Nowadays, organisations are faced with an ever-increasing dynamic environment as a result of trade liberalization and globalisation. Organisations have to constantly adjust their internal system so as to face any external changes over which they do not have much control. Airport management companies, all around the world, are now facing competition and each one want to attract both airlines and air travelers to use their facilities. Another major change is that most airports are managed as business entities under private ownership as a result of the liberalisation policy adopted by most national governments. In order to become competitive, many organisations have put in place a quality management system aimed at meeting and satisfying their customers. In this respect, this study will analyse the current quality management practices at Airport of Mauritius Ltd (AML) against the best industry and international best practices.
AML is a private company which is responsible for managing the international airport of Mauritius. An airport management company has to constantly improve the quality of its services so as to improve its international competitiveness. It is to be recalled that Mauritius, which was an underdeveloped economy in the late seventies, is now developing very fast. The four pillars of its economy are now tourism, textile, information technology and financial services. All these sectors require that the country has a safe and a reliable airport to provide a quality service to its users as well as to its stakeholders. In this respect, it is important for AML to demonstrate that it is conducting its operation in line with best practices and according to international norm and standard.
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Since its creation, AML has been in the forefront of developing its capability so as to respond to the ever-growing increase in both passengers and cargo traffic. In its 2009-2012 strategic plans, the company has laid great emphasis for positioning the airport as the most reliable and welcoming airport in the region. In this respect, the company, in addition to expanding the runaway and the terminal, is putting a lot of emphasis on its people, the first contact point in service delivery(AML Strategic Plan: 2009-12).
Research Methodology :
This section explains in details the methodology used in gathering the necessary information to conduct the research study. It highlights the sources of data, the survey design and the data analysis method. The steps which are necessary to conduct a research have also been highlighted. The overall aim was to plan and carry out the study in a systematic manner so as to achieve a high degree of reliability and validity of the findings.
Research Approach :
According to Saunder, Lewis and Thornhill (2007), research can be either inductive or deductive. Inductivism is based on the development of a theory after analysis of the primary data. This approach takes a holistic view of the situation before the formulation of the theory. However, for the purpose of this study it has been considered most appropriate to adopt a deductive approach where the research started with testing the existing theories. The deductivism is about testing the theories and is more appropriate for the natural sciences. The benefits of this approach for this study are to make use of theories to explain a situation, the cause effect relationship and the data collected is of a quantitative nature.
According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2007), a research could be explanatory, exploratory and descriptive. These are explained below:
(a) Exploratory research
Exploratory research is a type of research conducted when a problem has been clearly defined. It helps determining the best research design, selection of subjects and data collection method. Hence, research that is conducted with an intention to explore is called exploratory research.
(b) Descriptive research
Descriptive research describes data and characteristics about the population or phenomenon being studied. If the purpose of the research is to describe, then the study is considered to be descriptive in nature. It basically gives the researcher a choice of perspective, terms, levels, aspects, concepts, as well as to observe, register, systemize, classify and interpret.
(c) Explanatory research
The desire to know 'why' is the purpose of explanatory research. Explanatory research is applied when the issue is already known Furthermore it builds on exploratory and descriptive research and goes on to identify the reasons for something that occurs. Explanatory research looks for causes and reasons. This research is both an exploratory (i.e. review of the literature) and explanatory (i.e. analysis of data and making conclusion there from) research.
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The two research methods identified in the literature are the qualitative and quantitative research methods. Both have its merits and limitations but the choice between the two depends on the purpose of the study and the type and the availability of information. The qualitative method is commonly used to measure views, attitudes, feelings and opinions. It has been criticized for its subjectivity in the way data is interpreted. The interpretation is based on the researcher and the instrument used.
This study has used the quantitative approach for the analysis of the data. All the dimensions forming part of the study are measured in quantitative terms. The quantitative approach supports the deductive strategy as the theory is placed at the beginning of the research and is tested through set of questions. This approach has been favored for its objectivity.
