‘Zero Defect, Zero Effect’: What it means, and what it delivers

PM has pitched for ‘ZED’ strategy that can be a win-win situation for both customers and society

Dr. Palakh Jain, Dr. Chavi Asrani and Dr. Tinu Jain | June 11, 2020

#Zero Effect   #Zero Defect   #Economy   #industry   #ZED  
Illustration: Ashish Asthana
Illustration: Ashish Asthana

In India’s pursuit for becoming globally competitive, prime minister Narendra Modi 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 highlights the government’s ardent desire to pay particular attention on manufacturing as a means to sustainable growth in order to transform the course of economy.

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 propounded by renowned management expert Philip Crosby in his book ‘Absolutes of Quality Management’. ‘Zero defect’ is a concept of pursuit of perfection in order to enhance quality. Though it is difficult to attain perfection, at least the pursuit of perfection will pave way towards quality improvement. As defined by the Working Group on Quality, quality is synonymous to continuous improvement (‘kaizen’), optimum practices and exploiting the full power of knowledge. The zero defects theory aims to make a project waste-free. Waste here refers to all fruitless and superfluous procedures, processes, policies, tools, employees, etc.

In India’s journey of becoming a world leader, the role of quality cannot be underestimated. Last year, Rajeev Kher emphasised the same in an op-ed article. 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, 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 institutionalise a ‘National Mission on Quality’. The Working Group on Quality had made suggestions 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 Kher’s article:

  R. Kher’s article Working Group report
Issues 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
R. Kher’s article 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
Recommendations Institutionalization of a ‘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 the 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. The quality revolution in manufacturing has an enormous impact on the competitiveness of companies, likewise, the quality revolution in services will give rise to a fresh set of winners and losers. The winners will be those who take the initiative and set a shining example of managing towards zero defections.
  • Devising a mechanism to measure quality: This will enable firms to utilize defections as an early foreshadow 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.
Dr. Chavi Asrani is Consultant at ICRIER.
Dr. Tinu Jain is Assistant Professor, IMI- Kolkata.

Kher, Rajiv (2017). Towards a zero-defect India. Retrieved from https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/gcytvkDvrNBDDMBjimtWvI/Towards-a-zerodefect-India.html on March 29, 2020.

Crosby. Philip (1957). Theories on ‘Absolutes of Quality Management’. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/38523531/PHILIP_CROSBY on March 29, 2020.

Rao, Rakesh (2015). Zero defect, zero effect: A myth or a reality? Retrieved from https://www.business-standard.com/article/sponsored-content/zero-defect-zero-effect-a-myth-or-a-reality-115060400462_1.html on March 29, 2020.

Mohan, Vishwa (2014). Ecologists cheer Modi’s ‘zero defect, zero effect, slogan. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/developmental-issues/ecologists-cheer-modis-zero-defect-zero-effect-slogan/articleshow/40312809.cms?from=mdr on March 29, 2020.

National Pilot Project Report (2016). ZED Maturity Assessment Model. Retrieved from https://zed.org.in/uploads/pilot_report.pdf on March 29, 2020.

Saboo, Rohit (2017). Building a world-class manufacturing hub by focusing on ‘zero defect and zero effect’. Retrieved from https://auto-v2-stage.economictimes.indiatimes.com/autologue/building-a-world-class-manufacturing-hub-by-focusing-on-zero-effect-and-zero-defect/2076 on March 29, 2020.

Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India. (2018). Retrieved from https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=186673 on March 29, 2020.

Parashar, Shikha. Parashar, Anil Kumar. (2015). Goal of Modern Industries: “Zero Defect, Zero Effect”. Retrieved from http://pnrsolution.org/Datacenter/Vol3/Issue2/46.pdf on March 29, 2020.

Porter, M.E., & Linde, C. van der. (2011). “Toward a New Conception of the Environment-Competitiveness Relationship”. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 9(4). Retrieved from https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.9.4.97 on March 29, 2020.

Venugopal, Vasudha. (2016). ‘Manufacturing to move into ‘zero defect, zero effect’ category.’ Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/manufacturing-to-move-into-zero-defect-zero-effect-category/articleshow/50664212.cms?from=mdr on March 29, 2020.



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