Quality and Competition
We learn to compete from a young age. Whether it’s an organized sport or sibling rivalry, there is something deep down that makes us want to be the best at whatever it is we strive toward. When thinking about your work product or services in general, what sets you apart?
You may have heard the old adage, “You can have any two of the following: low price, fast service, or quality; but you can’t have all three.”
This fits with our experience, and perhaps it fits with yours. But with time, we’ve found that the factor that is most remembered is the quality of the product. After all, if you purchase a low-cost item, will the memory of the price outshine the fact that the product broke quickly or performed poorly? We know that a quality deliverable has to be high on our list of priorities when defining or developing products and services. Product or service quality is a key component in overall value.
There are industry standards that define a quality process. For instance, ISO9001 is a general industry-accepted standard for quality. In the aerospace world, a special derivative of the ISO standard (AS9100) is used as the starting point for most aircraft-company quality-management systems. In the nuclear-energy sector, ASME NQA-1 is the preferred standard.
All of these industry standards have a few things in common. They require the user to develop a quality system that will ensure outcomes and a pathway to continuous improvement.
Quality certification is a good way to ensure that companies develop, follow, and maintain a Quality Management System (QMS). However, we suggest that it is more important for companies to develop a quality culture than it is to simply have an outside company certify adherence to a quality system.
For example, since its founding in 2005, KTM Solutions has adhered to the ISO9001 quality system. KTM developed a quality manual and command media structure that supports business objectives and ensures the quality of products.
The system is designed to generate continuous improvement. Although KTM does not maintain third-party certification, the QMS is audited regularly by internal auditors to assure compliance with the standard. In addition, the KTM QMS has been audited to both the AS9100 and NQA-1 standards and received certification for engineering services when required by particular clients.
Some companies embrace industry quality standards. Some treat them as a curse to be endured. In that case, perhaps those organizations and leaders have missed the point and failed to recognize that a quality system that works for the company is in their best interest: a well-designed and functioning quality system yields better results, results that customers are likely to prefer.
If the quality of a product or service is what will remain in the memory of your customer long after price and delivery, why does that so often seem to be the least considered attribute when selling or purchasing?
Often it seems that the consumer assumes quality as a given. At times we’ve seen customers purchase the lower-cost solution assuming that quality across all products is equal, only to be disappointed in the long run. After all, the cost and schedule are easy to compare before the sale. Quality results are usually never experienced until the product or service is delivered.
Best Two out of Three?
With all this said, when considering a purchase of good or services, don’t assume that all quality is equal. When delivering a product, remember that the sweet taste of a low price or fast delivery can turn bitter once the product reaches the buyer. When considering a purchase, ask about quality management systems. Does the product or service provider have a QMS? How do they use the system? Is it a part of the culture where it is regularly reviewed and maintained? Can the provider show evidence of continuous improvement?
If you really can have only two of these three—quality, cost, or schedule—then what should you choose? If we are honest, quality trumps them all and should be a key consideration in any purchase. As such, quality (whether it’s your business, product, or personal labor) should be what separates you from the rest.