Defining Quality

Quality

When the expression “quality” is used, we usually think in terms of an excellent product or service that fulfils or exceeds our expectations. These expectations are based on the intended use and the selling price.

For example, a customer expects a different performance from a plain steel washer than from a chrome-plated steel washer because they are a different grade. When a product surpasses our expectations we consider that quality. Thus it is somewhat of an intangible based on perception. Quality can be quantified as below

Q=P/E

Where; Q= Quality, P= Performance, E= Expectations

If Q >1 then the customer has a good feeling about the product or service. Of course, the determination of P and E will most likely be based on perception with the organization determining performance and the customer determining expectations.

Hence from the above equation, the relation of Q, P and E is given as below

If P>E this implies Q>1 and hence quality is above par,

If P=E this implies Q=1 and hence quality is at par,

If P<E this implies Q<1 and hence quality is below par.

A more definitive definition of quality is given in ISO 9000:2000.

“It is defined as the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements.

  • Degree means that quality can be used with adjectives such as poor, good and excellent.
  • Inherent is defined as existing in something, especially as a permanent characteristic.
  • Characteristics can be quantitative or qualitative.
  • Requirement is need or expectation that is stated: generally implied by the organization, its customers, and other interested parties; or obligatory.

The Dimensions of Quality

Quality has nine different dimensions given below

  1. Performance: Primary product characteristics, such as the brightness of the picture.
  2. Features: Secondary characteristics, added features, such as remote control.
  3. Conformance: Meeting specifications or industry standards, workmanship
  4. Reliability: Consistency of performance over time, an average time for the unit to fail
  5. Durability: Useful life, includes repair.
  6. Service: Resolution of problems and complaints, ease of repair.
  7. Response: Human-to-human interface, such as the courtesy of the dealer.
  8. Aesthetics: Sensory characteristics, such as exterior finish.
  9. Reputation: Past performance and other intangibles, such as being ranked first.

These dimensions are somewhat independent; therefore, a product can be excellent in one dimension and average or poor in another. Very few, if any, products excel in all nine dimensions.

For example, the Japanese were cited for high-quality cars in the 1970s based only on the dimensions of reliability, conformance, and aesthetics. Therefore, quality products can be determined by using a few of the dimensions of quality.

Marketing has the responsibility of identifying the relative importance of each dimension of quality. These dimensions are then translated into the requirements for the development of a new product or the improvement of an existing one.

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