Product quality

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The introduction of the ISO , , and standards in — based off work from previous British and U.

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Jan 22,  · Quality is often measured in relation to competitive products and services. If you are in product management or product design, then you will likely also think in these terms. Joe Xue did a good job with this definition.

Value-based definitions take this idea one step further. They actually define quality in terms of costs and prices. According to this view, a quality product is one that provides performance at an acceptable price or conformance at an acceptable cost.

A recent survey of consumer perceptions of quality in twenty-eight product categories suggests that the value-based view is becoming more prevalent. The difficulty in employing this approach lies in its blending of two related but distinct concepts. Quality, which is a measure of excellence, is being equated with value, which is a measure of worth. Most existing definitions of quality fall into one of the categories listed above.

The coexistence of these differing approaches has several important implications. First, it helps to explain the often competing views of quality held by members of the marketing and manufacturing departments. Marketing people typically take a user-based or product-based approach to the subject; for them, higher quality means better performance, enhanced features, and other improvements that increase cost.

Because they see the customer as the arbiter of quality, they view what happens in the factory as much less important than what happens in the field. Manufacturing people normally take a different approach. These two views are obviously in conflict, and can cause serious breakdowns in communications.

Remedial efforts may become paralyzed if the coexistence of these competing perspectives is not openly acknowledged. For example, a large division of a major consumer goods company recently reviewed its quality management practices. The firm was especially interested in assessing its new-product introduction process, for new products were regarded as the key to competitive success.

Two divergent views emerged. One group felt that the process had been quite successful: Another group felt that the process had to be revamped because quality was so poor: Because of these disagreements, the project quickly stalled. Further progress requires the recognition that one group is employing a user-based definition of quality while the other is employing a manufacturing-based approach.

Only then are the two groups likely to agree on the nature of the problems they face. Despite the potential for conflict, companies need to cultivate such differing perspectives, for they are essential to the successful introduction of high-quality products.

Reliance on a single definition of quality is a frequent source of problems. For example, a Japanese paper manufacturer recently discovered that its newsprint rolls failed to satisfy customers even though they met the Japanese Industrial Standard.

Conformance was excellent, reflecting a manufacturing-based approach to quality, but acceptance was poor. Other rolls of newsprint, however, generated no customer complaints even though they failed to meet the standard.

Its products were well received by customers and highly rated by Consumer Reports. Reject, scrap, and warranty costs were so high, however, that large losses were incurred. While the product's design matched customers' needs, the failure to follow through with tight conformance in manufacturing cost the company dearly. These examples suggest the need to actively shift one's approach to quality as products move from design to market.

The characteristics that connote quality must first be identified through market research a user-based approach to quality ; these characteristics must then be translated into identifiable product attributes a product-based approach to quality ; and the manufacturing process must then be organized to ensure that products are made precisely to these specifications a manufacturing-based approach to quality.

A process that ignores anyone of these steps will not result in a quality product. All three views are necessary and must be consciously cultivated.

Nevertheless, each of the major approaches to quality shares a common problem. Each is vague and imprecise when it comes to describing the basic elements of product quality. Relatively few analysts, with the exceptions of Juran 24 and Maynes, 25 have shown an interest in these details. That oversight is unfortunate, for much can be learned by treating quality in a less homogeneous fashion.

Eight dimensions can be identified as a framework for thinking about the basic elements of product quality:. Each is self-contained and distinct, for a product can be ranked high on one dimension while being low on another. First on the list is performance, which refers to the primary operating characteristics of a product. For an automobile, these would be traits like acceleration, handling, cruising speed, and comfort; for a television set, they would include sound and picture clarity, color, and ability to receive distant stations.

This dimension of quality combines elements of both the product and user-based approaches. Measurable product attributes are involved, and brands can usually be ranked objectively on at least one dimension of performance. The connection between performance and quality, however, is more ambiguous. Whether performance differences are perceived as quality differences normally depends on individual preferences.

Users typically have a wide range of interests and needs; each is likely to equate quality with high performance in his or her area of immediate interest. The connection between performance and quality is also affected by semantics. Among the words that describe product performance are terms that are frequently associated with quality as well as terms that fail to carry the association.

For example, a watt light bulb provides greater candlepower performance than a watt bulb, yet few consumers would regard this difference as a measure of quality. The products simply belong to different performance classes. The smoothness and quietness of an automobile's ride, however, is typically viewed as a direct reflection of its quality. Quietness is therefore a performance dimension that readily translates into quality, while candlepower is not.

These differences appear to reflect the conventions of the English language as much as they do personal preferences. There is a clear analogy here to Lancaster's theory of consumer demand. All goods possess objective characteristics relevant to the choices which people make among different collections of goods. Individuals differ in their reaction to different characteristics, rather than in their assessments of the characteristics It is these characteristics in which consumers are interested.

