[Podcast] Quality is Free - What is Quality and Why it is Mission Critical?
What? Free?? Not a chance many would say. But it is, if one considers all the fixed and variable costs that go into a product or service, we often neglect what quality failures cost an operation. Failures like waste, scrap, rework scheduling bottlenecks and so on. These failures are collectively known as “The Cost of Quality”. Investing in process improvement will drive down these costs to the point where savings can be posted to the GL. This is the meaning of Quality is Free.
But what is quality? “I don’t really know, but I’ll know it when I see it!” As consumers, we know when we have purchased a quality product or have received outstanding service. How we measure that quality depends on our personal definitions. For example, I may find a product or service to be of good quality while another may not. We are all unique, and as such, so are our perceptions of what quality is. These variations can make the delivery of a quality product or service a challenge, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. However, with certain tools in place, and a focus on consistency, you CAN please the majority of the people the majority of the time and that’s enough to impact your bottom line.
Dictionary.com defines quality as: “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.” Competition is all around us, it can be one of the potential threats in one’s SWOT analysis. When a business produces a product or delivers a service, oftentimes they are competing for market share in an established market. If they are fortunate enough to deliver a product or service that is unique in the market, they may enjoy no competition…for a time. Quality is one component a business can embrace that will make it stand out in the market. Think of In-N-Out Burger. There aren’t many of them around, but if your fortunate enough to have one nearby you’ll notice that they are packed, even at odd times of the day. Why? Because they deliver a quality product in a consistent manner no matter where you purchase it. I can order a double-double, fries and a chocolate shake in Los Angeles, or in Ft. Worth and the product maintains the same consistent quality and deliciousness that I have come to enjoy. In-N-Out Burger achieves this through their quality process and set procedures which all locations follow to deliver the same great taste no matter where you are.
Think about the tasks in your own job. When was the last time you wrote down the step by step process for each of your essential duties in a manner in which someone new could replicate them and deliver the same quality product or service? Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, can improve the quality of one’s product or service by first laying out the steps of the process, then eliminating any unnecessary steps within the process, and finally having all employees follow the same process. ALL employees have the ability to eliminate waste, improve efficiencies, and deliver a consistent product or service by creating, analyzing, modifying if needed, then following a set process. In the world of Six Sigma, this is known as a DMAIC, an acronym for Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.
VOC, or Voice of the Customer, is also critical in any business. A business's longevity is dependent upon a continuous flow of new and repeat customers buying low cost, high quality, profitable products or services. Consistently soliciting feedback from those customers is essential to guide a business to improve or maintain the delivery of a quality product or service. If the quality slips, their competition will capture those customers and the business will either need to improve or run the risk of shrinking. It can be a challenge when a business owner has a vision and passion to produce a product, or provide a service, in a manner in which they see fit, only to discover that the product or service fails to meet all of their customer’s expectations. Customer feedback should never be taken personally but rather seen as an opportunity to change or improve to drive better results. Feedback should be cherished because it gives a company the opportunity to improve and meet consumer expectations. One’s customers provide their hard-earned dollars to a business in exchange for a product or service, so listen to them.
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