Qualité can be defined as the ability to achieve target operational goals. The ISO 8402-94 standard defines quality as:
The set of characteristics of an entity that give that entity
the ability to satisfy expressed and implicit needs.
The ability of a set of intrinsic characteristics
to satisfy requirements.
The purpose of quality is therefore to provide the client with a suitable offer with controlled processes while ensuring that this improvement does not translate into additional costs. It is possible to improve a large number of problems at a low cost. However, the closer you get to perfection, the higher the costs reach.
In the absolute, for private sector companies it is not really a question of exhaustively meeting client expectations ("zero defects") but rather of meeting them better than the competition. In the public sector, quality reveals whether or not public funds are being used expertly in providing a service that is adapted to citizens' expectations.
The opposite of quality, or a quality defect also has a cost. Indeed, it is generally more costly to correct defects or errors than to "do it right" from the beginning. In addition, the cost of a quality defect is greater the later it is detected. For example, making a defective product over will in the end cost more than double the production price that the initial product would have cost if it had been produced correctly the first time. Moreover, the price difference will be less if the defect is detected during production than if it is detected by the end client (client dissatisfaction, processing the incident, client monitoring, shipping costs, etc.)
It is a question of finding the right balance that eliminates quality defects as much as possible, in order to earn a good degree of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty and make profits, all with a reasonable budget.
One of the basic principles of quality is prevention and continual improvement. This means that quality is a never-ending project whose goal is to spot dysfunction as quickly as possible after it occurs. Thus, quality can be represented by a cycle of corrective and preventative actions called a "Deming cycle":
This cycle, represented in the Deming cycle, is called the PDCA model. PDCA refers to the four following steps:
Improving both internal and external quality allows a company to work with its beneficiaries in the best conditions, which translates into a relationship of trust and gains that are both financial (increased profits) as well as personal (clarification of roles, needs and the product/service; employee motivation) in nature.
Improving quality is a process that requires the participation of the entire company and most of the time leads to changes in work habits and even organizational changes. Thus, a quality procedure is an organizational approach to continual progress in the area of elimating quality defects. It is a participative procedure, meaning that the whole company, including the highest level of the hierarchy, must participate.
Quality assurance is the guarantee to maintain a certain level of quality according to target goals. Quality assurance is guided by a framework document that formalises the quality assurance measures. The standard 8402-94 gives the following definition:
The series of preestablished and systematic activities laid out in the
quality system framework that are performed when needed to prove
that an entity will meet quality expectations.
The goal of quality assurance is to reassure a client about the quality of a company's product or service. The framework is presented in a quality assurance manual that summarizes the company's quality policy.
Certification or accreditation is the written recognition by an independent third party that a service, product or system meets a certain level of quality. Certification is generally based on a standard (preferrably international). Some of the main certifications are:
The concept of total quality management (TCM) refers to the implementation of a business plan that is based on a quality procedure that involves all employees, i.e. a comprehensive strategy by which an entire company uses everything to satisfy its beneficiaries in terms of quality, cost and deadline. A "quality spirit" must be developed and shared by all in order for total quality management to succeed.
Article written on 16 December 2004 by Jean-François Pillou