Quality is Being Perfect

Achieving quality” is said to be a major issue throughout industry, commerce and government bodies. It”s just not passing craze of flavour of the month. Quality is vital for growth, survival and prosperity of every organisation. Nowadays, more and more organisations are placing greater emphasis on quality in order for them to prosper and become successful. In this essay I will be explaining the different concepts of quality, which are established by different institutes and people. I will then compare these concepts and give my view on each of them.
In the second part of this essay I will be looking at areas of commonality and difference between ‘quality of product manufacture” and ‘quality in service”. Quality is difficult to define but what is sure is that we all know when it is achieved and when it is not. This assessment of quality is subjective and it can vary from different perceptions of individuals. It is the perception of the individual, by what influences his experience and what he thinks. Overall, the word quality can mean different things to different people.
For example, the first car that I bought appeared to me to be of superior quality, even though it was thirteen years old, had many rust patches and the roof was leaking. On the other hand, a company director who drives a Rolls Royce may think that the car is a load of scrap. The second-hand car to me was quite satisfactory where it got me to my required destinations, but the company director may think it is bad advertisement and unreliable. For this reason, quality can be defined as ‘fitness for purpose”.

It can be defined as fitness for purpose because the second-hand car was fit for my purpose. The definition ‘fitness for purpose”, was defined by an early American quality guru, Dr Joseph Juran. He always believed that if a product was fit for purpose, then it was a quality product. But from my perspective, this is not always true. This is because the second-hand car that I bought was fit for my purpose (transported me in safety), but it was not conceived to be a quality car by many of the people who I showed it to, except the sycophants who always tried to please me.
Many people stated that the car was a ‘reject” due to the fact that it was rusty and the roof was leaking. Now that I have sold it, I would agree with these people, it was not a quality car, but it was fit for purpose. So therefore, this prime example gives you an indication that ‘fitness for purpose” does not always mean quality. The definition begs the question of ‘whose purpose? ” Plato”s (philosopher) theory suggests that it was the customer who defined the purpose and the customer who defined quality. But Juran”s definition does not even mention the purpose of the customer.
Another problem with the fitness for purpose definition is that the purpose may not always be known. Juran believes that the majority of quality problems are because of poor management, rather than poor employee work. In general, he believes that management controllable defects account for over 80 per cent of total quality management problems. Overall, Juran”s definition is too elementary where there is a need to closely define to what is going to be offered, then quality can become ‘conformance to requirements”.
Conformance to requirement is widely used in industry to define quality. “This definition is often attributed to Philip Crosby, another well-known guru of quality”. (Owen,B 1995). Crosby believed that if a product were conformed to requirement, then there would be no such thing as a quality problem where the company itself has established its products based directly on its customers” needs. The Crosby definition places an emphasis to meet a certain specification that also leads to an emphasis on the reliability of the product or service.
Reliability ranks with quality in importance where “it is the ability of the product or service to continue to meet the customer requirements”. (Oakland, 1995). Crosby also states that when a product is produced or when a service is delivered, it should have ‘zero defects”, where you should ‘get it right first time”. What zero defects means is not that people never make mistakes, but that the company does not start expecting them to make mistakes. But from my point of view and from Juran”s perspective, the zero defects approach cannot always help an organisation to achieve quality.
Juran believes that employees should be given long-term training, where it should start at the top of the hierarchy of the organisation. The problem with Crosby”s quality control approaches are that there can be clear dangers that the customers can become less important than the standard of the product because there is too much emphasis on control and getting things right first time. This is because every organisation should be able to make certain mistakes and learn from them the next time around.
One advantage of his approach is that he places more emphasis on prevention, rather than inspection, so therefore, there can be increased quality where the costs can decrease and thus increasing profits. The main problem with Crosby”s definition is that it is too simplistic. Producing a product that is conformed to requirement that has had no problems during the manufacturing process does not necessarily mean that it is a quality product. For example, a golf player who completes a round without breaking the rule is not necessarily a good quality player.
Also, a driver who drives home without breaking the law is not necessarily a quality driver The fitness for purpose and conformance to requirement definitions seeks to establish a level of performance that is acceptable to customers where their needs are met and where they have no cause to complain. But between these two levels there is a ‘grey” area, where the specification is achieved, but where the customers may feel that they have not gained value. For this reason quality can be concerned with ‘ providing a service that delights our customers”.
This definition was originated by the late American quality guru, Dr W. Edwards Deming. “He was the first American quality expert to teach Japanese managers about quality. “Deming”s work in Japan has been identified as putting Japan on the road to leadership in international business and industry”. (Internet). Deming argued that the customer should not just be satisfied, but delighted in order to gain repeat custom. He also stated that you should always keep ahead of your customers” expectations that include every aspect of supplier-customer relationship, not just the product or service being provided.
