Quality is important to organisations and their customers; people like quality products and quality enhances business reputations. However do not equate quality with expensive, as price is simply the amount the seller wants to charge for their product.
What is Quality?
Quality is a very personal thing, one person's view of what features make a quality product will be different to another person's view of quality. In general quality features can be split into two groups tangible features which you can see or assess and intangible features which can not be seen and are a matter of personal opinion.
Examples of Tangible Quality Features
Durability and strength
Appearance and finish
Examples of Intangible Quality Features
Public image of the product, brand or company producing it
The product is viewed as an exclusive item, difficult for most people to access or buy
Benefits of Quality
There are many benefits of having procedures that produce quality goods and services, including:
Increase in sales
Good business reputation
An advantage over competitor's products
Option to charge a higher price than competitors with "lower" quality products
Reduction in overall business costs due to less wastage and rectification
Quality assurance is about prevention; its purpose is to ensure that products and services are not below the standard expected. Quality assurance procedures apply to the production process because that is the point when events affecting the quality of the product are most likely to happen. Organisations will adopt quality assurance procedures based on their industry and product. However Total Quality Management (TQM), Kaizen and ISOs are popular quality assurance systems. Click on each of the words to learn more.
This is defined as the process of identifying which products/services do not meet the organisation’s standards. Whilst quality assurance is about prevention, quality control is about identification of low quality products which have escaped quality assurance. Either all products will be tested or a sample will be taken from each batch. Quality control could also involve unplanned spot checks where a random product or service is tested. Once identified products and services below standard will be removed from the production line, adapted to meet quality standards or discontinued from future production.
Tom Peters (in his book “Thriving on Chaos”) believe that quality rather than price dictates demand for a product. Peters argues that customers are prepared to pay for high quality. This means that value is added to products and services through ensuring that they the quality features consumers like.
A quality circle is made up of a group of people from various levels within the organisation. Their task is to resolve problems such as quality issues. The quality circle will recommend solutions to senior management. By using employees with a variety of skills and experience the quality circle is able to generate effective and innovative solutions.
To provide the quality expected by customers firms will need to train their employees about quality control and quality assurance. As quality is an ongoing process employees will require regular training so that they have the skills and knowledge needed to provide quality products.
In a constantly evolving market place quality improvements are an ongoing process. Customer demands, needs and expectations change and with it quality procedures have to as well. A high quality product today may be viewed as cheap and inferior in ten years time. As we have discussed there are many benefits to having what is a perceived as a "quality product", so the effort required to maintain quality is worth putting in.