People Innovation Excellence

What is Quality?

Quality starts with understanding customer needs and ends when those needs are satisfied. ‘Is this a quality watch?’ Pointing to my wrist, I ask this question of a class of students undergraduates, postgraduates, experienced managers – it matters not who. The answers vary:
• ‘No, it’s made in Japan.’
• ‘No, it’s cheap.’
• ‘No, the face is scratched.’
• ‘How reliable is it?’
• ‘I wouldn’t wear it.’
My watch has been insulted all over the world – London, New York, Paris, Sydney, Dubai, Brussels, Amsterdam, Leeds! Clearly, the quality of a watch depends on what the wearer requires from a watch – perhaps a piece of jewellery to give an impression of wealth; a timepiece that gives the required data, including the date, in digital form; or one with the ability to perform at 50 metres under the sea? These requirements determine the quality.

Quality is often used to signify ‘excellence’ of a product or service – people talk about ‘Rolls-Royce quality’ and ‘top quality’. In some manufacturing companies the word may be used to indicate that a piece of material or equipment conforms to certain physical dimensional characteristics often set down in the form of a particularly ‘tight’ specification. In a hospital it might be used to indicate some sort of ‘professionalism’. If we are to define quality in a way that is useful in its management, then we must recognize the need to include in the assessment of quality the true requirements of the ‘customer’ – the needs and expectations.

Quality then is simply meeting the customer requirements and this has been expressed in many ways by other authors:
• ‘Fitness for purpose or use’ – Juran, an early doyen of quality management.
• ‘The totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs’ – BS 4778. 1987 (ISO 8402, 1986) Quality Vocabulary; Part 1, International Terms.
• ‘Quality should be aimed at the needs of the consumer, present and future’ – Deming, another early doyen of quality management.
• ‘The total composite product and service characteristics of marketing, engineering, manufacture and maintenance through which the product and service in use will meet the expectation by the customer’ – Feigenbaum, the first man to publish a book with ‘Total Quality’ in the title.
• ‘Conformance to requirements’ – Crosby, an American consultant famous in the 1980s.
• ‘Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements’ – ISO (EN) 9000:2000 Quality Management Systems – Fundamentals and Vocabulary.

Another word that we should define properly is reliability. ‘Why do you buy a Japanese car?’ ‘Quality and reliability’ comes back the answer. The two are used synonymously, often in a totally confused way. Clearly, part of the acceptability of a product or service will depend on its ability to function satisfactorily over a period of time and it is this aspect of performance that is given the name reliability. It is the ability of the product or service to continue to meet the customer requirements. Reliability ranks with quality in importance, since it is a key factor in many purchasing decisions where alternatives are being considered. Many of the general management issues related to achieving product or service quality are also applicable to reliability.

It is important to realize that the ‘meeting the customer requirements’ definition of quality is not restrictive to the functional characteristics of products or services. Anyone with children knows that the quality of some of the products they purchase is more associated with satisfaction in ownership than some functional property. This is also true of many items, from antiques to certain items of clothing. The requirements for status symbols account for the sale of some executive cars, certain bank accounts and charge cards, and even hospital beds! The requirements are of paramount importance in the assessment of the quality of any product or service.

By consistently meeting customer requirements, we can move to a different plane of satisfaction – delighting the customer. There is no doubt that many organizations have so well ordered their capability to meet their customers’ requirements, time and time again, that this has created a reputation for ‘excellence’. A development of this thinking regarding customers and their satisfaction is customer loyalty, an important variable in an organization’s success. Research shows that focus on customer loyalty can provide several commercial advantages:

• Customers cost less to retain than acquire.
• The longer the relationship with the customer, the higher the profitability.
• A loyal customer will commit more spend to its chosen supplier.
• About half of new customers come through referrals from existing clients
(indirectly reducing acquisition costs).

Many companies use measures of customer loyalty to identify customers which are ‘completely satisfied’, would ‘definitely recommend’ and would ‘definitely repurchase’.The ability to meet the customer requirements is vital, not only between two separate organizations, but within the same organization.

When the air stewardess pulled back the curtain across the aisle and set off with a trolley full of breakfasts to feed the early morning travellers on the short domestic flight into an international airport, she was not thinking of quality problems. Having stopped at the row of seats marked 1ABC, she passed the first tray onto the lap of the man sitting by the window. By the time the second tray had reached the lady beside him, the first tray was on its way back to the hostess with a complaint that the bread roll and jam were missing. She calmly replaced it in her trolley and reached for another – which also had no roll and jam.

