Quality Priorities

An article in Industry Week says that instead of asking if your company is producing quality products, the better (and more troubling) question should be is your company susceptible to quality issues?

The authors state quality issues can take many forms: In addition to products or services that malfunction, there can also be customer dissatisfaction issues arising out of poor design, user-unfriendliness, or insufficient customer service. Many years ago, products had simple designs and functions, and defects were easier to identify. In today’s more complex world, there are multiple types of quality issues, and multiple locations and processes in which they can arise.

Susceptibility is spread wide. However, according to the authors, many companies today still sadly follow a tactical approach to quality. They react to unsatisfied customers or frequent defects. Some do so better than others. In many cases, the find-and-fix methodologies developed over decades have become both refined and successful. But they are nevertheless a reactive mode of operation.

So, no matter how fast the reaction, the company faces some form of the escalating costs of poor quality, which may be manifested in underutilization, scrap, rework, warranty costs, and/or lost sales. Reactions in the form of large-scale recalls drive added administration, return logistics, product replacement costs, and significant damage to brand equity.

The authors say quality is not inherent in a product – it is a customer’s attitude about that product. A customer’s “perceived quality” does not necessarily correlate with engineers’ calculations of quality inputs and processes. However, quality functions too often focus on those product characteristics rather than the customer. They instead need to manage quality as a customer experience.

The article continues on how to integrate the voice of the customer, manage customer perceptions, and deliver an unparalleled service experience. To see the full article by Ebert, Natarajan, Newsom, and Qu, go to Rebalancing Quality Priorities at the Industry Week website.