Does Quality Matter? Benjamin Franklin Thinks So

By "Apollo" Flow Controls April 24, 2017

When did you last see a manufacturer claim they sell poor quality products? Probably never. No one admits to poor quality, even though most of us have purchased things that were. Usually it's a mistake, although sometimes we were seduced by a low price. If you've done that, you probably regretted it later. As Ben Franklin said, “"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten."

Defining Quality

Customers usually have a number of expectations for whatever it is they're buying. These include:

They might also add things like “ethically manufactured,” (no one was injured making it,) and, “respect for the environment,” (waste products weren't dumped in the river.)

There are also service aspects that customers seldom consider, but notice when they're missing. Having products in stock, giving honest, trustworthy advice, and even printing understandable instructions are all part of providing a quality product.

And on top of this, customers expect consistency. A product should give the same result every time it's used, but customers also expect consistency over multiple copies of a product. If you buy three supposedly identical wrenches, valves or tape measures, at three different times you expect them all to look and work the same.

Achieving Quality

There was a time when manufacturers relied on inspectors. An army of keen-eyed men and women scrutinized every item before it left the factory. Anything not up to standard was scrapped or reworked.

Obviously, this is very wasteful. Forward-thinking manufacturers prefer to not make bad or nonconforming products in the first place. Doing that means driving out all the variation that leads to out-of-specification product. That's done by controlling all the processes involved in manufacturing.

Those processes include production activities like casting, machining, plating and assembly, but they go a lot wider. Purchasing raw materials and components is a process, as is training employees and calibrating measuring equipment. Even design and engineering are processes that need controlling to ensure new products meet customer needs.

Recognizing a Quality Operation

Manufacturers who take the time to manage their operations this way often seek independent certification of their processes. This is done by an external auditor who measures the company against an external standard like ISO9001. When a company meets this standard it says they understand and manage all the processes involved in making their products.

The Importance of Quality

Buying a poor quality product often leaves a bad taste that puts you off that make or brand. Good manufacturers understand this, and invest in systems and processes to ensure they only provide the best quality products they can make. Ben Franklin would probably approve.