The BBC’s GCSE Bitesize pages summarise the main topics GCSE qualification addresses. The GCSE is the qualification taken by 15 and 16-year olds as foundation learning. Regarding the topic ‘quality’ the qualification is supposed to provide some basic understanding, however what our next generation of employees is being taught about quality might not be what quality professionals understand as ‘quality’.
Below are some points extracted from the GCSE Bitesize pages that can prove concerning:
1. The subject Quality is placed under Business Studies and its sub-category ‘production’.
There is no mention of quality related to other subjects such as Design and Technology.
The issue here is twofold. Firstly, that those studying Business Studies may consider that quality is just about manufacturing and secondly that those studying other subjects may have no exposure to the quality subject? We know that many quality issues emanate from poor requirements or design or support / service. The Quality Profession needs to ensure the end to end view of quality is positively taught across the curriculum.
2. The overall subject ‘strap line’ states: Ensuring quality means making sure that products are made to a minimum standard or better. The cost of doing this should be covered by extra sales. Good customer service is valuable and can lead to increased sales.
This suggests that there is an additional cost to doing things right. This is an interesting counterpoint to the usual focus on cost of non-quality (CONQ), but is this the message we wish to deliver? It does resonate with some business views where role, cost and value of the Quality ‘contribution’ is often challenged. Therefore, getting a message across to the next generation of employees that quality is about reducing the occurrence and hence the business cost of non-quality, is important. Didn’t Phil Crosby suggest Quality is Free?
3. Handmade items are often higher quality than mass produced items.
What can the Quality Professional make of this statement? Weren’t industrial processes introduced with controls like SPC to control variation and hence improve ‘quality’? Increased use of robotics and major investments in technology are being done to improve not only throughput, but also to achieve consistency. There is a place for artisan produced products, but is this more about originality, uniqueness or some other attribute rather than quality?
4. Quality is about meeting the minimum standard required to satisfy customer needs. High quality products meet the standards set by customers - for example, a high-quality washing-up liquid can claim that one squirt is sufficient to clean a family's dirty plates after a meal. A poor-quality washing-up liquid requires several squirts.
Should that be the Quality Professions target ‘meeting the minimum standard’? What is a minimum standard? Why confuse the point, Quality is about always satisfying customers (or maybe even delighting them?).
Standard vs. Performance - The quality ‘standard’ could be defined as our target. For example, ‘100% on time delivery’ or ‘zero defects’ or ‘5 years operation without failure’. Performance is what happens in practice e.g. 97% on time delivery, Defect rate 0.002%, etc. No minimum standard – just our target vs our performance.
The argument about High Quality vs Poor Quality is back to the old argument about Rolls-Royces and Mini’s. [i.e. what do you need? Good fuel consumption, cheap to maintain, easy to drive in narrow lanes in Cornwall? Or comfort, passenger space, prestige?) Remember the old saying ‘fit for purpose’
The danger is that students may be led to confuse quality, specification and performance.
5. Quality is about meeting the minimum standard required to satisfy customer needs. High quality products meet the standards set by customers - for example, a high-quality washing-up liquid can claim that one squirt is sufficient to clean a family's dirty plates after a meal. A poor-quality washing-up liquid requires several squirts.
The author has interpreted this as referring to Quality Management Standards. If so we should be making the point that these standards provide a common-sense framework which guides businesses – the design of how you work is business specific and up to the business.
Many parts of industry contribute to the structure and design of these standards, so the Quality Professional should be emphasising that business is deeply involved as they often see the sense and benefit of management systems and bring practical experience to bear on their design.
Again, the comments on costs of improving quality and extra sales needs to be focussed on the reduction of the CONQ i.e. implementation of the standards framework should/will reduce the cost of non-quality
6. I’m sure most Quality Professionals would agree with the statement: Producing faulty goods incurs repair costs and damages the reputation of the firm. There are two main approaches to achieving quality: However, there are some mixed messages here:
Mass produced items need to be checked for quality standards
Does this not apply to small batch or one-offs?
Quality control - where finished products are checked by inspectors to see if they meet the set standard.
Quality Professionals could and should be emphasising that defects found here have already incurred CONQ; The point of defect discovery vs cost to business curve would be a good aid.
Quality assurance where quality is built into the production process. For example, all staff check all items at all stages of the production process for faults. In this way everyone takes responsibility for delivering quality. Successful quality assurance results in zero defect production.
Accepting that the scope of the statement is Production, QA could be viewed as this, but so could QC. But isn’t QA more about ensuring that there are clear processes, tools, techniques, training etc. from end to end, and that things are measured to feedback and control processes by rectification / improvement?
Zero Defect is of course the target, but not always the result even with good QA. QA will help drive toward the target. The link to design should be in there – Design for Manufacture, Design for Test, Design for Service and so on. This is vital to drive quality.
7. Introducing quality assurance requires Total Quality Management (TQM), in which managers try to bring about a change in business culture, convincing employees to care about how products are being made and to do their part to ensure standards are met.
The journey for most has been from QC to QA to TQM to CI etc. so maybe TQM being a pre-cursor to QA is debatable.
The final statement suggests that employees don’t care about what they produce, and that Managers are having to persuade them. The point about culture is absolutely right however culture includes all contributors to the business, from leadership, management, design, production staff etc. All these actors need to be of one voice and objective to achieve quality.
8. Customers compare price with customer service. Few customers expect high quality service when buying low priced items. For instance, travellers using a budget airline accept that they must pay for extras such as an in-flight meal. First class customers expect luxury seats and free champagne. The challenge facing all businesses is to remain competitive. They must keep prices competitive while offering a better service than rivals.
Again, this confuses quality with specification. introducing the ‘value for money’ quality indicator could help differentiate
Finally, on the associated Bitesize Test, one question caused the author and several of his QA Professional colleagues to fail.
Question. What is producing goods to a quality standard most likely to do?
GCSE Answer. Producing goods to a quality standard is most likely to increase costs.
Surely this is the wrong message? Quality tools, techniques and professionals will help reduce the cost of Non-Quality, aid customer satisfaction and enhance business success.
So, in summary, there is concern that our future employees and leaders are being given a view of quality that is limited in scope, out of date to current thinking and in some cases (in the authors opinion) incorrect. The author acknowledges that he has not seen the GCSE Business Studies teaching material to see the greater detail, but the summary and ‘bites’ leave a lot to be desired. As one of our colleagues at the CQI comments, a lot of work has been carried out by the CQI to further the quality profession – we should ensure that this is not undermined by what is being taught to the next generations.
So how can the Quality Profession address this problem? Firstly, promote the CQI Competency Framework that providers a great foundation of understanding. Additionally, the author would like to see the Quality Professionals - ie.us – get involved in supplying learned content at all levels of education and maybe even teaching our discipline and the foundations of quality to the future designers and innovators, manufacturers, service employees – oh yes and the future QA professionals as well.