Quality: How to Achieve It


Mr. Devkant Kala
Department of Management Studies
Uttaranchal Institute of Management

Manager of a manufacturing and service organization always confront with three important issues: - Profitability, Productivity and Quality. Amongst these three factors, Quality can be the most significant factor in determining the long run success of the organizations. In the current techno-economic scenario, quality leadership is the key to business success. It has become the fundamental strategy for survival and competitiveness of business organizations.

"Quality means the degree to which a specific product satisfies a particular class of consumers or the degree to which it conforms to a design specification or the distinguishing features of a product."

According to American Society of Quality Control, "Quality is the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy a given need."

Quality is the product's "fitness for use" captures the essential feature that applies to all products. Quality is customer oriented. Products whether goods or services, are of good quality only if customers say they are, that is, only if they meet customers' needs and expectations in terms of their expected use.

Products with superior quality obviously are more attractive to customers and therefore will experience greater sales. The product quality has become increasingly important for three other reasons. First, customers who purchase a product based on quality have greater product loyalty than those who purchase based on price. Customers who buy based on price readily change to competing products that sell at a lower price. Second, the poor quality is more expensive than good quality. Many companies have discovered that higher product quality does not have to cost more. In fact, in many cases the methods used to improve quality simultaneously increase productivity, reduce material usage and reduce cost. Finally, organizations can be exposed to considerable financial liabilities when defective products can cause injuries or death to users or simply don't perform adequately. Improved product quality reduces the exposure to such financial or moral risks.

Dimensions of Quality

The quality characteristics of a typical product are multidimensional because products provide satisfaction and value to customers in many ways. Some characteristics are quantitative, while some are qualitative. The specific quality dimensions that are relevant to the customers vary from product to product, but we can categorize them into the following groups:-

1. Performance: - Primary operating characteristics that determine how well the product performs the intended function.

2. Feature: - Qualities that appeal to the customer.

3. Durability: - How long the product performs acceptably until repair is needed and the overall usable life of the product.

4. Reliability: - How consistently the product performs at an acceptable level under normal maintenance.

5. Serviceability: - The frequency, expense and difficulty of actions required keeping the product operating at the desired level of performance.

6. Aesthetics: - How the product looks.

7. Conformance: - Degree to which a product or service meets its specifications.

8. Uniformity : - Degree of variations among different products of the same type.

9. Safety: - Measures the likelihood of harm from a good or service, its impact on health and the environment.

10. Timeliness : - The timeliness for providing the product or service.

11. Customer Service: - Treatment received by the customer relating to the product before, during and after completion of the sales transaction.

12. Environment Friendly: - This attribute has both societal aspects and is individual specific.

How to achieve Quality standards

Quality is the most significant factor in determining the long run success of the organizations. Organizations must adopt all measures which can help organization to outperform competitors in terms of Quality. The following points must be addressed by organizations to produce or deliver quality products or services to customers: -

1. Quality must be Customer Oriented

A product is not easy to use and a service is not courteous and prompt unless customers say they are. This fact requires organizations to work closely with their customers to determine what the customer want in the products and how they receive value from the products.

The quality of the product depends on the ability of the company to identify both stated and unstated needs, translation of these needs in to design specifications and designing and managing the process to keep quality level as per design specifications and ensuring performance.

2. Primary responsibility rests on Top Management

The active participation of senior managers is critical for the achievement and maintenance of quality standards. Therefore, management must create a supporting organizational environment in which managers can perform their tasks effectively. Proper organizational structure, production processes and incentives should be given to encourage managers and reward them for good quality.

3. Everyone is responsible for Quality

This translates into self-inspection by workers rather than by separate quality control personnel and it requires workers to cooperate in identifying and solving quality problems.

4. Right from the first

Making it right or doing it right the first time should be the goal of every worker. All the methods, processes, machines and their proper/ effective setup should be utilized by organization which increases the chance of doing it right the first time.

5. Consciously design Production process and work methods

Using the philosophy of "Prevention is better than Cure", management must prevent defects rather than catching or detecting them. Organization should use right tools and equipments, mistake proofing processes, training workers in the best methods and provide a good and conducive work environment to prevent defects.

6. Identify and check Quality related problems promptly

Quality control methods can play a useful role in monitoring quality and identifying problems quickly. Tightly synchronized production systems with quick communication among workers promote quick identification and solution of quality problems when they do occur. In addition, self-inspection and assessment of work by employees and customer assessment of quality are important components of the quality monitoring mechanism.

7. Continuous improvement

Excellent product quality is the result of workers striving to improve product quality and productivity on an ongoing basis using experience and experimentation. Organizational structure, work procedures and policies should be established that promote and accelerate continuous improvement.

Workers, the primary source for improvement ideas, are utilized in organizational continuous improvement mechanisms such as work teams, Quality Circles, suggestions systems etc. A valuable technique that can be used to promote continuous improvement is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle (also called PDCA cycle or the Shewhart cycle or the Deming Wheel). The phases of this cycle are:-

Plan: - Develop a plan for improvement by collecting data and identifying problems.
Do : - Implement plan on a small scale and collect data on its performance.
Check: - See whether the planned improvements really improve the process.
Act : - If the proposed change do improve the process communication and train workers.

8. Extend Quality programs to Suppliers

If suppliers are providing low-quality components, materials or goods, then it will be impossible for company to achieve high level of quality in the goods and services it produces.

By letting suppliers know how their activities help fulfill customer's requirements, the organization can motivate their suppliers to provide quality products (components, materials etc.). Now, many companies are conducting quality management programs for suppliers to gain their participation in manufacturing quality products or services.

Mr. Devkant Kala
Department of Management Studies
Uttaranchal Institute of Management

Source: E-mail May 9, 2008


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