A Publication of WTVP

the past 30 years, quality has been a major area of contention for many companies.
Companies with better-quality products have historically had an edge in the
marketplace. However, Dr. Juran and others have warned that a competitive
strategy based on quality alone might not continue to be effective at capturing
market share. Essentially they present the argument that quality professionals’
future success will lead to the satisfaction of the need in society for their
services. In other words, quality professionals will no longer be needed
because higher levels of quality are being achieved and quality is no longer a
competitive advantage. Consider the following:

1. Societal demands continue to increase. Predictions that the quality profession
will become obsolete have yet to materialize. Most likely, this will not be the
case because

of a
continuation of the increasing demands from society. Generally, companies
trying to eliminate their quality functions by embedding them into other
mainstream processes have failed to produce satisfactory results.

While I
am in favor of integrating quality functions into everyone’s job and holding
people accountable for their own work, very few companies have been able to
make this work in the long run. Key quality characteristics and processes are too
vital to not be checked and randomly audited by independent quality functions.
In short, independent quality functions are a small price to pay for the protection
of a company’s quality reputation and longevity. Customers are not willing to
pay for mistakes and will easily transfer their loyalty.

2. The complexity of products continues to
As more components are added to products, such as electronics,
the need for higher reliability in each component increases. As more
intelligent capabilities are introduced to other products, particularly through
the introduction of electronics to replace many mechanical systems, there is a
similar need for increased quality. This is part of the reasoning behind the
Six Sigma movement first introduced at Motorola.

3. The use of technological support has
experienced rapid growth
. At first, companies replaced simple, repetitive
manual tasks with computer technology. Now, companies are using computer
technology to replace tasks that have traditionally required a good deal of
human intelligence and skill. Society is becoming increasingly dependent on
these technological support systems-and dangerously so.

example, aircraft technology makes it possible for the autopilot to do most of
the flying while the human pilot becomes the redundant system. Railroad
transportation systems depend on sensing equipment along the tracks. The
employees who would have intervened to avoid accidents are no longer there, so
the need for high-quality, reliable sensing equipment is great.

growth in technological support is not limited to products. In everyday service
scenarios from banks to hotels, customers often find themselves waiting for
complex computer systems to function properly, while service personnel can only
helplessly stand by unable to perform the service that in the past could have
been done easily without technological support.

consequences of poor quality in the future will be much worse than just getting
a defective product and having to throw it away. Poor quality will lead to an
inability to get to work or do one’s job. Poor quality also will invade
people’s personal lives by preventing them from enjoying their free time. Try
to buy tickets for an event at a civic center when the computerized ticket
system is down, or gasoline at a self-service station when the computerized pumps
are not fully operational.

quality profession has evolved and matured to the point where sophisticated customers
demand their diverse requirements be met. Customers have developed a growing
reliance on the quality of the systems that support their everyday activities.
As a result of these trends, there will be an increasing need for quality and
quality professionals.

This article
was originally published in the February 2009 issue of Quality magazine.