The calm exterior of the girl began to evaporate as she discovered two more trays without a complete breakfast. Then she found a good one and, thankfully, passed it over. This search for complete breakfast trays continued down the aeroplane, causing inevitable delays, so much so that several passengers did not receive their breakfasts until the plane had begun its descent. At the rear of the plane could be heard the mutterings of discontent. ‘Aren’t they slow with breakfast this morning?’ ‘What is she doing with those trays?’ ‘We will have indigestion by the time we’ve landed.’

The problem was perceived by many on the aeroplane to be one of delivery or service. They could smell food but they weren’t getting any of it, and they were getting really wound up! The air hostess, who had suffered the embarrassment of being the purveyor of defective product and service, was quite wound up and flushed herself, as she returned to the curtain and almost ripped it from the hooks in her haste to hide. She was heard to say through clenched teeth, ‘What a bloody mess!’ A problem of quality? Yes, of course, requirements not being met, but where? The passengers or customers suffered from it on the aircraft, but in part of another organization there was a man whose job it was to assemble the breakfast trays. On this day the system had broken down – perhaps he ran out of bread rolls, perhaps he was called away to refuel the aircraft (it was a small airport!), perhaps he didn’t know or understand, perhaps he didn’t care.
Three hundred miles away in a chemical factory . . . ‘What the hell is Quality Control doing? We’ve just sent 15,000 litres of lawn weed killer to CIC and there it is back at our gate – they’ve returned it as out of spec.’ This was followed by an avalanche of verbal abuse, which will not be repeated here, but poured all over the shrinking quality control manager as he backed through his office door, followed by a red faced
technical director advancing menacingly from behind the bottles of sulphuric acid racked across the adjoining laboratory.

‘Yes, what is QC doing?’ thought the production manager, who was behind a door two offices along the corridor, but could hear the torrent of language now being used to beat the QC man into an admission of guilt. He knew the poor devil couldn’t possibly do anything about the rubbish that had been produced except test it, but why should he volunteer for the unpleasant and embarrassing ritual now being experienced by his colleague – for the second time this month. No wonder the QC manager had been studying the middle pages of the Telegraph on Thursday – what a job!

Do you recognize these two situations? Do they not happen every day of the week – possibly every minute somewhere in manufacturing or the service industries? Is it any different in banking, insurance, health services? The inquisition of checkers and testers is the last bastion of desperate systems trying in vain to catch mistakes, stop defectives, hold lousy materials, before they reach the external customer – and woe betide the idiot who lets them pass through!

Two everyday incidents, but why are events like these so common? The answer is the acceptance of one thing – failure. Not doing it right the first time at every stage of the process.

Why do we accept failure in the production of artefacts, the provision of a service, or even the transfer of information? In many walks of life we do not accept it. We do not say, ‘Well, the nurse is bound to drop the odd baby in a thousand – it’s just going to happen’. We do not accept that!

In each department, each office, even each household, there are a series of suppliers and customers. The PA is a supplier to the boss. Are the requirements being met? Does the boss receive error-free information set out as it is wanted, when it is wanted? If so, then we have a quality PA service. Does the air steward receive from the supplier to the airline the correct food trays in the right quantity, at the right time?

Throughout and beyond all organizations, whether they be manufacturing concerns, banks, retail stores, universities, hospitals or hotels, there is a series of quality chains of customers and suppliers that may be broken at any point by one person or one piece of equipment not meeting the requirements of the customer, internal or external. The interesting point is that this failure usually finds its way to the interface between the organization and its outside customers, and the people who operate at that interface – like the air hostess – usually experience the ramifications. The concept of internal and external customers-suppliers forms the core of total quality management.

A great deal is written and spoken about employee motivations as a separate issue. In fact the key to motivation and quality is for everyone in the organization to have well-defined customers – an extension of the word beyond the outsider that actually purchases or uses the ultimate product or service to anyone to whom an individual gives a part, a service, information – in other words the results of his or her work.

Quality has to be managed – it will not just happen. Clearly it must involve everyone in the process and be applied throughout the organization. Many people in the support functions of organizations never see, experience or touch the products or services that their organizations buy or provide, but they do handle or produce things like purchase orders or invoices. If every fourth invoice carries at least one error, what
image of quality is transmitted to customers?

Failure to meet the requirements in any part of a quality chain has a way of multiplying and a failure in one part of the system creates problems elsewhere, leading to yet more failure, more problems and so on. The price of quality is the continual examination of the requirements and our ability to meet them. This alone will lead to a ‘continuing improvement’ philosophy. The benefits of making sure the requirements
are met at every stage, every time, are truly enormous in terms of increased competitiveness and market share, reduced costs, improved productivity and delivery performance, and the elimination of waste.

sumber : Oakland, John S. 2014. Total Quality Management & Operational Excellence 4th edition. New York: Rouletdge

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