How to Pole Vault to Quality 4.0?

Pole Vault - Qimpro


Once upon a time we had craftsmen. In India. In Egypt. These craftsmen had Quality in their DNA. They understood customer needs and built Quality into the design of products and the related processes; as well as worked through the processes in a state of self-control. According to me, the craftsman is the icon for Quality.

Then came industrialization. In industrialization work got divided. The objective of industrialization was Quantity. In doing so, Quality suffered. Quantity objectives created fires in the manufacturing processes. With that was born the first Cost Of Poor Quality (COPQ). Namely, the inspector. The job of the inspectors was to put the fires out.

Decades later, industry realized that Quality can only be achieved by defining standards for work, inputs and outputs. Consequently, organizations focused on Statistical Quality Control. Unfortunately, standards are based on the modal values of the related measurement in industry. Therefore, although variability was contained, these organizations were doomed to become mediocre, owing to the Quality objective of conformance to standards. That was Quality 1.0.

Total Quality

Competition crept in. Customers purchased goods and services that were perceived to be superior in Quality. In fact, smart organizations realized that the customer defines Quality. Quality was not restricted to  conformance to standards. With that was born Total Quality Management.

The scope of Total Quality extended from Value Creation Processes to Support Processes to Supplier Processes. The customers for each of the three were: External Customers, Internal Customers, and our own Purchase Departments, respectively. The interdependence of these three categories of processes resulted in a Systems approach to Quality. ISO 9001 was born.

Soon thereafter, Quality was no longer an option for organizations. It was a prerequisite for entering and succeeding in the markets. Our offerings had to have the cutting edge of Continuous Quality Improvement. In turn, that gave birth to the first avatar of Business Excellence – the Baldrige Criteria. Customers were satisfied. Employees were satisfied. Shareholders were also satisfied. That was Quality 2.0.

Business Excellence

In India, the IMC Ramkrishna Bajaj National Quality Award was established in 1995, as a clone of the Baldrige. Organizations embarked on the journey from ‘Managing for Quality’ to ‘Quality of Management’. With leaders firmly in charge. Since then, multiple hundreds of organizations from the manufacturing and services sectors have competed for the Award.

At around the same time, several other organizations also adopted Business Excellence Criteria. Prominent in this endeavour were companies in The Tata Group, The Aditya Birla Group, Mahindra & Mahindra, The Godrej Group, and Marico. They reaped the benefits of Process Efficiency and Output Effectiveness. These organizations were, and are, perceived to be trustworthy in the eyes of their customers.

Over time, Quality and Safety became inseparable. Any accident was the result of some Poor Quality! Safety found a place in Business Excellence Criteria. The Reliance Group set the pace for Safety.

For the past five years we have been challenged with demands from still more categories of customers: Society and Mother Earth. This is in addition to the Internal Customers, External Customers and Shareholders. Climate Change has been the trigger. Tomorrow’s problems have arrived Today!

All this means that we need to make a Habit of Innovation. We need to engage our creative right-brain for disruptive innovative solutions. We need to put transformation on steroids!  This is Quality 3.0.

Solving Anticipated Problems

We are now faced with new technologies to Manage for Quality: Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Blockchain, Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning, amongst others. This is not exclusive to the manufacturing sector. It is equally applicable to the service sector. Private and public.

We therefore need to solve anticipated problems. We need to build Quality into Design. We need Quality Planning as the engine for Business Excellence. Quality has a new role.

Quality 4.0 is here.

Is there a resemblance to the craftsman?


  1. Problem Solving should now relate to the classic methodology, Quality Planning (Ref: The Juran Trilogy).
  2. Quality Planning is the responsibility of the Design Function.
  3. Design Engineers should chase Customers to understand their needs.

7 thoughts on “How to Pole Vault to Quality 4.0?”

  • Quality 4.0 or Digital Business Excellence is next step forward ! However as it has evoleved, all organization would require a craftsman kind of attitude to design products, processes and organizations. Without customer centric mindset, we are likely to see Digital Garbage.

    I remember your words that Tattoo Customer on one hand and Process on another hand. One our hands are working in sync, we can eye for business excellence and build strongs and speedier legs towards digital efficiencies.

  • Excellent narration, Mr. Suresh Lulla. It makes a compelling case for Quality to pole vault to the next level, even as Industries and Businesses are defining their own versions of 4.0. That way, Quality can catch up with the pace of changing Customers needs… inspired by the ancient Egyptian and Indian craftsmen. Thank you, very much!

  • Quality 4.0 – Quality by Design! An evolution of quality already propagated by the Quality Gurus of yesteryear’s. Therefore, Quality 4.0 is “back to basics”. The only difference is that we should always remember that Quality is designed, built and delivered by a human – the human with a craftsman’s heart! For long, it has been believed that technology will solve quality problems. Hope the world realises through your post that Quality is delivered by the craftsman in us! Even Toyota has started firing their robots! As they say, Robots cannot improve processes only humans can!

    • Yes Ashok. Bullseye.
      People make Quality. Instead of engaging them in (robotic) Quality Control, we need to channelize their right-brain creative thinking into Building Quality into Design.

  • The word Quality has been given many dimensions and definitions over the century such as Fitness for Use, Fitness for Purpose, Conformance to Requirements, Satisfaction relative to price, etc etc. However, those who have kept “Perception in the eyes of customer” as central to the concept of quality have been vindicated in 21st century. Quality is gradually becoming an umbrella concept encompassing safety, innovation, climate change consciousness and many other themes. These changes are now also reflected in IMC Ramkrishna Bajaj National Quality Award criteria for performance excellence.

    • I wish to add that Customer Satisfaction is a ratio of Customer Perception and Customer Expectation.
      Customer Perceptions are usually stable.
      The trouble maker is Customer Expectations. Expectations are a moving target!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *