The Need For Quality
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What is quality? According to the Oxford Dictionary (1981), quality is defined as being 'the degree of excellence, relative nature or kind or character; class or grade of thing determined by this; general excellence'

Over the years a large amount of organisations have tried surviving in the market place merely on price, but they have found that this was not enough. Take the example of the UK in the 1970's , the UK once had a thriving manufacturing industry, in which the products may have been reasonably priced but the quality was found to be somewhat lacking. During the late 1970's came the far eastern imports such as cars, televisions, radios, videos, etc. These products were not only comparatively cheaper but they also had a much higher quality standard, the result was a shift away from home grown products to foreign imports. The economic effects can be seen in the ever increasing UK trade deficit with the rest of the world, and it's declining manufacturing base.

Wellemin defines the need for quality as stating 'Customers have become more knowledgeable and selective when making their purchasing decisions The quality of the product or service offered is pre-requsite, an entry requirement for any company that wants to remain successful over the years'

Some of the strategic advantages of having a quality strategy are discussed by Dilworth as 'Imagine the strategic advantage a company can achieve through quality!, the company may have lower costs, but it may be able to sell its products at a higher price than its competitors . Such a company can earn higher profits even in the face of serious price competition, it might gain market share which often leads to economies of scale and higher profit'

In an ever more competitive market, the importance of quality cannot be overstated. It must not be seen as being merely part of the production function, but instead it should be seen as concept that affects the whole of an organisation.

According to the British Standards Institute (Bsi), the principles of quality management lie in 'The quality of an organisations products, services and other outputs as defined by the satisfaction of the customers who use them and efficiency of the processes by which they are supported. Quality improvement is achieved by improving the processes of an organisation; it should be a continuous activity aiming for ever higher levels of process effectiveness and efficiency. Efforts should be directed towards constantly seeking opportunities for improvement.'

 The best model of a quality strategy is discussed by Wellemin. This model suggests that a quality strategy should contain six stages:

  1. ANALYSIS: An overall view of an organisation should take place, using both customer perspectives (send out questionnaire on service, reliability, quality of customer service) as well internal perspectives (how the level of quality is maintained from suppliers, in the build process and communication between internal processes to final despatch to customer). Analyzing this should give a indication of the level of quality from start to finish.
  2. TARGETS: From analyzing the state of quality within an organisation, the next step is to set clearly identifiable targets for the business. These targets should set for a realistic time frame. Do not expect to resolve all quality issues within your business in a one to three year period, developing and harnessing a properly structured quality strategy will take 5-10 years to reap real rewards. Do not go for short-termism, this has been a major problem for UK industry, we must start working towards longer time spans.
  3. SMALLER TARGETS: From using the targets for where you want your business to be, start developing smaller realistic targets which will be achievable.
  4. PLAN AGAIN: This will involve further breaking down into smaller targets which will again smaller and more manageable steps, as Wellemin states 'For each activity it will be necessary to (a) Identify the gap, (b) Identify the output, (c) Identify and agree customer needs, (d) Translate these needs into product specification, (e) Identify the steps in the work place, (f) Select and agree measurement criteria, (g) Determine the capabilities and resource requirements'
  5. MANAGE THE PROCESS: From setting the targets, it becomes essential that the implementation is carefully managed, and that the business itself focuses on ensuring the quality plans are adhered to. The business also needs to ensure that quality is incorporated into all facets of its activities.
  6. COMMUNICATION: The biggest downfall of implementing any form of strategy has been the lack of communication. There is no point in introducing a new strategy unless all the people who are affected by it are aware of the implications it imposes upon them. Make sure everyone is aware, ensure appropriate feedback loops are in place.
  7. REVIEW: Have constant reviews, make sure the target set are achievable and can be met, if needs be re-arrange the targets, make sure all problems are raised, monitored and corrected. A quality strategy must be an evolutionary process that grows with the business.

Quality is a concept that should be applied to an organisation as a whole. Quality should be applied to every process, which the organisation carries out, from getting the raw materials from suppliers, through every stage of the production cycle or service provision.

A Quality strategy should be developed in a coherent strategy, where the ideal of employees, sections and departments should be seen as 'internal customers' is present. Because at the end of the day, ever improving internal quality will result in there being reduced cost benefits, and better still higher quality levels in the products and services of an organisation, when it reaches the consumer.

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(c)  Est 08/00 - Last Updated 28/05//2001