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PM Essence
Coffee with Voice of the Customer

- Shikha Vaidh, PMP, Capgemini

“On time!! Right Quality”

The need to survive in the competitive marketplace sparked the quality revolution going on in many corporations. That meant coming out with products of higher and higher quality, lower and lower cost, and faster and faster delivery. The product battle rightly and naturally shifted into a process battle in which competitors tried to come out with the leanest and meanest manufacturing systems using just-in-time (JIT), statistical process control (SPC) and continuous process improvement (KAIZEN) principles to streamline operations.

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To win the quality war, companies tried to train and empower their employees using the concepts of total quality management (TQM), selfmanaging teams, QC circles, and suggestion box systems. In short, achieving quality products meant achieving quality process and quality people, the foundation and source of quality.

How then does a company know its score in the quality battle? Is it winning, gaining ground, stalling, or backsliding? How does one measure quality progress? It seems that after all is said and done in the name of quality, more is said than done.

  • Understand what is actually going in terms of real quality progress?
  • Has the number of customer complaints and returns drastically decreased?
  • Has the number of defects, scrap, and rework declined?
  • Has quality cost - the cost of not doing the right thing right the first time - declined?
  • Has rework rate gone done and rework operations diminished?
  • Has the company cut down on delivery delays?

A company will usually avoid answering these quality questions or evade addressing these issues either because they have failed in bringing out improvements in these areas, or it simply does not monitor and measure these indicators of product quality.

Progress and programs in process and people do not mean much if they do not improve the quality and delivery of the ultimate product. Customers care primarily about getting on time right quality of the product they buy. They do not see the company's process or people, and they will not give much importance to these if the company provides them with low quality products and bad service. A customer does not care how many QC circles a company has, or how many awards and ISO 9000 certification it received -- if it is often late in the delivery or on time with poor quality.

A common response to product quality questions often heard is "Our quality is world-class because we received no complaints from customers - all are satisfied." External quality or quality after the product is delivered to customers is not the only indicator of total quality. A traditional company that does a lot of inspection and sorting will naturally attain zero defect and complaints in the marketplace.

But a real TQM company does not rely on inspection, but on prevention and improvement to achieve quality - in line with the TQM dictum "do it right the first time."

Very often, traditionally managed or mismanaged companies forget about the other dimension of product quality -- internal quality or the quality of the product before releasing it to customer. This includes defects and scrap produced or discovered during internal QA; it also includes rework costs. Customers do not see internal quality, but if left ignored, this will increase the cost of production and eventually affect customers in terms of higher prices. Moreover, poor internal quality will necessitate an increase in testing efforts and internal testing teams to achieve perfect external quality.

The only way to describe product quality is by measuring both external and internal quality. While external quality is more important than internal quality, a company does not achieve total quality status until both are improved continuously, and both external and internal failures are reduced to a minimum if not zero.

A company that does not monitor and improve internal quality by reducing defects, reworks, and generating scraps is not a total quality company even if its external quality is perfect and customer complaint is zero.

A total quality states, constantly and continuously monitors and improves quality at all stages: (Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitor & Control as well as Closing) of product delivery.