From my perspective, Deming”s approach to quality is much more perplexing than Juran and Crosby”s definitions. Both Juran and Crosby were focused too much on the product, but Deming covers all of the aspects of quality. Deming also allocates the measurement of quality through statistical calculations where Juran and Crosby are more concerned with the production process measurements. Another quality guru, Armand V. Feiggenbaum who is the chairman of the International Academy of Quality, stresses that quality does not mean ‘best”, but ‘best for the customer use and selling price”.
What Fienbaum”s definition is trying to say is that products should be produced to customer requirements and be sold at a good reasonable price, thus achieving quality. From my perspective, this is a good definition. For example, if I buy a television that contains a lot of features, it”s reliable, unique and it is at a good reasonable price, then it would be a quality product to me. Also many people associate price with quality, people expect better quality when paying more, thus Fienbaum gives a good clear definition of quality.
To Fienbaum, quality is a way of managing an organisation. He stresses that quality does not only mean that customer problems have to be fixed faster. Like Juran, he says that leadership is essential to a company”s success. Finally, I am going to talk about a well known Japanese guru, Kaoru Ishikawa who is known as the father of ‘quality circles”. Ishikawa stresses that ‘quality does not only mean the quality of a product, but also of after sales service, quality of management, the company itself and the human being.
Ishikawa”s definition is trying to say that all of the aspects of the organisation have to be known to be of good quality standard. For example, Rolls Royce produces quality cars but also the company itself and the management is known to be of good quality. So therefore if all of the aspects of the organisation are good quality, then this can lead to good corporate reputation, thus increasing sales and profits. Overall, Ishikawa”s definition is similar to Deming”s and Fienbaum”s definition, where there is a focal point to look at all of the stages of providing quality.
In conclusion, all of the guru”s definitions are different and have all proved to be successful in their own situations. It is also worth remembering that all the gurus are consultants and have different definitions due to the fact that they come from different business backgrounds, so therefore, their approaches to quality differ from each other. Now that I have defined the different concepts of quality, I am now going to explain the difference between ‘quality in product manufacture” and ‘quality in service delivery”.
A product is any goods other than land, bridges or buildings and includes a product which is comprised within another product whether by virtue of being a component part or raw material or otherwise”. (Dale and Plunkett, 1994). On the other hand “A service encounter is any direct interaction between a service provider and customers”. (Dale and Plunkett, 1994). Industries, such as financial services, health care, tourism, government, transport and communications have their business activities focused on services rather than products.
Quality customer service is now a focus of every organisation where it is typically achieving a competitive advantage. “Consumers, be they individuals, households or businesses, are more aware of the alternatives on offer; in relation to both services/products, and to provide organisations and rising standards of service”. (Dale and Plunkett, 1994). Overall, the quality of service delivery has become as important as the quality of product manufacture. However, they have several characteristics that distinguish them from each other when providing quality to customers.
One main difference between quality in product manufacture and quality in service delivery is that products are tangible and services are not. So therefore when manufacturing a product, a firm will have to make sure that there are no defects on the product and that the product is conformed to requirement. This is because if there are any defects on the product, then consumers have a right to complain with tangible evidence (the product). On the other hand, services are intangible; there is usually little or no tangible evidence to show once a service has been performed.
For example, when a mortgage adviser has given his proposition to a consumer, later the consumer will have little or no evidence of the service delivery to prove how good or bad it was. So consequently, from one perspective, service organisations can afford to make mistakes and not get blamed for them, although it can lead to a bad corporate image and serious damages, such as in health care situations. Overall, quality in a product will be evident but quality in service delivery does not always have to be evident due to the fact that services can be intangible.
Another key difference between these two is that poor quality products can be replaced but poor quality services cannot always be replaced. So therefore, as Philip Crosby says, you will have to ‘get it right first time” with ‘zero defects” when delivering a service. Overall, an organisation can afford to make mistakes when achieving quality in a manufactured product. But an organisation cannot afford to make mistakes when delivering a service due to the fact that it is very hard or impossible to rectify a poor quality service.
For example, if a nurse in the hospital drops a baby and as a result, the baby has a brain damage, then this mistake in the service will be very impossible to rectify. So therefore, in services, such as health care, there are generally fewer errors than in products due to the serious consequences that a service organisation (hospital) can face if it makes a mistake. As Deming states, organisations will have to delight the consumer through their services in order to achieve quality. So therefore, it is essential for service providers, such as doctors, to get it right first time.
