LEAN Six Sigma | Standard Work | VOC

What is Quality?

Some people think “Quality” is the act of inspecting and testing. Others think it is a ranking of what is a top performing product or service. Some even think of it as consistency. We show “Quality” in quotes because it is an ambivalent and ambiguous term used as a catchall. Is not “Quality” the acceptability and perception of our products and services by our customers? At the end of the day, this is truly, what we are talking about when we say “Quality”.

Let us look at some example statements:

“Wow, that’s high quality fabric!”

What picture does that paint in your mind’s eye? Is it luxurious silken fabric? Perhaps it is tough and durable denim. Maybe to another reader it is intricately woven with many thread patterns and so forth.

How about this one:

“He only drives the highest quality cars”

Again, this could be a European luxury car with all the trimmings. Perhaps it is a car with a reputation to require minimal maintenance. Maybe it is a highly engineered vehicle with superior performance characteristics. Imaginably every car that comes off of the line is exactly the same as the one prior to it and after it.

The problem using this term “Quality” in a business setting, especially in the design and planning phase of basically anything from a new engineered product to a marketing campaign, is that it can leave the people involved guessing, or more accurately, assigning their own paradigm of quality to the product process or service. Be sure to use specifications when planning or creating standard documentation.

Think about it. “We intend to build Product X with only the highest quality steel…” Wait a minute… Be specific.

“We shall use CarTech 415R Stainless Alloy or comparable only upon metallurgical, metallographic, NDT and destructive test confirmation.” OK, now I get it. No room for interpretation.

Furthermore, when eliciting information from your customers in feedback surveys, do not simply ask, “How do you rate our Quality?” You have no way to interpret the response. Try breaking it down into measurable subcategories. Believe it or not, characteristics like Toughness, Strength and Durability are measurable and there are instruments and techniques to do just that. Think of other sub-categories that you can use to measure “Quality” or follow-up with additional questions for clarification. You should always clarify any ambiguity.

I’ll leave the psychographic response surveys to the other professionals, but for quantifiable product response, I think this is a Quality way to go… Ha!

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