Non-Product Quality: The Cornerstone for Success

Article

Walters, Sherry K.; Schrager, Mindy R.   (1990, ASQC)   Codex Corp., Canton, MA

Annual Quality Congress, San Francisco, CA    Vol. 44    No. 0
QICID: 9553    May 1990    pp. 826-832
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Article Abstract

Historically, Quality Assurance has focused on measuring and improving the quality of manufactured products. In recent years, books such as Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke's Service America, have highlighted the importance of service quality. Today's quality orientation has shifted to incorporate service, administrative, and non-manufacturing quality as well as product quality. The benefits include reduced costs, increased revenue, increased market share, opened lines of communication, and a higher degree of customer satisfaction. By improving quality and streamlining non-product processes, success will follow. Non-Product Quality has become today's cornerstone for success.

Traditionally, industry orientation has defined a boundary between manufacturing and service quality. This boundary is often blurred due to the lack of a common definition for service across companies. The service quality definition must include all non-product and customer interface functions. Customer perceptions generally indicate that quality is much broader than the product or service the company provides. Customers are sensitive to issues ranging from the courtesy of the sales force to the accuracy and timeliness of the billing department. A quality conscious corporation must build their quality program on the foundation of product and non-product areas. Productivity, customer satisfaction, and market position will be achieved through quality.

A continuous improvement program across all business functions is the basis for Total Customer Satisfaction and Total Quality in any company. Continuous improvement programs must incorporate mechanisms to measure quality, prioritize improvements, monitor progress and remeasure quality. These mechanisms and quality goals must be implemented for all facets of business operations.

The key measurement tools are customer satisfaction ratings, statistical techniques and Total Cycle Time. These tools should be utilized in both product and non-product areas to ensure a consistent quality measurement. The use of quality metrics must be supplemented by less quantifiable input from employee and customer programs to provide a balance in determining the direction of the total quality program.

Non-Product areas, such as Sales and Finance, should be prioritized based on customer and employee input. A series of brainstorming sessions are conducted to identify the following:

  1. Key business processes
  2. Customers and suppliers
  3. Key information needs
  4. Possible quality metrics
  5. Major functions and activities
  6. The quality tracking system
  7. The action plan
These sessions focus on the concept of a "continuous" improvement process by error-proofing individual processes and opening the lines of communication both internally and externally. Addressing "system" problems by using pareto charts developed from the quality tracking system will identify opportunities for improvement. These opportunities are prioritized and assigned to cross-functional improvement teams. Closed loop reviews, quality tracking systems, and periodic surveys will ensure that progress is maintained and quantified; thus, providing the cornerstone for success.

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