4.3 Achieving Quality Production

4.3.1 Why Quality is Important and How Quality Production Might be Achieved

What quality means

We have looked in detail at how to manufacture products efficiently to meet consumer demand. However, businesses must also ensure products are a high quality.

A quality product meets customers’ expectations, and is ‘fit for purpose’. But what does that mean and why is it important?

That is what we are going to find out, along with two ways of achieving quality, quality control and quality assurance. 

Quality is an important consideration in any question on production but it could form a longer stand alone question like this one. 

Past Paper Question Example 
Paper 2 (b) State the advantages and disadvantages of the following three ways to achieve good quality service at business ABC: [12]
– Employ highly trained workers
– Record all customer complaints
– Buy only the best quality materials to use in the health spa
– Recommendation

Quality meeting customers expectations means the product has been designed and produced effectively so will satisfy consumers. If you buy a new smartphone you expect it to be designed so it is easy to use, and performs all of its functions. 

But you will also expect that it has been produced to a high quality, so after months of use the battery continues to have a long life and apps still load quickly. 

But how do businesses figure out what consumers expect in quality from a smartphone or any other product? They conduct market research to find out what customer expectations are. These expectations become quality standards. Businesses then design and manufacture products to achieve and exceed these standards. 

Why is quality so important?

As we saw in marketing, it is much easier to keep current customers than find new ones. If consumers have a bad experience with a defective product they may never buy from the business again. However, if consumers have a positive experience with a high quality product, they are much more likely to buy again and may not take the risk of switching to another brand. Furthermore, satisfied customers will recommend high quality products to others, and further develop a businesses reputation for quality products.

This reputation for quality is also central to brand image. Consumers choose high quality brands they feel they can trust, but businesses have to build this trust and customer loyalty through positive experiences of quality products. 

Consumers are willing to pay more for a business with a brand image and reputation for quality products. Toyota and Honda have a high reputation for building reliable cars that won’t break down. So customers will pay a higher price than they will for competitor products, with an inferior brand image.

If there is a quality problem where products are defective, and faulty goods have to be returned this can be a huge cost to businesses. Ford in 2020 had to recall many of their cars because they had defective door handles which opened while driving. 

Defective or low quality products will also discourage retailers and wholesalers from selling products from a business. 

Finally, well designed products that are produced to a high quality have a longer product life cycle, so stay on the market longer. This reduces product development costs. The original Volkswagen Beetle was in production for 65 years until 2003, as it’s innovative design still satisfied customers years after it’s launch. 

So how can businesses improve the quality of their products?

The concept of quality control and how businesses implement quality control

Quality control is checking the quality of products at the end of the production line when manufacture is complete. It is difficult to check all products so quality inspectors will take a sample. It may involve having to dismantle the product, for example taking a bicycle apart to check the strength of the different components.

Quality Control Inspector

Quality Control has two main disadvantages.

As it is carried only out at the end of production it doesn’t stop errors as they occur. A defective component which is added to a product at the start of production won’t be noticed until products are inspected at the end of the production line. This means businesses may be slow to react to quality problems, and many defective products will be made before the defect is discovered. These defective products may have to be thrown away, or taken apart which means resources are wasted and lower labour productivity. 

As it is carried out by specialist quality control inspectors it means employees have less responsibility for control over quality. Workers may see product quality as someone else’s job and aren’t motivated to solve quality problems when they arise.  

The concept of quality assurance and how this can be implemented

Quality Assurance takes a radically different approach to quality control. The core belief is that everyone involved in production has a responsibility to get it “right first time every time”.

Suppliers of raw materials and components must reach the required quality standards for every input into the production process.

Every step in the production process has to reach minimum quality standards. 

Products are designed with a focus on high quality and reducing defects. 

All employees are empowered to take responsibility for product quality. 

As a result, quality assurance reduces defects in products, and finds errors where the quality problem occurs rather than at the end of the production line. This means any issue with product quality can be fixed quickly

It encourages teamwork and higher motivation in workers, who take responsibility for quality and can take pride in the results. Higher quality products manufactured with quality assurance can apply for the award of International Quality  Standards. This will increase sales as customers will have greater trust in the quality of the products, especially for less well-known brands.

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