Research Philosophy :
The research philosophy is considered to be critical to any empirical research because the research philosophy dictates the type or research method and strategy to be adopted. Saunders et al. (2009) argue that positivism and interpretivism are the two dominant research philosophies in business management. They argue that the interpretivism is about the way people make sense of the world whereas the positivism is into the form of a universal law. For this study an interpretivism philosophy has been adopted because it is considered to be the most appropriate one to answer the research question of the study as it involves the interpretation of a situation involving the human element.
The research strategy presents a plan of how the research question has been answered. For this study, the case study method has been adopted. It involved the application of TQM principles and practices at AML
The Research Process
The research process involves the different stages that are involved in a study. These are identified below:
1. Identifying the research problem.
2. Defining the research problem.
3. Determining how to conduct the research or the method.
4. Collecting research data before analyzing.
5. Interpreting the data.
6. Presenting the results.
Bomenblit (2002:6) stated that aviation trade publications and airport press releases provide evidence that managers in the airport industry clearly understand the importance of their customers' perceptions of service quality.
According to Chen (2002:757), academic and industry researchers regularly measure passenger perceptions of airport services quality to benchmark performance metrics directly from the "voice" of the customer. Such a strategy allows them to identify opportunities for service improvement and to avoid losing valuable passenger traffic.
Sureshchandar, Rajendran and Anantharaman, (2001:378) stated that in today's business environment, the focus on quality is not merely a concept of meeting customers' expectations but of exceeding them. As more and more organisations are striving to achieve and maintain competitiveness, the philosophy and concepts of TQM have emerged.
Besterfield, Besterfield and Besterfield-Michna (2003) define TQM as both a philosophy and a set of guiding principles that represent the foundation of a continuously improving organization. It builds upon a culture of continuous improvement by committed managers through employee participation. This view was further refined by Hellsten and Klefsjö (2000:238) who define TQM as a continuously evolving management system consisting of values, methodologies and tools, the aim of which is to increase external and internal customer satisfaction with a reduced amount of resources.
According to Waddell and Mallen (2001:373) total quality management is now seen as a new concept and a new way for organisations to improve the quality of their products and services. Garg (2005:634) gives support to this idea and he stated that the purpose of TQM is to provide a quality product or service to customers, which will, in turn increase productivity as well as customer satisfaction and decrease cost.
As for Das, Handfield, Calantone, and Ghosh (2000:649), they stated that it is also the key to survival and prosperity in today's business environment and beyond. They also posit that total quality management establishes quality enhancement which is important for long-term effectiveness, survival and financial performance of an organization.
In the view of Rahman (2001:35) TQM is intended to empower every member of the organisation, promote continuous, sustained and long term improvement in quality and productivity and eliminate employees' fear of change. This principle is further elaborated by Neergaard (2002:173) who states that TQM is not a model or a technique, but may best be described as a management philosophy. As such TQM has altered and re-shaped the work practices and management thinking of many organisations. They also opine that the methods and techniques used in TQM can be applied throughout any organization, be it in the manufacturing, public service, health care, education and hospitality industries.
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Leonard and McAdam (2002:507) indicate that TQM was found to be a mean of achieving strategic targets and a key driver in the implementation of corporate strategy. Kanji, Tambi, and Wallace (1999:357) describe TQM as the way of life of an organisation committed to customer satisfaction through continuous improvement, which varies from organisation to organisation and from one country to another but it has certain principles that can be implemented to secure market share, increase profits and reduce costs.
According to Oakland (2000), TQM philosophy emphasizes the role of internal and external customers and suppliers and the involvement of employees in pursuit of continuous improvement. Gotzamani and Tsiotras (2001:1326) conclude that the increase in perceived quality should result in new customers, increased sales and reduced operating costs.
Terziovski, Power and Sohal, (2003:580) study of Australian manufacturers also provide evidence of companies achieving both tangible and intangible benefits from quality improvement programs. They found that the benefits take time and that the time needed to change the organisational culture and attitudes should not be underestimated. Managers must learn to be patient and not expect all benefits to be realized in the short term.