Author: Jim Riley Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012
One of the most important issues that businesses have focused on in the
last 20-30 years has been quality. As markets have become
much more competitive - quality has become widely regarded as a key ingredient
for success in business.
In this revision note, we introduce what is meant by quality by focusing
on the key terms you will come up against.
What is quality? You will comes across several terms that all seem to relate
to the concept of quality. It can be quite confusing working out what the
difference is between them. We've defined the key terms that you need to
Quality is first and foremost about meeting the needs
and expectations of customers. It is important to understand
that quality is about more than a product simply "working properly".
Think about your needs and expectations as a customer
when you buy a product or service. These may include performance,
appearance, availability, delivery, reliability,
maintainability, cost effectiveness and price.
Think of quality as representing all the features of
a product or service that affect its ability to meet customer needs.
If the product or service meets all those needs - then it passes
the quality test. If it doesn't, then it is sub-standard.
Producing products of the required quality does not
happen by accident. There has to be a production process which is properly
managed. Ensuring satisfactory quality is a vital part of the production
Quality management is concerned with
controlling activities with the aim of ensuring that products and services
are fit for their purpose and meet the specifications. There are two
main parts to quality management
(1) Quality assurance
(2) Quality control
Quality assurance is about how a business can design
the way a product of service is produced or delivered to minimise the
chances that output will be sub-standard. The focus of quality assurance
is, therefore on the product design/development stage.
Why focus on these stages? The idea is that - if the
processes and procedures used to produce a product or service are tightly
controlled - then quality will be "built-in". This will make the production
process much more reliable, so there will be less need to inspect production
output (quality control).
Quality assurance involves developing close relationships
with customers and suppliers. A business will want to make sure that
the suppliers to its production process understand exactly what is
required - and deliver!
Quality control is the traditional way of managing quality.
A further revision note (see the list on the right) deals with this
in more detail.
Quality control is concerned with checking and reviewing
work that has been done. For example, this would include lots of inspection,
testing and sampling.
Quality control is mainly about "detecting" defective
output - rather than preventing it. Quality control can also be a very
expensive process. Hence, in recent years, businesses have focused
on quality management and quality assurance.
Total quality management
Total quality management (usually shortened to "TQM")
is a modern form of quality management. In essence, it is about a kind
of business philosophy which emphasises the need for all parts of
a business to continuously look for ways to improve quality. We cover
this important concept in further revision notes.