Quality (business)

Quality in business, engineering and manufacturing has a pragmatic interpretation as the non-inferiority or superiority of something. Quality is a perceptual, conditional and somewhat subjective attribute and may be understood differently by different people. Consumers may focus on the specification quality of a product/service, or how it compares to competitors in the marketplace. Producers might measure the conformance quality, or degree to which the product/service was produced correctly.

Numerous definitions and methodologies have been created to assist in managing the quality-affecting aspects of business operations. Many different techniques and concepts have evolved to improve product or service quality. There are two common quality-related functions within a business. One is quality assurance which is the prevention of defects, such as by the deployment of a quality management system and preventative activities like failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA). The other is quality control which is the detection of defects, most commonly associated with testing which takes place within a quality management system typically referred to as verification and validation.



The common element of the business definitions is that the quality of a product or service refers to the perception of the degree to which the product or service meets the customer's expectations. Quality has no specific meaning unless related to a specific function and/or object. Quality is a perceptual, conditional and somewhat subjective attribute.

The business meanings of quality have developed over time. Various interpretations are given below:

  1. ISO 9000: "Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements."[1] The standard defines requirement as need or expectation.
  2. Six Sigma: "Number of defects per million opportunities."[2]
  3. Subir Chowdhury: "Quality combines people power and process power."[3]
  4. Philip B. Crosby: "Conformance to requirements."[4][5] The requirements may not fully represent customer expectations; Crosby treats this as a separate problem.
  5. Joseph M. Juran: "Fitness for use."[5] Fitness is defined by the customer.
  6. Noriaki Kano and others, present a two-dimensional model of quality: "must-be quality" and "attractive quality."[6] The former is near to "fitness for use" and the latter is what the customer would love, but has not yet thought about. Supporters characterize this model more succinctly as: "Products and services that meet or exceed customers' expectations."
  7. Robert Pirsig: "The result of care."[7]
  8. Genichi Taguchi, with two definitions:
    a. "Uniformity around a target value."[8] The idea is to lower the standard deviation in outcomes, and to keep the range of outcomes to a certain number of standard deviations, with rare exceptions.
    b. "The loss a product imposes on society after it is shipped."[9] This definition of quality is based on a more comprehensive view of the production system.
  9. American Society for Quality: "A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings:
    a. The characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs;
    b. A product or service free of deficiencies."[5]
  10. Peter Drucker: "Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for."[10]
  11. W. Edwards Deming: concentrating on "the efficient production of the quality that the market expects,"[11] and he linked quality and management: "Costs go down and productivity goes up as improvement of quality is accomplished by better management of design, engineering, testing and by improvement of processes."[12]
  12. Gerald M. Weinberg: "Value to some person".

Market sector perspectives

Operations management

The dimensions of quality refer to the attributes that quality achieves in operations management:[citation needed]

  • Quality supports dependability
  • Dependability supports speed
  • Speed supports flexibility
  • Flexibility supports cost

Quality <-> Dependability <-> Speed <-> Flexibility <-> Cost


In the manufacturing industry it is commonly stated that “Quality drives productivity.” Improved productivity is a source of greater revenues, employment opportunities and technological advances. However, this has not been the case historically, and in the early 19th century it was recognised that some markets,such as those in Asia, preferred cheaper products to those of quality[13] Most discussions of quality refer to a finished part, wherever it is in the process. Inspection, which is what quality insurance usually means, is historical, since the work is done. The best way to think about quality is in process control. If the process is under control, inspection is not necessary.

However, there is one characteristic of modern quality that is universal. In the past, when we tried to improve quality, typically defined as producing fewer defective parts, we did so at the expense of increased cost, increased task time, longer cycle time, etc. We could not get fewer defective parts and lower cost and shorter cycle times, and so on. However, when modern quality techniques are applied correctly to business, engineering, manufacturing or assembly processes, all aspects of quality - customer satisfaction and fewer defects/errors and cycle time and task time/productivity and total cost, etc.- must all improve or, if one of these aspects does not improve, it must at least stay stable and not decline. So modern quality has the characteristic that it creates AND-based benefits, not OR-based benefits.


One view of quality is that it is defined entirely by the customer or end user, and is based upon that person's evaluation of his or her entire customer experience[citation needed]. The customer experience is defined as the aggregate of all the interactions that customers have with the company's products and services. For example, any time one buys a product, one forms an impression based on how it was sold, how it was delivered, how it performed, how well it was supported etc.

Quality management techniques

Quality Awards

See also

Lists of related topics


  1. ^ TC 176/SC (2005). ISO 9000:2005, Quality management systems -- Fundamentals and vocabulary. International Organization for Standardization. 
  2. ^ Motorola University. "What is Six Sigma?". Motorola, Inc.. http://www.motorola.com/content.jsp?globalObjectId=3088. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  3. ^ Chowdhury, Subir (2005). The Ice Cream Maker: An Inspiring Tale About Making Quality The Key Ingredient in Everything You Do. New York: Doubleday, Random House. ISBN 978-0385514781. 
  4. ^ Crosby, Philip (1979). Quality is Free. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070145121. 
  5. ^ a b c American Society for Quality, Glossary - Entry: Quality, http://www.asq.org/glossary/q.html, retrieved 2008-07-20 
  6. ^ Kano, Noriaki (1984-04-01). "Attractive quality and must-be quality". The Journal of the Japanese Society for Quality Control: 39–48. 
  7. ^ .Pirsig, Robert M. (1974). Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into values. New York, N.Y.: Morrow. ISBN 0688002307.  Cited by: Jones, D.R. (September 1989). "Exploring quality: what Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" can teach us about technical communication". IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (IEEE) 32 (3): 154–158. 
  8. ^ Taguchi, G. (1992). Taguchi on Robust Technology Development. ASME Press. ISBN 978-9992910269. 
  9. ^ .Ealey, Lance A. (1988). Quality by design: Taguchi methods and U.S. industry. Dearborn, Mich.: ASI Press. ISBN 9781556239700.  Cited by: Sriraman, Vedaraman, A primer on the Taguchi system of quality engineering, http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JOTS/Summer-Fall-1996/PDF/9-2-Sriraman-article.pdf, retrieved 2008-07-20 
  10. ^ Drucker, Peter (1985). Innovation and entrepreneurship. Harper & Row. ISBN 9780060913601. 
  11. ^ Edwards Deming, W. (1986). Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study. ISBN 0-911379-01-0. 
  12. ^ Walton, Mary; W. Edwards Deming (1988). The Deming management method. Perigee. pp. 88. ISBN 0399550003. 
  13. ^ p.169, Rochfort Scott, Hamerton


  • Boone, Louis E. & Kurtz, David L., Contemporary Business 2006, Thomson South-Western, 2006
  • Rochfort Scott, Charles & Hamerton, Robert Jacob, Rambles in Egypt and Candia: With Details of the Military Power and Resources of Those Countries, and Observations on the Government, Policy, and Commercial System of Mohammed Ali, Volume I, H. Colburn, London, 1837

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