Busting the Myth of 'Quality with a Capital Q'



myth-busting.jpgEven in today's manufacturing world, differing beliefs surrounding quality still exist. One of the most popular myths in the industry is the belief that 'Quality' with a capital Q, is solely the responsibility of the Quality Department. That is... False! To truly achieve quality in a given product or process, manufacturers must establish quality as a strategic priority throughout the entire organization, not just the Quality Department. 

To debunk this myth and uncover the truth of what quality really entails, one must start by defining what exactly it involves. In the context of a Quality Department, value is derived from planning (completed up-front), monitoring (ongoing) and continual improvement actions (as needed or desired). This is all driven by and accomplished within a Quality Management System (QMS).

Essentially, a QMS includes everything an organization must do in order to design, produce, sell and deliver a product or service. This is where the definition starts to grow beyond the limits of the Quality Department. It includes more than just the departments' responsibilities; nearly everyone in the company is involved with the QMS at some point. 

By viewing quality as a comprehensive business initiative, it becomes clear that quality is moreso a strategic business decision to be adopted and implemented throughout the organization, rather than just monitored in one small segment/department of the business.

In analyzing a typical production process from start to finish, one can see how quality is involved each step of the way. For example, say a manufacturer has a customer who wants a certain number of widgets built at a certain cost and delivered by a certain date. All of the tasks that need to be performed for this to occur should be a part of the QMS. This means that the processes, products, services and documents necessary to carry out these actions are planned and part of a defined system particular to the organization.

Consider all the processes involved in fulfilling this order, each with their own unique set of tasks: Sales, Quoting, Contract Review, Order Receipt, Design, Purchasing, Product Realization and Packaging/Shipping. All are customer-oriented processes, and all are included in the QMS. Additionally, support processes such as Maintenance, Quality, Testing, Logistics, Stores and Training, along with their individual tasks, also would be a part of the overall QMS. Nearly every process, task and objective within the organization plays a role in maintaining quality. 

One way for organizations to ensure quality is engrained throughout the company's practices is by implementing ISO 9001:2015, the national quality standard that defines a basic structure and requirements for a QMS. This standard can be used as a guideline for what an organization needs to address at every level to ensure it can deliver a conforming product on time and satisfy the customer. 

It is important to note that the level of complexity in a QMS will be dependent on the organization's products, processes and customer requirements. Therefore, it will vary largely from company to company and even product to product. For example, the QMS of a hot dog vendor would be vastly different from that of a rocket engine manufacturer. And yet, each would involve the entire organization and each would seek to achieve the goal of satisfying the customer. 

By definition, a Quality Management System must meet the needs of both the customer and the organization in order to deliver a satisfactory product or service. By making quality part of the larger business strategy, rather than having it solely exist within the Quality Department, the QMS will naturally occur within the company's culture and lead to quality products, every time.

For those interested in learning more about the role of quality in manufacturing, The Center offers a foundational course covering topics such as Quality Management Systems, Problem Solving Skills, Lean Manufacturing and Skills & Motivation. Learn more about the Manufacturing Skills Development class and view an upcoming course schedule here


wicker_d-WEB.jpgDale Wicker, Quality Program Manager
Dale Wicker is a member of The Center's Quality Team. He manages and delivers training and assistance to organizations in the areas of quality improvements and environmental management systems. Some of his projects involve support with the implementation of a Quality Management System including: ISO 9001, ISO/TS 16949, AS 9100 and ISO 14001. Dale also conducts training and provides consulting on the supporting tools of Quality Systems.


Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Categories: Quality Management