Quality refers to the degree or extent of which a particular set of intrinsic characteristics of a good or service is able to satisfy the needs and requirements of consumers. It is universally accepted that quality goods must meet the needs and expectations of a customer. From a producer’s perspective, however, quality may mean the ability of a product to conform to design requirements (Pfeifer, 2002). Different consultants have given different definitions to quality. According to quality guru Joseph Juran, the term refers to the ability of a product to be fit for use, whereas Peter Drucker suggests that quality is not what the producer or supplier puts into the product, but what the customers get from using the product, inclusive of what he/she is willing to pay for it. Philip Crosby puts this concept as a product’s conformance to intended requirements.
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From these different definitions of quality, we can identify the following elements of quality.
- Customer needs- quality is focused at satisfying and surpassing the various needs, preferences and expectations of customers, thus it is customer-centered.
- Characteristic of the products/service- quality is seen as conformance to design requirements, thus quality is product centered.
- Organizational focus- quality can as well be expressed in relation to the organizations objectives and goals.
- Employee satisfaction- this concept of quality dictates that when an organization is able to take of its employees, then it does not need to worry about the quality of products that would be produced by the workers. Employee satisfaction can thus be used as a measure of the organization and its products’ quality.
- Other elements also include reliable raw materials brought in for use in the manufacture of the goods/services, suitable packaging that is appealing to the customers, good feedback and customer assistance and punctuality in delivery of goods/services to the customer at the right time and place. When appropriately employed, these elements sum up to fitness for use and value for money characteristics of a quality.
One of the most well-known pioneers of quality is Joseph M. Juran for inventing the fitness for use attribute of quality. For Juran, quality was to go beyond mere non-existence of defects in the final output. He considered a quality product to be one who’s utility or usability can be derived. He thus viewed quality from the customers’ perspectives. He went further and introduced another aspect of quality: grade, which is currently used to compare two or more goods or service that are similar but with different technical characteristics. He similar made numerous contributions in the field of quality management. He also wrote a book, the Quality Control Handbook, which was frequently used by engineers for reference. This contribution to quality management enabled him to help shape the Japanese’s economy to become the present day industrial leader (Kemp, 2006). Furthermore, he came up with the Quality Trilogy that entails three important strategies for effective quality management, that is, quality planning, quality improvement and quality control. Quality planning entails identification of potential customers, determination of their individual needs, translating theses needs into a product-design and then finally developing a product that would satisfy those needs. Quality improvement on the other hand, involved processes that targeted producing a better product at the end. Lastly, quality control manages the operating conditions and inspects all final products to ensure that defaults do not reach the customers.
He is the first person to incorporate human aspect in quality management, which is currently referred to as Total Quality Management (TQM). Through his element of fitness for use, he developed the project-by-project approach that is used today in quality improvement. He also advocated for involvement of the top-level management in quality management and improve processes if success is to be achieved (Hakes, 1992).
Juran elements of quality are important today because they give guidelines on customers’ view of quality and what standards should products meet. By using Juran’s principle, producers are able to understand that goods should be made fit for use by consumers and should not necessarily conform to production designs.
In the coming future, quality improvement and management shall be of great concern for every business. Every business entity shall be striving obtain competitive advantage over its competitors by producing high quality goods and services that would attract and retain as many customers as possible. In this direction, thus, quality provision shall be a critical objective of the firms.