hygiene zone
quality tools
quality techniques
human issues
quality awards
quality extra
visitor tools


Stay Informed
Sign up below to receive our Occasional Newsletter.

We Respect Your Privacy!

Web SaferPak
SaferPak: Food Packaging Safety, Food Safety, Business Improvement and Quality Management
       Home     About     Contact

Allan Sayle's Comment

Column 11: 01 March 2006.

Counter-terrorism through global supply chain development

The current row about Danish cartoons featuring offensive images of the prophet Mahomet forces one to confront and consider the issue of cultural and religious intolerance and to ponder whether global supply chain development could provide a lasting solution. Isolation and censorship are not the solution: they aggravate the problem. Nor does leaving the rhetoric to politicians provide an answer. They have their own agenda which they pursue though others' suffering and efforts.

Quality has given me a great career. Apart from the blessing of a reasonable income, the greatest reward has been not just seeing many of the world's great sights but getting to know peoples of many nations and faiths, their faiths, seeing them face-to-face and being honoured as a guest in their homes, meeting their families and friends and appreciating their lifestyles.

For my part, having done business albeit years ago in Moslem countries, I never had a problem and found their peoples friendly, hospitable and honourable, devout in their religion and pleased when I inquired of it. To be blunt their general demeanour and manners were frequently better than in the West. That is why regardless of the argument about free speech for the press, the cartoons disgust me even though I have not seen them nor wish to. They reflect an uninformed unenlightened product of an industry that presumes to earn a living by printing news and information about what is happening in the world. Just as dishonest reporting is an affront and deception, it is a violation of trust. Does that mean I condone the resultant violence; no. But I can understand the outrage and protest of ordinary Islamic people as well as I understand the American outrage in the wake of the 9/11 calamity, the outrage of Jewish people when someone denies the existence of the Holocaust, and the outrage of Chinese people when they see senior Japanese politicians visiting certain shrines in Japan evoking memories of the Japanese atrocities inflicted on them during their wars.

Intolerance has been a fact of life for millennia. That does not make it right but at some point we must find some way of undermining it. Trade, I believe, might be the key. The present form of globalization is unprecedented thanks to modern technology and advanced financial markets. Perhaps we could use their benefits for achieving greater things. Principal among these would be raising the quality of life through an elimination of misunderstanding. There will always be some bigots around but if they can be marginalized their likely effect will negligible.

Working together

Nowadays, intolerance in the workplace may occasionally occur but is increasingly unlikely not because of laws making it unacceptable as much as the end result of people working closely together. When people meet and communicate at a personal level in the workplace they generally learn to understand each other. They build mutual trust that sooner or later extends into society.

Winston Churchill said “jaw-jaw is better than war-war”. And it can start in our daily business undertakings. Trade means sharing. It may be measured in Yen, Yuan, Rupee, Baht or whatever but its real value cannot be measured in monetary terms. A price cannot be placed on peace it is too precious.

Could there, then, be a more compelling reason for supporting globalization and developing global supply chains? And within the global firm, to also ensure internal processes that are not outsourced, cross international borders? The few barriers that exist are, thankfully, being destroyed by technology - a key reason why globalization is proceeding so rapidly. If travel is costly or impractical, videoconferences can bring people closer together, which is increasingly possible as the cost of such equipment and global communications falls. Face-to-face is the most effective of all forms of communication. This could be of the greatest achievement of the microprocessor: of silicon - a grain of sand in which one might see a World, as the poet, William Blake, would say.

The current nonsense emanating from Washington (and elsewhere) about tariffs and protectionism is highly distasteful as well as economic illiteracy in a country that knows better and owes its strength to the concept of free markets. Worst of all, it is dangerous. It does not enhance good international relations or peace between peoples. But politicians have the constancy of a weathervane. As their paymasters in business and the electorate get to know well the World’s citizens and eschew the xenophobia of their so-called representatives, who should know better, the politicians will follow. Bigotry in business is costly. Globally it is deadly.

Global supply chains

In 1999, Thomas Friedman presented his “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention” whereby no two nations in which there are MacDonald’s shops have (so far) gone to war with each other. (Ref 1.) Extending that to business processes, we need supply chains forged as links of gold but as strong as titanium. In quality we do not address such matters. Maybe we should.

“Quality” is not constricted in its adjectival use to matters of products and services. What about the quality of life? And when we speak of stakeholders in the community is it not time we regarded the community as being the entire world of peoples?

