Introduction to Quality Part 1

A lot of people have a misconception that quality is equal to inspection of finish goods from manufacturing process to ensure that the final product fulfill customer’s requirements or specifications.  This is a very narrow minded thinking as inspection only forms a small slice of quality management and engineering.  I still find  that many  quality professional and top management in manufacturing  does not really have very good understanding in the following areas : 

Definition of  quality,  
Why is quality important
Who owns quality
How do we measure quality?
How is quality achieve?
Different aspect of quality
What are the various aspect of quality and different types of quality engineers

All the above items might sound very fundamental, unfortunately there are many misconceptions on the above basic quality topics in manufacturing industries. Therefore I would like to start this blog by sharing the above basics topic for my readers  to understand quality better and share my perspective as a quality engineering professional for nearly 3 decades

Definition of quality

According to American Society of Quality (a well known global leader in quality) quality of the a product is defined as fitness for use, conformance to requirements, and the pursuit of excellence.  There are 2 aspects of quality product
  • Product must fit for use for its intended purpose and has  ability to satisfy stated or implied customer needs
  • A product free of deficiencies and able to function without problem for its intended purpose

This means if I were to buy a refrigerator,  it should have a frozen compartment for my frozen foods and chiller  to  preserve my food item in low temperature and able to function according to the feature given by manufacturer once (fitness of use for its intended purpose). I should be able to install the refrigerator without any problem (free from deficiencies) easily.  After installation the refrigerator should work properly.
Consumer and producer would look at quality differently.  As a producer,  if I  produce or supply product which comply to customer requirement, fit for use  and free from defect  then the product is of good quality. 

For a consumer this would be considered as expected feature such as the refrigerator example above where we will expect the refrigerator to function well after set up and plug in electricity and quality could mean “extra” feature at reasonable cost.  Quality could also mean long lasting from a consumer's point of view in more traditional and might not be applicable anymore in today's “throw way” society where gadget such as smart phone get upgraded almost every 6 months.  With such  frequent upgrade not many consumer will care if the gadget could last for years.

I would personally defined a product as good quality with the following features

  1. Well design according to consumer needs  
  2.  Made from good quality material (high grade material), 
  3. Originated from well control process input such as trained operator,  manufacturing methods, well maintained equipment  and environment which able to reduce variations process input
  4. Minimal handling of the product such as no excessive testing or inspection which minimize handling defects
  5. Appropriate check and balance process (inspection and/or test process) which reflect the performance capability of the product
  6. Do it right the first time with no rework. 
  7. Able to function well beyond its warranty period 
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If product full fill the above seven criteria, not only  will we have a good quality product , we would also be able to meet the cost objective of both producer and consumer as well.

Figure 1 :  Criteria for good quality product

Why is quality important

Quality is important to achieve customer satisfaction and loyalty.  From a supplier perspective,  you must ensure  customer willing to spend money to buy  your product and NOT your competitor’s product.  Customer is the one that determine the quality value of your product base on how much the product full fill their requirements and beyond which sometimes include price target.  Some customer are even willing to pay for reputable brand which synonymous to quality  in their perception.  Therefore at the minimum, producer must have  the ability  to  market a product which is perceive as good quality in order to sell the product.  It would defeat the purpose of business entity  if the product  is not able to sell in consumer market as there is no profit and revenue generated.

Consumer has the power to determine how successful a product would be and how much profit a company would make. In short we would like to have a quality product according to consumer perception of “quality “in a highly competitive market place as they are the one choose to buy your product.  

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