In these terms, the performance of a product would correspond to its objective characteristics, while the relationship between performance and quality would reflect individual reactions. The same approach can be applied to product features, a second dimension of quality. Examples include free drinks on a plane flight, permanent press as well as cotton cycles on a washing machine, and automatic tuners on a color television set.

In many cases, the line separating primary product characteristics performance from secondary characteristics features is difficult to draw. Features, like product performance, involve objective and measurable attributes; their translation into quality differences is equally affected by individual preferences. The distinction between the two is primarily one of centrality or degree of importance to the user.

Reliability is a third dimension of quality. It reflects the probability of a product's failing within a specified period of time. Among the most common measures of reliability are the mean time to first failure MTFF , the mean time between failures MTBF , and the failure rate per unit time.

Japanese manufacturers typically pay great attention to this dimension of quality, and have used it to gain a competitive edge in the automotive, consumer electronics, semiconductor, and copying machine industries.

A related dimension of quality is conformance, or the degree to which a product's design and operating characteristics match preestablished standards. Both internal and external elements are involved. Within the factory, conformance is commonly measured by the incidence of defects: In the field, data on conformance are often difficult to obtain, and proxies are frequently used.

Two common measures are the incidence of service calls for a product and the frequency of repairs under warranty. These measures, while suggestive, neglect other deviations from standard, such as misspelled labels or shoddy construction, that do not lead to service or repair.

More comprehensive measures of conformance are required if these items are to be counted. Both reliability and conformance are closely tied to the manufacturing-based approach to quality. Improvements in both measures are normally viewed as translating directly into quality gains because defects and field failures are regarded as undesirable by virtually all consumers.

They are, therefore, relatively objective measures of quality, and are less likely to reflect individual preferences than are rankings based on performance or features. Durability, a measure of product life, has both economic and technical dimensions.

Technically, durability can be defined as the amount of use one gets from a product before it physically deteriorates. A light bulb provides the perfect example: Durability becomes more difficult to interpret when repair is possible. Then the concept takes on an added dimension, for product life will vary with changing economic conditions. Durability becomes the amount of use one gets from a product before it breaks down and replacement is regarded as preferable to continued repair.

Consumers are faced with a series of choices: In these circumstances, a product's life is determined by repair costs, personal valuations of time and inconvenience, losses due to downtime, relative prices, and other economic variables, as much as it is by the quality of components or materials.

This approach to durability has two important implications. First, it suggests that durability and reliability are closely linked. A product that fails frequently is likely to be scrapped earlier than one that is more reliable; repair costs will be correspondingly higher, and the purchase of a new model will look that much more desirable.

Second, this approach suggests that durability figures should be interpreted with care. An increase in product life may not be due to technical improvements or to the use of longer-lived materials; the underlying economic environment may simply have changed.

For example, the expected life of an automobile has risen steadily over the last decade, and now averages fourteen years. In this case, environmental changes have been responsible for much of the reported increase in durability.

A sixth dimension of quality is serviceability, or the speed, courtesy, and competence of repair. Consumers are concerned not only about a product breaking down, but also about the elapsed time before service is restored, the timeliness with which service appointments are kept, the nature of their dealings with service personnel, and the frequency with which service calls or repairs fail to resolve outstanding problems. Some of these variables can be measured quite objectively; others reflect differing personal standards of what constitutes acceptable service.

Other aspects of service can be assessed more objectively. Responsiveness is typically measured by the mean time to repair MTTR , while technical competence is reflected in the incidence of multiple service calls required to correct a single problem. Because most consumers equate more rapid repair and reduced downtime with higher quality, these elements of serviceability are less subject to personal interpretation than are those involving evaluations of courtesy or standards of professional behavior.

A number of companies have begun emphasizing this dimension of quality. Caterpillar Tractor's promise that it will deliver repair parts anywhere in the world within forty-eight hours and Mercedes' guarantee of twenty-four-hour overnight service in California and Arizona show that even top-of-the-line producers believe that this approach has value.

The final two dimensions of quality are the most subjective. Both aesthetics and perceived quality are closely related to the user-based approach. Aesthetics — how a product looks, feels, sounds, tastes, or smells — is clearly matters of personal judgment, and reflections of individual preferences.

Perceptions of quality can be as subjective as assessments of aesthetics. Because consumers do not always possess complete information about a product's attributes, they must frequently rely on indirect measures when comparing brands. These forces even affect scholarly judgments.

When professors around the country were asked to rank the departments in their fields by quality, their rankings were only partially explained by such objective measures as the number of articles published in leading journals by members of the department.

Both reputation — the historical strength of the department — and affiliation — the quality of the university to which a department was attached — were equally important in explaining the rankings.

