Quality – Definition and Meaning
In manufacturing, a measure of excellence or a state of being free from defects, deficiencies and significant variations. It is brought about by strict and consistent commitment to certain standards that achieve uniformity of a product to satisfy specific customer or user requirements. ISO 8402-1986 standard defines quality as “the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs.” If an automobile company finds a defect in one of their cars and makes a product recall, customer reliability and therefore production will decrease because trust will be lost in the car’s quality.
Definitions of Quality
People have found many ways to describe quality. Some of the most popular definitions of quality are listed below.
A degree of excellence
Conformance to requirements
The totality of characteristics which act to satisfy a need
Fitness for use
Fitness for purpose
Freedom from defects
All of the above gauges of quality are useful, as they each contain elements of what quality means to users of products and services. However, for quality to be embedded in a product or service there must be a set of measurable performance standards, which when achieved will guarantee the desired level of quality.
Some Other Definitions
1. Fit for Purpose
Perhaps the most useful business definition of quality is “fit for purpose”. This definition evolved in quality management circles. It’s useful because it applies to any process, service or product. However, it can be difficult to measure.
A quality process or product is fit for its purpose. It’s easy to think of examples of fit for purpose. If the purpose of an aircraft is to be fast, efficient, comfortable and safe — then that’s the definition of a quality aircraft. Fit for purpose is a practical and flexible definition that’s the cornerstone of most quality management initiatives.
2. Conformance to Requirements
Quality is often measured in terms of conformance to requirements. For example, business users define requirements for a sales system. The sales system is developed and its quality is measured against the requirements.
A quality process or product conforms to requirements. This definition is ideal for quality assurance teams that need to validate processes, systems, services, and product quality. Working from requirements, they can easily validate conformance and identify non-conformance. The problem with this definition is that requirements may offer a biased and subjective view of quality. In many cases, requirements represent little more than the ideas of business stakeholders. There’s often no objective validation that these ideas will yield a quality result.
3. Quality Is Cost
Traditionally, product quality was thought of in terms of material costs. A watch that’s made of gold is of higher quality than a watch made of plastic. High-quality sheets have a thread count of 180 or higher. High-quality hand moisturizer has a high Shea butter content.
Quality product costs more to produce. This type of quality definition works well for some simple products. However, it’s inapplicable to technology, art, and culture. The history of technology is filled with cheaper products that have higher quality.
4. Quality is Price
Quality is an essential part of economic models. Economists have developed various definitions of quality. Economists tend to judge quality by the price consumers are willing to pay.
Quality is the price consumers are willing to pay for a product or service. If you’re an economist and you need to measure quality across an entire economy — you need a quality definition that’s easy to measure. According to economists, if something is expensive, it’s high quality.
5. Quality is a Standard
The manufacturing industry was the first to take a hard, scientific look at quality. Manufacturers are concerned both with the quality of products and the quality of the manufacturing process itself.
If you’re manufacturing one million cars a month you can’t afford to produce sub-standard products that will be returned by your customers. You can’t afford product liability issues that result from sub-standard product. You also can’t afford inefficient processes.
Manufacturers use standards and continual process improvement methodologies to improve both processes and product quality. They view quality in terms of measurements and statistics. Quality is compliance to best known standards, processes and specifications.
6. Quality is Value for Performance
Marketing teams look for practical definitions of quality that explain why consumers and businesses buy. One of the best ways to model purchasing behavior is with the following definition of quality.
Quality is value for the price. According to estimates, McDonald’s sells 550 million Big Macs each year in the US alone1. Customers see value in the Big Mac. It’s not always practical to measure quality by the yardstick of a 3-star restaurant.
7. Quality is An Experience
As economies have shifted from a product to a service focus marketers have sought definitions of quality that explain why customers purchase services. Quality is a satisfying experience.