WHAT IS QUALITY?

Quality Capsule 1 - Suresh Lulla

I believe: No one is against Quality.

How often have you witnessed customer and supplier arguments? These heated debates may address: invisible product features, delay in delivery, discounts, field failures, warranty costs, after-sales-service, and more. In the end, there is only a compromise and customer dissatisfaction.

The underlying reason for both, customer and supplier, is Quality.

Here is an insight:
– The customer perceives your marketing team to be the supplier.
– In addition, the supplier perceives your purchasing team to be the customer.
– Operations manage processes with inputs from the purchasing team; and deliver outputs to the marketing team.

This applies to manufacturing and service organizations; as well as healthcare and educational institutions – large, medium, small, and micro.

If no one is against Quality, then what is Quality?

In the words of Dr J M Juran, Quality is fitness for use.

This basic definition branches into two arms:
1. Quality = Product features that meet customer needs
2. Quality = Freedom from deficiencies along the entire supply chain

Product features that meet customer needs.
Higher quality enables organizations to:
– Increase customer satisfaction
– Increase market share
– Attract premium prices
– Increase sales income.

The major effect is on sales.
Usually, higher quality costs more.

Freedom from deficiencies
Higher quality enables organizations to:
– Reduce rework, waste
– Reduce field failures, warranty costs
– Reduce customer dissatisfaction
– Improve delivery performance

The major effect is on costs.
Usually, higher quality costs less.

Therefore, where should we start on our Road to World-Class Quality?

My second Quality Capsule, on Wednesday 15 July, will be on: How to Manage for Quality?



18 thoughts on “WHAT IS QUALITY?”

  • Sir, In this Blog you have Mentioned in two statements ” Usually Higher Quality Costs More and in in the other it Costs Less” ….Can you please explain.

  • Thank you Mr Lulla for this capsule series on “back to basics” Quality. I love it. Much needed. Love the conversational style – I can almost see you talking! I will eagerly await this every week. I miss the pictures though. They complete the learning.

  • Product features that meet Customer Needs and generate Customer Satisfaction* – Growth through Quality
    Freedom from Deficiencies along the Provider Network (I dint like the term Supply Chain) – Survival through Quality

    A company should be continually engaged in ‘freedom from deficiencies , and can focus on Features that meet Customer Needs and generate Customer Satisfaction every once in a while .

    *Customer Satisfaction and Customer Dis-satisfaction are not opposites

    • Dear Balaji, You have challenged me with alternative thoughts.

      Let me agree that we need to start with Freedom from Deficiencies if the company has been in existence for at least 2 years.

      Here’s another insight: Over 50 % deficiencies in processes are traceable to supplier process incapability

  • Absolutely with the customer. That is where we should start but I have found that we remain product focused. Secondly, we also don’t know how our customers use our product so we don’t know what their unstated needs are. That is the reason our definition of Quality is narrowed down to “freedom from deficiencies”. We tend to keep the Supplier at an arm’s length so it narrows down further to “freedom from deficiencies in our plant.” Time to define “What is Quality?” and use it as context for all our discussions around Quality.

    • Dear Ashok,
      Parents purchase toys for their children. They are the customer.
      Children chew toys…the user.
      You are addressing product features. In that case build Quality into the Design.

      • Thank you Mr Lulla. Lesson learnt. Should we not add this to the definition as a third element of quality-
        1. User – Fitness for use
        2. Customer – Features that meet requirements
        3. Provider – Freedom from deficiencies.

  • From customer and systems perspective we need to start at both ends, as sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Great product and service features along with minimum waste is key to be world class.

    • Dear Aditya, that is a good response for an organization high on the maturity rating (eg International Quality Maturity Model)

      For a typical firm, they should adopt Freedom from Deficiencies first. This is not capital intensive and can give the firm 1000% ROI on the improvement projects. As they advance in maturity they should add Product Features that satisfy customer needs.

      For a start-up, the starting point is Product Features. Build Quality into the Design.

  • Quality is a trust by which a product makes a long term relation between a manufacturer and a customer.
    And good Quality means when an educated customer becomes delighted realizing the total value added with the product.

  • Quality is what delights the customer and sustains the manufacturer and the entire back end suplly chain ,thereby reducing resource wastage.

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