Quality refers to a set of characteristics of a product or service that defines its ability to consistently meet or exceed customer expectation at an affordable cost -- for the benefit both of the customer and the organisation.
As per International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), quality denotes the 'degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfils requirements'. Quality is a timeless concept and effort. It has been an inherent part of human society, right from the dawn of civilisation. Now, it relates to everything we do in our everyday life.
Every day we are careful about quality while buying a product or service. The quality of water, air, traffic, education, and management system also figures prominently in our daily life.
Every year some organisations publish the Quality of Life Index by analysing various factors covering safety and security, health and wellbeing, travel and transportation, leisure options, personal happiness and digital life. The concept of quality has changed and developed over the years with technological changes.
Generally, we identify quality only with manufacturing, industry and management system. Quality management is about making organisations perform for their stakeholders through improving products, services, system and processes to make sure that they are efficient.
To meet the growing demands of the customers and sustain in competition, producers make a wide plan for production of quality goods. They define firstly in terms of parameters or characteristics, which vary from product to product. For example, for a mechanical or electronic product these are-- performance reliability, safety and appearance. For pharmaceuticals products, the parameters such as physical and chemical characteristics, medicinal effect, toxicity, taste and shelf life may be important. For a food product, the important quality issues will include taste, nutritional properties, texture, shelf life and so on. Producers review the requirements provided by national and international standards, competitor's product specifications and packaging design.
Quality of goods and services is not only a matter of the producers and consumers. For protection and ensuring the rights of the citizens, sometimes the state machinery intervenes on quality issues. During the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the United States, US were losing economic footing to Japan. Japan's secret weapon was quality management. To provide a greater awareness of the need to ensure that American goods and services are of the highest quality, Ronald Reagan designated the month of October as "National Quality Month" by proclamation NO 5249 on October 4, 1984.
Nowadays, World Quality Day takes place every year on the second Thursday of November in different parts of the world. The day was designed to increase worldwide awareness of the contribution that quality makes towards both organisational and national growth and prosperity. This year the day will be observed tomorrow, November 14.
In Bangladesh, the demand of quality goods and services is increasing day by day. Side by side, the demand of quality professionals is also increasing in all sectors.
Who is responsible for quality? To be specific, from top management to salesman, designers, purchasing stores and method staff, plant engineers, production planning and production staff, operators, inspection and testing laboratory staff, dispatch staff -- all are responsible for product and service quality. Indeed quality is everybody's business.
To meet the demand and stay ahead of competition, many countries are now formulating National Quality Policy to provide direction and guidance to the national quality movement. Bangladesh also adopted National Quality Policy for Goods and Services in 2015. The aim of this policy is to modernise national quality infrastructure, i.e., standardisation, metrology, testing, inspection, certification and accreditation as per regional and international standards. Technical regulations regime of Bangladesh need to be reviewed and adjusted, including its related legislation, to meet international requirements and best practices.
Bangladesh has seen remarkable improvement in the past few years in fulfilling various international compliance norms for quality assurance. We must work to bring desirable change in the quality of life of the citizens through efforts at the national and international levels. We must ensure that goods and services emanating from or traded in Bangladesh are designed, manufactured and delivered in a manner that match the needs, expectations and requirements of the purchasers as well as those of the regulatory authorities of home and abroad. We expect the quality professionals of the country will overcome the challenge of introducing quality culture in our society.
Md. Abu Abdullah is a former Additional Secretary and a former Director General of Bangladesh Accreditation Board