A quality classification

Van Gunsteren (2003) has proposed a quality classification which we will summarise in this Section and extend in the next one to the methodology of Open Design. What is quality?

• Doing or making something well according to the norms of an evaluator or end user. These norms depend on the purpose one has in mind, hence the definition:

• Quality is fitness for purpose. That means quality is:

1. Related to a subjective purpose;

2. A perception.

Absolute standards of quality do not exist. What quality is depends on the needs of the user. These needs are not only determined by the user's personal desires and preferences, but whenever new technologies offer new possibilities, the demands of users will also become more exigent. Quality can be:

• Relevant or irrelevant;

• Realised or not realised in the product or service;

• Specified or not included in specifications.

Combinations of these aspects yield seven categories of quality which we will now discuss.

Quality specifications will never cover exactly all quality which is relevant to the end user (Fig. 6.1). Relevant quality which is covered by specifications

Relevant quality

Figure 6.1 Quality specifications never cover exactly all relevant quality

Specified quality

Figure 6.1 Quality specifications never cover exactly all relevant quality is labelled crucial quality, because it is absolutely crucial to realise this type of quality in the product or service. In the case of non compliance, a claim would be justified both formally and also because the user really needs that quality for his or her purpose. Relevant quality which is not specified is called service quality, because this quality has to be delivered as a service if the end user's needs are to be properly satisfied. Specified quality that does not serve any purpose of the end user is labelled cosmetic quality, which consists of:

• Ritual quality: realised cosmetic quality, and

• Excuse quality: non-realised cosmetic quality.

Specifications and standards are sometimes used as an excuse to exclude a supplier. For instance, the dimensions of car number plates in a certain country were prescribed in such a way that foreign suppliers were handicapped. In another country, an old-fashioned, inaccurate method to measure the dimensions of marine propellers (using templates) was prescribed to protect the backward domestic industry against more advanced competitors.

Cosmetic quality should not be confused with cosmetic measures to give the product an attractive appearance, such as goodlooking packaging. This kind of cosmetics belongs to service quality as it satisfies a real users' need.

Quality realised in the product or service will never cover exactly what is relevant and/or specified. Realised quality which is neither relevant nor specified is labelled wasted quality, as it serves no true purpose. Wasted quality is non-existent in the engineer's ideal of Caesar's war chariot which never fails but at the end of its lifetime disappears completely into dust. If one bolt would still remain, then that bolt would have been constructed too conservatively and that would have had adverse weight implications. Unnecessary weight impairs the effectiveness of the chariot, which Caesar would never accept. This completes our classification of the seven categories of quality (Fig. 6.2).

It is in the interest of the buyer (or end user) to be flexible with regard to cosmetic quality - i.e. excuse and ritual quality - and to pay due attention to service quality - i.e. relevant but not prescribed quality. He should be prepared to exchange some cosmetic quality for extra service quality.

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