Maintaining a level of quality is imperative of business, no matter your product, service, focus, or industry. On the surface, how quality affects your bottom line seems obvious. It's also what could make or break your reputation with consumers as well as your reputation with other businesses, and could, in fact, make or break your business' ability to thrive in the market at all.
The Meaning of Quality
According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), quality has several meanings: "a product or service free of deficiencies," "the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs," conformity to or compliance with requirements, or being fit for use.
Really, quality is all of these things. Quality in business means meeting customer expectations, specifications, and legal or regulatory requirements. Quality is about customer satisfaction and empowering people, as well as improving processes, increasing efficiency while decreasing costs, and measuring performance results. Overall your business needs to distribute a quality product and/or deliver quality service to be successful.
Of course, that makes quality an almost entirely subjective topic. At that point, how do you measure quality? How do you make it quantifiable and therefore achievable across the board within your business no matter how large you grow? Don't worry — there are a number of recognized standards you can look to.
The LEAN method, which encompasses both LEAN Manufacturing and LEAN Enterprise, focuses on a five-step cyclical process — identify value; map value stream; create flow; establish pull; seek perfection — which aims to eliminate the eight identified forms of waste — i.e., overproduction, wait times, rework, transportation, inventory, motion, over processing, employee engagement squandered.
Six Sigma is a method that utilizes a focus on statistical thinking and project management with an emphasis on using define, measure, analyze, improve, and control (i.e., the DMAIC method) to problem solve as a function of the business strategy. The specific metrics and tools for this method are disputed; however, its certification levels are recognizable as belt colors not unlike karate belts, where the most advanced form is the Six Sigma Black Belt.
Total Quality Management is a customer-focused, process-centered system that utilizes top-to-bottom employee inclusive auditing on a spread of all-encompassing guidelines and standards that enable improvement through a strategy developed by communication and hard data.
Where Quality Impacts Your Business
Quality is used across all industries, including both manufacturing and service organizations, so no matter what kind of business you run, quality is imperative to your success. You do need to be aware of which kinds of quality certifications are required for your industry — for instance, do you know whether or not your company needs to be ISO-9000 compliant? But even if your company is only a startup with a handful of employees, you need a strategy for ensuring quality, especially in three major areas.
Quality Professionals Are Interested in Making a Difference for the Good of Many
Whether you're talking about quality professionals whose work is all about quality assurance and control or simply employees who are quality minded, these are the types of employees that improve your business just by having them in it. Having them among your staff and utilizing them and methods of quality to their best advantage will invariably improve employee engagement and company culture. That has a host of ripple effects, not least of which are lowered turnover (down 15%), better attendance (sick days down 42%), and excellence in work (above-average productivity up 38%) reflected in customer and investor satisfaction.
A great example for this is when US Synthetic won the prestigious Shingo Prize, which honors excellence in operations. Among those that the CEO thanked was the Six Sigma Quality Professional who navigated the company to better problem solving, improved efficiency, and lowered cost problems. The professional's position was not a long-term hire, and yet he warranted a mention of thanks for his impact. (Other Sigma Six success stories.)
Quality Creates a Positive Brand Reputation
That subhead may be a slight misstatement. Quality is your brand reputation, especially when it comes to customers and clients. Quality service means happy customers, and happy customers can retarget into repeat business, bring in more customers by word-of-mouth (or more likely, social media), and offer excellent referrals. High quality, coupled with a good marketing strategy, is what makes for an excellent bottom line at the end of every quarter.
A great example is AtlantiCare, which identified a major breakdown in employee communication when developing its Total Quality plan. That communication breakdown was leading to increased wait times, problematic service, and disgruntled patients. By opening communication beyond top-down tactics and developing a sideways communication system, the healthcare firm's repeat customer rate tripled and its revenue skyrocketed by 43%.
Quality Positions Your Brand as a Leader in Your Industry
This is an inevitable benefit of success, especially if you have an appropriate outlet for quality content that establishes your company as authoritative on industry topics. Quality means you become a household name, the brand people turn to for information.
One of the best examples possible for this is the LEAN powerhouse brand Toyota. In fact, Toyota developed the first LEAN system, applying it mostly to the manufacturing process at the time. (Other LEAN success stories.)
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of how quality affects your bottom line. Quality professionals can develop their career paths in multiple disciplines and industries through work experience, class work, and ASQ certifications. If you're interested in quality training, PCC CLIMB Professional Development and Training offers a number of courses that will help, including Risk Management, eAudits, and Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Prep. Contact us today and find out how to get started!