Product quality

Also found in: Acronyms.

Product quality

The collection of features and characteristics of a product that contribute to its ability to meet given requirements. Early work in controlling product quality was on creating standards for producing acceptable products. By the mid-1950s, mature methods had evolved for controlling quality, including statistical quality control and statistical process control, utilizing sequential sampling techniques for tracking the mean and variance in process performance. During the 1960s, these methods and techniques were extended to the service industry. During 1960–1980, there was a major shift in world markets, with the position of the United States declining while Japan and Europe experienced substantial growth in international markets. Consumers became more conscious of the cost and quality of products and services. Firms began to focus on total production systems for achieving quality at minimum cost. This trend has continued, and today the goals of quality control are largely driven by consumer concerns and preferences.

There are three views for describing the overall quality of a product. First is the view of the manufacturer, who is primarily concerned with the design, engineering, and manufacturing processes involved in fabricating the product. Quality is measured by the degree of conformance to predetermined specifications and standards, and deviations from these standards can lead to poor quality and low reliability. Efforts for quality improvement are aimed at eliminating defects (components and subsystems that are out of conformance), the need for scrap and rework, and hence overall reductions in production costs. Second is the view of the consumer or user. To consumers, a high-quality product is one that well satisfies their preferences and expectations. This consideration can include a number of characteristics, some of which contribute little or nothing to the functionality of the product but are significant in providing customer satisfaction. A third view relating to quality is to consider the product itself as a system and to incorporate those characteristics that pertain directly to the operation and functionality of the product. This approach should include overlap of the manufacturer and customer views. See Manufacturing engineering

Quality control (QC) is the collection of methods and techniques for ensuring that a product or service is produced and delivered according to given requirements. This includes the development of specifications and standards, performance measures, and tracking procedures, and corrective actions to maintain control. The data collection and analysis functions for quality control involve statistical sampling, estimation of parameters, and construction of various control charts for monitoring the processes in making products. This area of quality control is formally known as statistical process control (SPC) and, along with acceptance sampling, represents the traditional perception of quality management. Statistical process control focuses primarily on the conformance element of quality, and to somewhat less extent on operating performance and durability. See Process control, Quality control

Concurrent engineering, quality function deployment, and total quality management (TQM) are modern management approaches for improving quality through effective planning and integration of design, manufacturing, and materials management functions throughout an organization. Quality improvement programs typically include goals for reducing warranty claims and associated costs because warranty data directly or indirectly impact most of the product quality dimensions. See Engineering design

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