by manufacturing. This puts in perspective the governments’ intent to change the course of economy by focusing on manufacturing as an engine to sustained growth. Also, with the arrival of Industry 4.0, the ZED strategy is aptly timed. Automatic manufacturing will have to build its reputation by adopting the best quality global standards.

In theory, zero defect is a term coined by Mr. Philip Crosby in his book “Absolutes of Quality Management”. Zero defect concept is a concept of quest for perfection in order to improve quality. Though perfection might not be achievable but at least the quest will lead towards improvement in quality. As defined by the Working Group on Quality, quality means best practices, continuous improvement and tapping the full power of knowledge. Zero defects theory also ensures that there is no waste existing in a project. Waste here refers to all unproductive processes, tools, employees etc.

In India’s journey of becoming a world leader, the role of quality cannot be underestimated. Last year, in an op-ed by Mr. Rajeev Kher, the same has been emphasized. According to him, a high quality product not only helps in absorption of technology and use of advanced skills of production by domestic industry but also prepares the domestic industry for connecting with global supply chains and acknowledges the discerning customer.

While suggesting ways in which India can contest its present low competitiveness in the global markets, Mr. Kher has restated some of the recommendations of the Working Group on Quality. He is right in mentioning that Indian industry has not been able to adopt a global quality ecosystem. According to him, this has been primarily due to resistance from industry as the present system is marked with inconsistency and incoherence. As a policy recommendation, he has suggested to institutionalize “National Mission on Quality”. The Working Group on Quality had voiced on similar lines in earlier years. As can be seen in the table below, there is a considerable overlap in the issues and recommendations of the WG and op-ed:

Op-Ed (Mr. R. Kher)

Working Group Report


Lack of standards architecture

Multiplicity of Regulatory/Standardization/Conformity

Lack of physical infrastructure

Laboratory Infrastructure

Inadequate Attention

Lack of regulation

Presence of multiple agencies

Lack of information on standards

Organizations’ different ecosystems

Lack of awareness in industry

Op-Ed (Mr. R. Kher)

Working Group Report

Varying approach of sectoral ministries and industries

Lack of awareness about impact of standards

Varying degrees of global integration

Inadequate skills

Varying degrees of SSI involvement

Absence of regulatory pressure

Manipulable and weak system

Need for organizations to change their way of thinking


Institutionalization of “National Mission on Quality”

Create a national regulatory authority


Conformity Assessment

Laboratory Upgradation

Empowerment of Industry

A zero defect approach in design and manufacturing operations will pay off India in the long run. In this regard, the government should focus its energies on:

  • Institutionalizing a national regulatory authority: This will create an authority to integrate all vertical institutions through a hub-spoke model. At present most work in silos. This Mission would not only roll out the vision on quality but also integrate institutions such as BIS, NPC, QCI etc. by developing cohesive policies on standards development and their adoption, conformity assessment and accreditation. It would develop a high level of capacity for international rule making and run a coordinated programme for infrastructure development in collaboration with private sector.

  • Conformity Assessment: National Conformity Assessment Policy requiring adoption of applicable international standards within reasonable period for commencing operations.

  • Advocating policy for modern management tools that will play role in quality management of firms: Project management software to speed up time to market, and comprehensive management systems that incorporate enterprise resource planning with supply chain management functions to enable vendor managed inventory will be key to success.

  • Formulation of Working Group on Services: The real quality revolution cannot be restricted to manufacturing. It will come to services. Just as the quality revolution in manufacturing has a profound impact on the competitiveness of companies, the quality revolution in services will create a new set of winners and losers. The winners will be those who lead the way in managing toward zero defections.

  • Devising a mechanism to measure quality: This will enable firms to use defections as an early warning signal and use that information to improve the business.

  • Last, but not the least, the zero effect policy is an opportunity for India’s green growth expanding economic production and jobs using technology that are not hazardous and polluting. This will be a key to fighting climate change.

Dr. Palakh Jain is Assistant Professor at Bennett University.

Ms. Chavi Asrani is Phd Scholar at IIT-Delhi

Chavi Asrani and Palakh Jain

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India is marred with a complex social, economic and political structure, which requires innovative solutions to solve the most difficult problems of today. India is also a land of opportunities despite its challenges, mainly due to its demographic dividend and cultural diversity. The Dialogue is founded with the vision of harnessing the opportunities present in India today by reinventing the policy and political discourse in order to drive a forward looking narrative for the country.