Together, the eight major dimensions of quality cover a broad range of concepts. Several of the dimensions involve measurable product attributes; others reflect individual preferences. Some are objective and timeless, while others shift with changing fashions. Some are inherent characteristics of goods, while others are ascribed characteristics. The diversity of these concepts helps to explain the differences among the five traditional approaches to quality.

Each of the approaches focuses implicitly on a different dimension of quality: Conflicts among the five approaches are inevitable because each defines quality from a different point of view.

Once the concept is unbundled, however, and each dimension is considered separately, the sources of disagreement become clear. A recognition of these eight dimensions is also important for strategic purposes. A firm that chooses to compete on the basis of quality can do so in several ways; it need not pursue all eight dimensions at once. Instead, a segmentation strategy can be followed, with a few dimensions singled out for special attention.

For example, Japanese manufacturers have traditionally entered U. Despite these drawbacks, Japanese automobiles have come to symbolize the very best in quality for many American consumers. This example suggests that firms can successfully pursue a relatively narrow quality niche. In fact, they may have no other choice if competitors have already established broad reputations for excellence.

In these circumstances, new entrants may only be able to secure a defensible position if they focus on an as yet untapped dimension of quality. This pattern clearly fits the piano industry.

Despite these advantages, Steinway has recently been challenged by Yamaha, a Japanese manufacturer that has developed a strong reputation for quality in a relatively short time. Yamaha has done so by emphasizing reliability and conformance, two dimensions of quality that are low on Steinway's list, rather than artistry and uniqueness. In fact, one of Yamaha's major selling points is that all of its pianos sound exactly the same. Both companies enjoy high profits, despite their widely varying approaches to quality.

This example suggests the importance of carefully targeting one's quality niche. The selection of a defensible niche, however, is only a first step. Operational requirements must also be met, for each dimension of quality imposes its own demands on the firm.

In each case, a different function enjoys the lead role, and different tasks are required for success. The managerial implications of this analysis should be obvious: Otherwise, the wrong departments may be elevated in status, or the wrong tasks pursued. Disaggregating the concept of quality allows companies to pinpoint these operating requirements as carefully as they target untapped markets.

Managers are interested in quality primarily because of its marketing and financial implications. Many believe that a product's price, advertising, market share, costs, and profitability are connected in some way to product quality. The following section of the article explores the theory and evidence in each of these areas. The theoretical argument about the relationship between quality and price runs in both directions. On the one hand, quality and price are assumed to be positively correlated.

If higher quality can only be produced at higher cost, and if costs and prices are, as economic theory suggests, positively related, then quality and price will move together. If they do not, they will rely on other cues when making that assessment, including comparative prices.

If managers believe that perceptions and perhaps consumer purchase decisions are positively correlated with price, they may set higher prices in order to imply higher product quality. Price, therefore, may become a means of differentiating a product The theory, then, is equivocal. Quality and price mayor may not be positively correlated, depending on the amount of information available to consumers.

The empirical results are equally mixed. A number of studies have found a positive correlation between the two variables. When market data were used, the results differed by product category. Nondurables generally displayed a weak or negative correlation between price and quality with quality measured by Consumer Report rankings, which typically focus on product performance , while durables showed a significant positive correlation. This relationship breaks down, however, in the more sophisticated experimental studies.

Where multiple cues are present for inferring quality — brand name, store image, product features, or country of manufacture, in addition to price — the strong price-quality association of the earlier bivariate research weakens or disappears. The theoretical argument for a positive association between quality and advertising was initially developed by Phillip Nelson.

The attributes of the former can be determined prior to purchase, while those of the latter can only be learned after the product has been purchased and used. The cut and fit of an article of clothing are examples of product characteristics that can be learned through search; the reliability and durability of a major home appliance are examples of traits that can be learned only through experience.

Nelson then argued that for experience goods, higher levels of advertising would be associated with higher quality products. Schmalensee has summarized this argument succinctly:. High-quality brands will obtain more repeat purchases, ceteris paribus, than low-quality brands. Nelson contends that this force causes better brands to advertise more in equilibrium as long as consumers respond to advertising at all; the level of advertising for experience goods is thus positively correlated with quality, regardless of what individual ads actually claim.

Quality information is provided by the level of advertising, not the claims it makes. The evidence on this point is inconclusive. Analysts using both American and British data have found some evidence of a positive relationship between advertising and product quality with quality again measured by Consumer Reports or Consumers' Bulletin rankings , but these results have been undercut by other studies.

Rotfeld and Rozell, after reviewing the research on this topic, concluded that: But no broad generalizations can be made. Gilligan and Holmes, who expanded on the earlier studies by using a variety of different measures of both advertising expenditures and brand quality, reached a similar conclusion: Nelson's claim that heavy advertising implies superior quality is, therefore, not supported by the available evidence.

In fact, in a recent survey of consumer attitudes the majority of respondents felt that advertised products were no more likely to be dependable than were products without advertising.