Quality departments are often the last to be consulted, if ever, about the selection of suppliers and the engineering of the supply chain. They might be asked to “qualify” a supplier, a verb subtly betraying their customary real authority - zilch. The common goal is to get something on file to satisfy the bureaucratic effects of an ISO program. Supplier selection, however, is an important process extending far beyond simple price negotiation. It builds in or excludes avoidable costs. Though we speak of the cost of living do we thoroughly consider all the avoidable costs of living? In that category would not the reasonable and religious person include the cost of ignorance? While they may be hard to accurately calculate in monetary amounts, they are patently obvious in terms of human suffering and the corpses of conflict appearing everyday on television.

Corporations come and go and it is difficult to use the “I am building a cathedral” motivator and argument to justify the creation of global supply chains as a good thing if we see that only as being for the purpose of increasing profits for the enterprise. That is a relatively short-term aim (though important) compared to the length of human history. But to bring some greater degree of international harmony and peaceful coexistence is a cathedral worth working for. You might not build the whole cathedral edifice but your organization’s supply chains might contribute a well-cut stone.

Feeling the difference; healing the divisions.

We hear of China, India, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and post Iron Curtain countries being involved as key components of global supply chains. We hear of major corporations setting up significant presences in such nations. But, I cannot recall reading or hearing of those same firms setting up operations that would either transfer technology or processes in the Middle Eastern, Islamic nations, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt and so forth. They must be involved; engaged.

The present resentment against the United Arab Emirates shown by various American politicians opposed to one of that nation's companies taking over the British firm of P&O' business of running six American seaports is ill-placed. While being understandable their objections smack of prejudice. It is America's Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard, not the actual management company that controls the security of America’s ports. Those politicians send the wrong message to the World and to Moslem people.

Though Karen Hughes, President Bush's PR emissary might appear on Al Jazeera television such a presence, however well intentioned and valuable, like all media presences, is remote from ordinary people. As is known, customers must “feel the difference” to be convinced a firm's products and services are beneficial or genuine. So, too, with international relations. And they will feel the difference if they become a part of the global supply chain for products other than oil, gas and petrochemicals. Those latter might be large industries but refineries and facilities employ only small numbers of operational staff.

One cannot believe the people of Arab nations are less talented or able in comparison to, say, Orientals. If manufacturers of all types can recruit oriental people from rural and agricultural backgrounds, successfully train them and develop their skills to make them important contributors to the global supply chains, the same can be done in a region we must thank for its intellectual, mathematical and scientific legacy. And the world’s major firms in particular should have local presences extending beyond sales and marketing offices - designed to take money out of the community.

We are supposed not to accept prejudice as employees in the workplace; likewise, it should be the same when choosing and working with suppliers who are merely an extension of our own operations in undertaking those processes we elect not to do ourselves.

Religious and cultural divides need to be healed. Mohandas Gandhi would no doubt agree. Global supply chains could make a vital contribution. And they could tackle the issue of poverty, which both terrorism and the drug trade exploit. A recent BBC World news report highlighted the growing problem in northern Afghanistan of poor local farmers producing crops of poppies because drug prices are high and they must earn a living somehow. Apart from the associated human tragedy of addiction, consider the avoidable cost to western society and taxpayers of that trade.

Global supply chain development inevitably leads to better education with its spin-offs of improved health awareness, Aids prevention, population control etc.

The global stakeholder

These are not easy issues to face or accept at a time when global outsourcing is viewed with suspicion and as a threat. But, history teaches, or should teach, international disengagement eventually has disastrous consequences.

All considered, globalization and supply chain development are quality matters addressing the all-important stakeholder, which is rarely considered - mankind.

Given a choice, I would rather work personally with the people of the World than leave politicians and governments to do it for me. It has brought greater satisfaction and rewards I will be able to recall in my approaching dotage. And to have been part of a profession that from hereon resolves to encourage and assist the bringing together of people and the elimination of the current terrorism challenge would be highly pleasing. The lyrics to the song performed by If state precisely what I feel a quality professional’s (especially an auditor’s) mission should be in the greater scheme of things.

'I'm reaching out on all sides,
I'm grabbing at the truth instead of lies.
I want it said when I am gone:
I moved the World just one step on.'

Reaching out on all sides

(Quincy/ Fisherman) Andover Music.
Island Records.


1. Friedman, Thomas L., The Lexus and The Olive Tree, ISBN 0-374-19203-0.

© 2005 Allan Sayle Associates. All rights reserved.

Web: www.sayle.com



Back to previous page













top of page


home :: about :: contact :: terms

© 2006 SaferPak Ltd.