Manufacturer and quality –Legal aspects

Now-a-days a manufacturer or a supplier has to consider ‘legal costs’ also. There are specific laws which provide for the liability for defective products. Courts award a much higher level of damages in case of litigation. Moreover, a manufacturer or a supplier has to spend a good amount for defending the firm against suits filed by various customers. Formerly legal actions were very rare but today the position has changed with the introduction of Consumer Protection Act (CPA), 1986.

A manufacturer may be forced by the law to withdraw certain products or certain batches of products from the market due to substandard quality or other defects e.g. when on the basis of research it is proved that certain drug is injurious to health or it has side effects, the government warns the users and forces the manufacturer to withdraw that product from the market and to discontinue the production of such items. Sometimes misuse or improper use of a product may cause personal injury to a customer. This may be due to the absence of proper instructions on the label or in the leaflet which is generally put with a bottle inside the packing. Informative labeling and leaflets with operating instructions have assumed much more importance.

How does a manufacturer decide the quality? The assessment or the study of customer’s needs is generally made by the marketing department in terms of quality, quantity and price. This information is provided to the design engineering department of a firm. On the basis of such information a committee consisting of representatives of various concerned departments, headed by a design engineer prepares detailed specifications of the product planned for production. Specifications are a detailed description or listing of the characteristics of materials parts and components used in making a product. They describe the quality of a product desired, in a brief or precise manner. The cost of production and the ability of the product to function are also considered while developing proper specifications. Thus, the specifications are the detailed description of product’s design in quantitative terms. Now the design process is a continuous process because with the change in customers’ taste, it becomes necessary to change the specification for customers’ satisfaction. The products with standard specifications, manufactured by different manufacturers will be the same. When products or goods are ordered on the basis of standard specifications, the buyer and as well as the seller know what is required.

Generally, three types of specifications are used: (1) Technical specifications, (2) Performance specifications and (3) Brand name. Technical specifications state the physical and chemical properties desired in the product. When the desired properties are in measurable terms, they are called dimensional specifications. This type of specifications can be checked easily. Sometimes materials to be used and method of manufacture are also prescribed.

Performance specifications, is defined as the performance or use of the products or materials to be purchased or the services that a product will give. Here the customers give importance to the performance of the products and not to the detailed analysis of the products, stating details of physical and chemical properties of the products. The conformance to the performance specifications can be determined by use of the product. Performance specifications thus indicate the needs of the customers for satisfactory performance. Performance specifications are extensively used in purchasing highly technical military and space products and also complicated machines and machine tools with sophisticated technology. When it becomes very costly to develop performance or technical specifications or if such a practice does not prove satisfactory are made on the basis of brand names.