Product Quality is defined as the degree to which a product meets the expectations of its users. Improving Product Quality can be achieved in two ways: by improving the quality of raw materials and by improving production processes.
Quality is not a result of some random process. It does not happen on it own. It is an outcome of some appropriately controlled procedure or steps. Managers have a great responsibility to produce good quality products. They must establish a quality framework in the entire organization. They must take the following steps to improve product quality.
Now let’s discuss how to improve the quality of a product.
1. Link Quality with Business Strategy
There must be a proper link between quality and business strategy. In fact, most reputed organizations use quality as their business strategy. The managers must focus on quality from the inception stage in the life of the product. Quality must be kept in mind while designing the product. Quality must be the prime focus of the production and sales plans of the organization. The managers must fix quality standards for each product and every department of the institution. They must inform all the employees about these quality standards. If the organization wants to be successful and achieve great heights, then it must link quality with all its strategies.
Professional institutions use the concept of Company-Wide Quality Control (CWQC). Here, everyone and each department focus on quality. Everyone shares the responsibility for quality improvement. There is no complete dependence only on the Quality Assurance department for improving quality. Such a quality-conscious approach helps in enhancing the overall quality of the product.
2. Develop a Quality Theme
After linking quality with business strategy, the managers must inform the employees about their quality goals and expectations. In other words, they must develop a quality theme and communicate it to all the employees. The theme must give importance to product design and conformation to product design specifications.
For example, General Electric Company’s quality theme is,
“Quality is our most important product.”
The management must also ensure that consumers are aware and assured that they are getting quality products and services from the organization.
3. Determine Factors Affecting Quality
The managers must consider internal and external factors that affect quality:
- Internally, the company’s managers, employees, facilities, processes, and equipment, all affect quality. Quality experts say that 85% of the quality problems are management problems. The managers and not the employees have the authority and tools to correct most of the quality issues. However, employees also have a role in improving quality by being quality conscious. The materials (inputs) significantly affect the quality of output. Therefore, they must be carefully monitored. Facilities, processes, and equipment also require proper monitoring and maintenance to produce good quality products.
- Externally, customers and vendors affect the quality of products and services. Customers’ desires must be the basis for quality objectives. Vendors are especially important to organizations. Professional institutions have started vendor certification.
4. Understand Factors Determining Quality
The managers must know the relationship between factors determining quality:
- Customers’ perception of quality: Professional organizations make their quality strategy according to the customers’ perceptions of quality. The organization first finds out the customers’ perceptions (opinions, views, ideas) about good quality. That is, in the eyes of the customers – what is good quality and what is bad quality. The customers’ opinions about the quality are more important than that of producers. It is so, since, the customers will purchase a product only if they feel (perceive) that the product is of good quality. Nowadays, customer service audit is conducted to find out customers’ perceptions about quality.
- Product design as per customers’ expectations: The product design specification must be as per the customers’ needs and expectations. In other words, the design of the product must meet the needs and expectations of the consumers. Consumers’ perceptions about quality must be found out and only then the product must be designed to satisfy their perceptions, needs, and expectations.
- Properly blend different factors: There must be a proper mixing of different factors i.e. people, skills, materials, and processes. This blending of factor relationships is essential for producing good quality products.
5. Do Quality Analysis for Improvement and Control
Quality analysis is for improvement and Control. Here, the following points are given importance:
- Cost of Quality: The cost of bad quality is always high. Bad quality of products results in re-work, rejections, customers’ complaints, and innumerable damage. All this will involve loss of money, image or goodwill, and sales.
- Quality Cost and Assurance: Here, the quality of the finished product is examined and compared with the quality of the competitors’ products.
- Quality Cost Studies: Here, the failure cost (costs of losses due to bad quality) is calculated and compared with the prevention costs (costs to prevent bad quality). So, the management can take steps to reduce costs.
6. Take Action to Improve Quality
The management must take steps to improve the quality of products. Some of the important activities are:
- Adopting Zero Defect Policy,
- Providing training and development to employees and managers,
- Recognition and Reward for quality-conscious employees, and so on.