What is Quality?

What is ‘Quality?’

It is not easy to define in a single statement. Quality definitions are plentiful. In certain circles ‘Quality’ has become a buzz word. But what does it really mean? Fit for purpose, conformance with specifications, value for money, absence of defects, degree of excellence, a product or service that satisfies customers. These are all valid definitions.

Quality definitions

There are four important features of a product or service which must be encompassed in order to satisfy customer needs: The right product or service at the right price at the right place at the right time. The product or service must be capable of providing what is required. The product or service must be priced within the purchasing capacity of the customer. The product or service must be available locally within the customers’ expectation. The product or service must be available when the customer needs it.

Another definition

Perhaps the best way to answer the question ‘ What is Quality?’ , is to refer to the International Standard: ISO 9000:2006 Quality Management Systems – Fundamentals and Vocabulary: ‘Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements.’

Deming offers his definition of quality: ‘Good quality does not necessarily mean high quality. It means a predictable degree of uniformity and dependability at low cost with a quality suited to the market.’

W Edwards Deming

Why do we have so much trouble getting a unanimous definition of ‘Quality?’

Kruithof and Ryall (1994) say that in order to answer this question, we need to understand that quality is not merely some easily defined aspect of a product. They claim that we need to work our thinking around the fact that quality is actually a basic concept, which we must understand and ‘feel’ rather than try to define in terms of other things.

Quality goods and services

Many people feel that quality only applies to goods and not services. However, many ideas about quality are in fact also applicable to services. It’s just a matter of interpretation.

For example:

When was the last time this happened to you?

You went to a restaurant with friends and you had to wait a long time before you were seated. The wine you wanted was out of stock, the staff were not very friendly, and there were long delays between courses. No one got exactly what they ordered and they took a long time to clear the table. Then, no one came to take your coffee order. The food was excellent for a reasonable price, but your overall dining experience wasn’t as good as the place you dined at least week.

Which one would you return to?

The obvious conclusion would be that although the quality of the food (product) was excellent, the quality of the service will be what the customer remembers. It may help you to understand if you think of a product as meaning either goods or services. Even services have a ‘production process’ where the inputs are converted into outputs or results. Think about a courier service picking up a package, transporting it to its destination and delivering it. What do you think the inputs, process and outputs would be? If your place of work is service related, rather than the manufacturer of goods, you may have a little difficulty understanding the quality terms. Some translation may be needed to convert the production process language to fit your workplace. One advantage you may have over manufacturing people is the aspect of quality that are more service related, such as meeting customer needs. Service people are generally more directly in contact with their customers than manufacturers.

LMIT provides online training and certification courses on the Diploma of Quality Auditing, Diploma in Quality Management and the Certificate IV in Quality Management and Assurance.

Published by: LMIT

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