The relationship between quality and market share is likely to depend on how quality is defined. If a high-quality product is one with superior performance or a large number of features, it will generally be more expensive, and will sell in smaller volumes.

But if quality is defined as fitness for use, superior aesthetics, or improved conformance, high quality need not be accompanied by premium prices. In that case, quality and market share are likely to be positively correlated. Each company in the PIMS survey was first asked the following questions: What was the percentage of sales of products or services from each business in each year which were superior to those of competitors?

What was the percentage of equivalent products? What was the percentage of inferior products? Using these indexes, analysts have found a strong positive association between quality and market share. Those businesses in the PIMS study that improved in quality during the s increased their market share five or six times faster than those that declined in quality, and three times as rapidly as those whose relative quality remained un-changed.

Theoretical discussions of the relationship between quality and cost fall into three distinct categories. One group, following the product-based approach, argues that quality and direct cost are positively related. The implicit assumption here is that quality differences reflect variations in performance, features, durability, or other product attributes that require more expensive components or materials, additional labor hours in construction, or other commitments of tangible resources.

This view dominates much American thinking on the subject. A second view, which draws on the operations management literature, sees quality and cost as inversely related because the costs of improving quality are thought to be less than the resulting savings in rework, scrap, and warranty expenses.

Quality costs are defined as any expenditure on manufacturing or service in excess of that which would have been incurred if the product had been built exactly right the first time. In practice, less inclusive measures are usually employed.

Total quality costs typically include expenditures in the following four categories: There are many aspects of quality in a business context, though primary is the idea the business produces something, whether it be a physical good or a particular service. Key aspects of quality and how it's diffused throughout the business are rooted in the concept of quality management: While quality management and its tenets are relatively recent phenomena, the idea of quality in business is not new.

In the early s, pioneers such as Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford recognized the limitations of the methods being used in mass production at the time and the subsequent varying quality of output, implementing quality control, inspection, and standardization procedures in their work.

Juran helped take quality to new heights, initially in Japan and later in the late '70s and early '80s globally. Customers recognize that quality is an important attribute in products and services, and suppliers recognize that quality can be an important differentiator between their own offerings and those of competitors the quality gap.

In the past two decades this quality gap has been gradually decreasing between competitive products and services. This is partly due to the contracting also called outsourcing of manufacturing to countries like China and India, as well internationalization of trade and competition.

These countries, among many others, have raised their own standards of quality in order to meet international standards and customer demands. The definition of "quality" has changed over time, and even today some variance is found in how it is described.

The common element of the business definitions is that the quality of a product or service refers to the perception of the degree to which the product or service meets the customer's expectations.

The business meanings of quality have developed over time. Various interpretations are given below:. Operations management, by definition, focuses on the most effective and efficient ways for creating and delivering a good or service that satisfies customer needs and expectations.

The five performance objectives which give business a way to measure their operational performance are: Based on an earlier model called the sand cone model, these objectives support each other, with quality at the base. The early s saw a slow but gradual movement among manufacturers away from a "maximum production" philosophy to one aligned more closely with "positive and continuous control of quality to definite standards in the factory.

The introduction of the ISO , , and standards in — based off work from previous British and U. Process improvement philosophies such as Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma have further pushed quality to the forefront of business management and operations. At the heart of these and other efforts is often the QMS, a documented collection of processes, management models, business strategies, human capital, and information technology used to plan, develop, deploy, evaluate, and improve a set of models, methods, and tools across an organization for the purpose of improving quality that aligns with the organization's strategic goals.

The push to integrate the concept of quality into the functions of the service industry takes a slightly different path from manufacturing. Where manufacturers focus on "tangible, visible, persistent issues," many — but not all — quality aspects of the service provider's output are intangible and fleeting. Perceptions such as being dependable, responsive, understanding, competent, and clean which are difficult to describe tangibly may drive service quality, [38] somewhat in contrast to factors that drive measurement of manufacturing quality.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about quality in a business context. For other uses, see Quality. List of national quality awards. Quality Management in the Imaging Sciences. Critical Evaluations in Business and Management. American Society for Quality. Retrieved 16 February China is Closing the Quality Gap". The Wall Street Journal. The Ice Cream Maker:

What Does "Product Quality" Really Mean?

The aggregation problem is usually resolved by assuming that high-quality products are those that best meet the needs of a majority of consumers. A consensus of views is implied, with virtually all users agreeing on the desirability of certain product attributes. Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control Quality Assurance and Quality Control are two very closely related concepts and because of that close relationship they are often confused and one is inappropriately used as a substitute for the other. At Quality Logo Products, your order of product promotions such as custom mouse pads or personalized travel mugs won't come with any surprise fees! Our one-of-a-kind No Surprise Pricing tool tells you upfront exactly how much you will be paying for your promo item giveaways, down to the last penny.