One other major difference is that it is more difficult to use quality standards in services than products, in the conventional sense. This is because there is the characteristic of heterogeneity, where variability exists in services as a function of labour inputs and non-standardisation of delivery. (Dale and Plunkett, 1994). There can be small variations in products but services can have large variations, it all depends on the individual who is delivering the service. Overall, different individuals deliver services in various different ways.
Elimination of the virus of variability in products is easier to tackle than services. Deming”s concept of statistical control is widely used in industry in order to eliminate variation in products. The behaviour of the process remains the same over time with controlled variation and by the use of statistical control. If no statistical control is used, then the behaviour of the process is likely to change, usually in unpredictable ways and at unpredictable times with uncontrolled variation. So therefore, statistical control over the manufacturing of products can achieve quality and eliminate variation.
But the problem with the statistical concept is that it cannot eliminate variation in service delivery, the statistical concept is only suitable for manufacturing products. From my perspective, training the staff can only eliminate service variation as Juran says. Overall, I think that huge variations in products such as Walkers Crisps can devalue the product because consumers expect the same taste from each packet, that is said to be of good quality and number one in the UK market. However, there is slight variation in Walkers Crisps, but this is usually common with ever packet of crisp.
Recently, there was a research taking place in the UK that is working towards eliminating the variation of tastes of each crisp. The elimination of variation in crisps is another step towards achieving quality in product manufacture. On the other hand, it is sometimes said that the variation in services often produce quality. However, variations in services are usually dealt with by training the staff. Last of all, I think that it is harder to achieve and control quality in service delivery than product manufacture.
This is because services (such as doctors” time) cannot be stored to meet fluctuations in demand, but products can be stored. In order to conform to requirement and delight the customer (achieve quality), service organisations will have to meet demands at perplexing times, or otherwise they will find it very difficult to achieve quality. An organisation that does not meet fluctuating demands can gain a bad corporate image, thus decreasing the overall quality of the organisation. I think that service organisations can only meet fluctuating demands by setting out standards.
For example, opening seven days a week rather than five days a week or specially opening when demands are excessively high. Realistically, this can be very difficult to achieve. A recent example of a service organisation that is not meeting fluctuating demands is the National Health Authority (NHS). The flu syndrome has recently affected many people in the UK, including the elderly. As a result, more people have been attending to the doctors and hospitals, thus making it more difficult for the NHS to cope with the increasing demand levels.
Many appointments and operations have been cancelled in many hospitals due to the increase of patients. This prime example gives you an idea that service organisations cannot always deliver quality due to the fact that they cannot always deliver there services on time. In the above example, many people have criticised the NHS of not providing quality services, in other words, not coping with the fluctuation of demand levels. Overall, I think that only if the whole organisational chain is functioning efficiently can quality be achieved in both products and services.
The quality chain links all of the business, and its external suppliers, to provide quality to the consumers. This objective is only achieved if each chain link provides quality. If one fails, then the overall objective of achieving quality is very unlikely to be achieved, the chain will not be functioning properly. For example, if a sales assistant does not have enough knowledge on a certain product, then the customer will not receive sufficient information on the product by the sales assistant,thus the quality of the product will be unrecognised.
So therefore, the sales assistant is letting every one else down in the quality chain, thus, the chain will not will moving effectively. In overall conclusion, I think that different individuals perceive quality in different ways because everyone has different perceptions. I also think that in their definitions of quality, the gurus are looking at different aspects of quality in order to find different ways of saying the same thing. Basically, ‘meeting customer requirements” achieves quality because you are producing and delivering what the customer wants you to produce and deliver.
As well as meeting customer requirements, ‘delighting the customer” is also a good concept of quality because you are going beyond your customers” expectations when delighting your customer with a product or service. However, all the gurus have different definitions due to the fact that they specialise in different business backgrounds, thus they all give a good definition of quality based on their past experiences. There are many differences in achieving quality in a product than achieving quality in a service. One of the differences is that services are tangible and products are not.
Thus leaving little or no evidence of service delivery, even though is was not perceived as good quality. However, if mistakes are made in certain services, then these can not always be rectified, but when manufacturing a product, mistakes can usually be rectified easily without facing serious consequences. The main difference between quality in product manufacture and quality in service delivery is that products can be stored to meet fluctuations in demand, but on the other hand, services cannot always be stored, thus decreasing the quality of service delivery.
A good example of a service not being stored is the NHS that is not meeting its recent demand levels. Also, another difference between these two is that there is more variation in services than products. Product variations can usually be controlled, but service variations are more difficult to control, thus this can decrease or increase the quality of service delivery. Last of all, I think that it is more important for service providers to ‘get it right first time” due to the fact that poor services are hard to replace, where faulty products are easily replaced.

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