Quality Is What The Customer Says Is Quality

Editor's Note: On May 17-19 IndustryWeek held its Best Plants Conference in Nashville recognizing the 10 IW Best Plants of 2004. This article is based on a presentation given at the conference. You might also be interested in eProcurement: GlaxoSmithKline's Secret To Managing The Supply Chain and Maintenance Steps Into Leading Role In Rockwell Automatic's Power Lean.

As a founding father on quality in manufacturing, Armand Feigenbaum, president and CEO of General Systems Co., has a unique view of the quality movement.

His take on quality in business today? "Quality is what the customer says is quality," he explains.

Quality is no longer relegated to a department or a separate discipline; instead it is incorporated into every aspect of a company. "What we measure and define as quality might not be what the customer views as quality. While we concentrate on low defect levels, the customer expects a perfect product every time," says Feigenbaum.

To back up his comment on customer expectations, Feigenbaum cited studies that showed satisfied customers are seven to eight times as likely to buy from a company if the product functions well. However if a customer requires support or service with the product, 44% won't buy a product from that company in the future.

Therefore it is up to the leadership to infuse quality throughout the organization and to commit to providing quality. Feigenbaum cites Toyota of an example of a company who has consistently provided quality and is rewarded for that in the marketplace.

Others can achieve those same quality levels, according to Feigenbaum. He views today marketplace as " full of great opportunities for companies that are agile and can respond quickly to customers' needs with quality products."

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