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Competencies of quality professionals in the era of industry 4.0: a case study of electronics manufacturer from Malaysia

K. Sumitha P.N. Kannan (Independent Research, Johor Bahru, Malaysia)
Alaa Garad (Operations and System Management, Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management

ISSN: 0265-671X

Article publication date: 8 September 2020

Issue publication date: 15 February 2021

Abstract

Purpose

This study investigates the competencies required for quality management professionals to meet the needs of industry 4.0. The authors use a case study strategy at an electronics manufacturer in southern Malaysia, to adapt their role to be relevant in the industry 4.0 environment. In doing so, this study answers the following four questions: (1) How are the changing technological trends expected to impact the future role of quality in industry 4.0? (2) What are the competencies gap between current and future roles of quality professionals? (3) What are the views and practices related to quality roles? (4) How can the gaps identified be closed to meet the quality challenges of industry 4.0?

Design/methodology/approach

The research methods consist of a comprehensive review of literature on the technological trends towards industry 4.0 and the impact on the role of quality and competence that may be required in the future, as well as internal document review on the current roles of quality professionals in an electronics manufacturer in southern Malaysia, to identify the competence gap. Empirical data was collected based on surveys conducted on 64 quality professionals with a response rate of 96.88%. Interviews were conducted on three decision-makers from critical areas in the electronics manufacturer for viewpoints from three different perspectives: finance, operations and talent development.

Findings

Quality professionals will require technical competencies to interpret large amounts of data from processes to make strategic decisions, the use of new AR tools and be aware of data security risks. Methodological competencies will be required to use data to identify the source of problems, to access reliable sources of learning and the ability to use new tools for solving complex problems efficiently. Social competencies will be required in communications across multi-sites, suppliers and customers in new collaborative virtual platforms, with the ability to retain tacit and explicit knowledge, in a decentralized environment that will require leadership ability to make decisions. Personal competencies required will be the ability to work in a flexible workplace and time and more frequent work-related changes.

Research limitations/implications

The limitation of the study is based on what the authors currently know of the future, which may not be much for the quality professionals in the electronics manufacturer, who have not been exposed much to the technology yet. The potential for the future landscape to change dramatically with rapid technology changes may also result in a different set of skills for future quality professionals. The quality professionals who were involved in this study were the quality executives, engineers and managers, irrespective of their gender, age, length of service and experience in the field of quality. Therefore, these variables were not taken into consideration for this research.

Practical implications

This research helped to identify the role of quality in industry 4.0 and key competencies that the quality professionals in the electronics manufacturer will require to adapt to their role in industry 4.0. However, based on the questionnaire and the interview comments of key personnel, it can be concluded that quality professionals lack awareness of their new roles in industry 4.0. This could be due to the fact that the new technology is not implemented by quality professionals but by the innovation team based in Singapore headquarters, as was also advised by the operations head.

Social implications

The benefit of industry 4.0 technology is clearly shown by Philips's new Dutch factory with robotized technology that was able to produce the same output with one-tenth of the workers of its China factory (Rifkin, 2014, chapter 8). Rojko (2017, p. 80) also shared a similar view that industry 4.0 is expected to reduce production costs by 10–30%, logistics costs by 10–30% and quality management costs by 10–20%. The importance of this research can be seen from the findings of “The Future of Jobs” (2018, p. 22), which suggests that the window of opportunity for organizations to leverage the new technology to re-skill is within the period of 2018–2022, in order to enable employees to reach full potential in the high value-added tasks. The electronics manufacturer may need to keep to this timeline to maintain its competitive advantage.

Originality/value

The purpose of this paper was to determine the competence gap of current quality professionals in the electronics manufacturer with the competencies required in industry 4.0. This led to the third objective, to identify the views of stakeholders based on the propositions derived from the gaps identified, to triangulate the findings, to conclude the competency gaps of the current quality professionals in the electronics manufacturer. Finally, the objective of this paper was to make a recommendation on how to prepare the quality professionals in the electronics manufacturer for their role in industry 4.0. The research identified the technical, methodological, social and personal competencies gap of the quality professionals in the electronics manufacturer by looking at the changes expected in industry 4.0 from four aspects, factory (people and process), business, product and customers.

Keywords

Citation

Kannan, K.S.P.N. and Garad, A. (2021), "Competencies of quality professionals in the era of industry 4.0: a case study of electronics manufacturer from Malaysia", International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 839-871. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJQRM-04-2019-0124

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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