Quality is an important dimension of production and operations management. It is not enough to produce goods or services in the right quantity and at the right time; it is important to ensure that the goods and services produced are of the right quality. The consumer of the final product of a company needs a certain quantity of products of a quality appropriate to his needs. Without quality the other dimensions of quantity and time have little relevance.
Quality as a corporate strategy: Quality management which includes ensuring proper quality for a company’s output, is important not only for its survival in the market, but also to expand its market or when it wants to enter into a new product line and various other marketing ventures. If a country’ products are to make an impact in the international market, it is vital that the quality of its exports should be at par with, if not better, than similar products from other nations. Quality management is thus an important long term marketing strategy as well. For developing countries, such as India this aspect assumes greater importance since in the international market they have to compete with products of advanced countries with established brand names and brand loyalties. To make a dent of such a market it might sometimes be necessary for our products to be one step better than the already established products of other advanced countries.
Looking at it from another angle, it is necessary that we try to improve the quality of our products and services for even domestic consumption so that Indian consumers get better service in terms of improved products. This is the social aspect of quality.
Although we have described the virtues of good quality, one basic question needs to be answered: What is quality and who decides what the quality should be?
Quality is the performance of the product as per the commitment made by the producer to the consumer. The commitment may be explicit such as a written contract or it may be implicit in terms of the expectations of the average consumer of the product.
The performance of the product’ relates to the ultimate functions and services which the final product must give to the final consumer. For instance, a watch should show accurate time or a ball point pen should write legibly on a piece of paper or the paper should be capable of retaining the pen-or-pencil marks made on it. Quality may be measured in terms of performance tests. A product is called a quality product only when it satisfies various criteria for its functioning for the consumer. In addition to the physical criteria there is also a service and time dimension to quality. The same quality of physical performance should be available over a reasonable length of time. Thus, time is also am essential aspect of quality.
Quality is either a written or non-written commitment to a known or unknown consumer in the market. Since the market or the target market itself is decided by the company, as to which type of consumer or customer to cater to, quality is a strategic marketing decision taken by the company itself at the outset. We may broaden this concept by saying that the quality of products to be produced by a corporation is a corporate level decision. It is a decision based on various marketing considerations, production constraints manpower or personnel constraints and equipment or technology constraints. The decision regarding quality are not really in the realm of one functional manager as this involves overall strategic decisions for the running of the business of a corporation.
Once such a strategic decision regarding the quality is taken, it is job of all functional managers, including the Production and Operations Manager to see that strategic objectives and goals are implemented. In this, the purchasing department has as much contribution to make to the quality as the production department that produces the goods, and the warehousing department that stores the goods, and the transport department that ensures the proper shipment of the goods to the customers. Quality implementation is also a “total organization effort”.