What is Quality? What does Quality Mean? How do You Know When You Have Quality?

What is Quality? Quality is the degree to which a commodity meets the requirements of the customer at the start of its life. (As defined in ISO 9000)

Quality does not come from using a ISO 9001 quality management system. The ISO9001 standard is not designed to create quality. ISO 9001 is just a “bookshelf” to store and manage your quality creation processes and procedures.

The Effects of Quality are experienced by the customer. Product quality perception comes from your design specifications and the manufacture standards achieved. Service quality perception comes from your service process design and standard of delivery.

After being an ISO 9001 consultant to many companies I saw that nearly every operation I had worked with misunderstood what is quality. They thought that by getting an ISO 9001 quality management system (QMS) they would become a quality-driven company. No, that is totally wrong! ISO9001 cannot create quality. ISO 9001 certification is not a solution to becoming a quality company. Or to getting quality into your products and services.

This misunderstanding is why ISO 9001 has such a poor reputation for delivering the customer perception improvements that senior management wanted by adopting ISO 9001—the ISO 9001 standard does not tell you HOW to design and create quality in your products and services.

When you put a ISO 9001 quality management system into your business it cannot give you product and work quality and reliability. ISO 9001 gives you a management framework. Think of it as like a set of empty bookshelves with a document tracking system but no books. It is up to you to design and build the ideal processes and products that make your customers satisfied. ISO 9001 can never do that for you, it only stores your QMS documents on its shelves.

So, what is quality? Quality is delivered when you achieve the minimum requirement of a specified performance standard. Quality is a specified performance range. Get into the range of required performance and you have ‘quality’. Both a basic Toyota Corolla and a top-of-the-line Mercedes Benz are quality cars. They each have specific engineering design standards to meet and once those standards are satisfied then quality is delivered.

To help executives, managers and supervisors understand what is quality, how to create quality, and how to embed quality into their workplace I wrote an explanatory ebook with a simple, structured methodology. I called this approach to work quality control and quality assurance the Accuracy Controlled Enterprise (ACE). The couple of images below try to summarize the purpose and use of the ACE 3T approach of quality control and quality assurance. If you want more information on the ACE 3T methodology you can follow the web links at the end of this page.

Accuracy Controlled Enterprise ACE 3T for Mistake Proofing an SOP, i.e. standard operating procedure


Accuracy Controlled Enterprise ACE 3T Quality Tells You Where Excellence Is


The late American Management guru Peter F. Drucker said, “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.” It might be true that customers decide if they got quality results, but in the practical business world you have to embed quality into products and services so that customers can then experience it.

In the business world, quality is indeed what the supplier puts in. It is always the designer who set the quality and the manufacturer who instills quality, or they leave it lacking. The designer engineers-in-quality and the manufacturer builds the quality into the product. A customer can only experience the effects of past quality choices and actions.

Customers may judge quality through their perceptions, but customer opinion is not what quality is. Customer satisfaction is the after-effect of quality. Because customers cannot clearly specify in measurable engineering values what makes them satisfied, quality improvement becomes an iterative process of trial, testing and feedback on performance when used by the customer.

Over the years business has had to find a way to define and measure quality so that companies can make products and deliver services to definable performance standards their customers will experience and either accept or reject.


Measuring Quality:

  1. Quality is specification driven – does it meet the set performance requirements
  2. Quality is measured at start of life – percent passing specification acceptance
  3. Quality effectiveness is observable by number of rejects from customers

The quality characteristics of a product or service are known as the ‘Determinants of Quality’. These are the attributes customers look for to decide if it is a quality product or service.


Definitions of Quality:

People have found many ways to describe quality. Some of the most popular definitions for quality are listed below.

  1. A degree of excellence
  2. Conformance to requirements
  3. Totality of characteristics which act to satisfy a need
  4. Fitness for use
  5. Fitness for purpose
  6. Freedom from defects
  7. Delighting customers

All of the above gauges of quality are useful, as they each contain elements of what quality means to users of products and services. However, for quality to be embedded in a product or service there must be a set of measurable performance standards, which when achieved will guarantee the desired level of quality.


Definition of Reliability:

Reliability is the probability an item will function correctly when needed, for the period required, in the specified environment. An all encompassing definition for reliability is ‘the chance of success’. With success defined by whatever measure you wish to use that tells you when success is achieved.

Reliability comes from achieving quality standards. This means the level of quality produces its equivalent reliability.

In a manufactured product, the reliability comes from its inherent design, materials-of-construction, precision of manufacture, and the operating stresses received when used in-service. In the service industry, reliability come from robustness of service process design, strength of client support, follow-through on your promises, and staying in business over the years.

The, “What is quality?” question has many implications that flow across your business and throughout the lifetime of your company, its offerings, and its clients. Quality is valuable, because when you have it, it brings success to the customer, and consequentially, to the business the customer buys from.


Measuring Reliability:

  1. Reliability is customer satisfaction driven—the User was successful when they used the commodity
  2. Reliability is measured at end of life—it functioned as required for the periods of time it was needed by the User
  3. Reliability is observable by number of past customers that return, and the number of service call-outs from users


Value of a Quality Management System:

You need to purposely design business systems and processes that will deliver all the quality and reliability intentions your customers want. Service and product success is decided by its Users’ satisfaction.

That is why you need a Quality Management System, so you have the organisation structure, procedures, processes and resources needed to implement the design, creation and management of quality in your company. ISO 9001 gives you a framework to hold your business processes, methods and solutions and helps you improve them. But that is all ISO 9001 can do for you.

So when you decide to adopt a ISO 9001 quality management system be sure that FIRST you design and build the ideal quality-creation processes, products and services that are sure to make your customers satisfied. ISO 9001 will only keep you making the same quality and reliability that you engineer into your business offerings and customer solutions.


Work Quality Control and Work Quality Assurance With An Accuracy Controlled Enterprise:

ISO 9001 is not the answer to the question, What is Quality? You can’t use ISO 9001 to design the processes that create and embed quality and reliability into your products and services. To design and build the company processes that actually put quality into your goods, products and services needs business process design techniques and tools.

A powerful methodology to ensure work quality control and work quality assurance is the Accuracy Controlled Enterprise (ACE). You can read how ACE delivers work quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) by following the link to the webpage.

If work QC/QA is important to you, a comprehensive manual on writing standard operating procedures (SOP) using the Accuracy Controlled Enterprise (ACE) approach for designing business processes that ensure outstanding work quality results is now available. You can read information about the method and the manual at the online store webpage: Write SOPs with Accuracy Controlled Enterprise 3T (Target Tolerance Test) method.


All the Very best to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