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Product and Process Quality Characteristics


All but the most simple products contain very large numbers of features. In theory,
every feature of every unit produced could be inspected and judged against the require-
ments. However, this would add considerable cost to the product while, for most features,
adding little or no value to the customer. The producer is faced with the need for estab-
lishing a hierarchy of importance for the various characteristics of the product. Which fea-
tures are so important that they deserve a great deal of attention? Which need only a
moderate amount of attention? Which need only a cursory inspection? The activity of
arriving at this determination is known as classification of characteristics.
In practice, characteristics are usually classified into the categories critical, major, and
minor. The terms can be defined in simple terms as follows:
Critical characteristic—Any feature whose failure can reasonably be expected to pres-
ent a safety hazard either to the user of the productor to anyone depending on the
product functioning properly.
* Major characteristic—Any feature, other than critical, whose failure would likely result
in a reduction of the usability of the product.
* Minor characteristic—Any feature, other than major or critical, whose failure would
likely be noticeable to the user.
* Incidental characteristic—Any feature other than critical, major, or minor.
Of course, it is possible to develop classification schemes that are more detailed.
However, the above definitions suffice for the vast majority of applications. Most often
classifications of critical characteristics are noted on the drawing as well as in the manu-
facturing plan, as well as in such other ways as to give the user ample warning of poten-
tial hazards.


A classification of defects is the enumeration of possible defects of the unit of product
classified according to their seriousness.
The following definitions are:
* Defect—Any nonconformance of the unit of product with specified requirements.
* Defective—A product with one or more defects.
Critical defect—A critical defect is a defect that judgment and experience indicate
would result in hazardous or unsafe conditions for individuals using, maintaining,
or depending upon the product or a defect that judgment and experience indicate
is likely to prevent performance of the tactical function of a major end item such
as a ship, aircraft, tank, missile, or space vehicle.
* Critical defective—A critical defective is a unit of product which contains one or more
critical defects and may also contain major and/or minor defects.
* Major defect—A major defect is a defect, other than critical, that is likely to result in
failure or to reduce materially the usability of the unit of product for its intended
* Major defective—A major defective is a unit of product which contains one or more
major defects and may also contain minor defects but contains no critical defects.
* Minor defect—A minor defect is a defect that is not likely to reduce materially the
usability of the unit of product for its intended purpose or is a departure from
established standards having little bearing on the effective use or operation of the
* Minor defective—A minor defective is a unit of product which contains one or more
minor defects but contains no critical or major defect.


Fundamentally services differ from products in terms of how they are produced,
consumed, and evaluated. Some of the key characteristics unique to service are:
a. Intangibility:
Services are basically intangible. The intangible nature of services also presents a
problem for customers. When buying a product, the customer is able to see it, feel it, and
test its performance before purchase. For a service, however, the customer must rely on
the reputation of the service firm.
b. Inseparability:
Production and consumption of many services are inseparable e.g. delivering a lecture.
Quality in services often occurs during service delivery whereas quality in products is
usually engineered at the manufacturing plant and delivered intact to the customer.
Unlike goods producers, service providers do not have the benefit of a factory serving as
a buffer between production and consumption. Service customers are often in the service
factory, observing and evaluation the production process as they experience the services
e.g. in KFC outlet.
c. Heterogeneity:
Services especially those with a high labor content-are heterogeneous. Their performance
often varies from producer to producer (performer to performer), from customer to
customer, and from day to day. The quality of the interactions that bank tellers, flight
attendants and insurance agents have with customers can rarely be standardized to ensure
uniformity the way quality of goods produced in a manufacturing plant can.
d. Differing Standards and Criteria of Service:
Services, as performances are difficult for customers to evaluate prior to purchase. The
criteria customers use to evaluate service quality may be more difficult for the marketer

to comprehend. How customers evaluate investment services offered by a stockbroker is
more complicated and varied than how they evaluate trouser materials. The only criteria
that count in evaluating service quality are defined by customers. Service-quality
perceptions stem from how well a provider perform vis-ā-vis customers’ expectations
about how the provider should perform.
Customers do not evaluate service quality solely on the outcome of a service (e.g., how a
customer’s hair looks after a hair cut); they also consider the process of service delivery
e.g., how involved, responsive, and friendly the hair stylist in during the hair cut.
e. Perishability
A service is a perishable commodity. Consider an empty airline seat, an unoccupied
hospital or hotel room, or an hour without patient in the day of a dentist. In each case, a
lost opportunity has occurred. Because service cannot be stored, it is lost forever when
not used. Plus the consumer cannot retain the actual service after it is produced. However
the effect of the service can be retained for long time.
f. Simultaneity
The fact that services are created and consumed simultaneously and, thus, cannot be
stored is a critical feature in the management of services. This inability to inventory
services precludes using the traditional manufacturing strategy of relying on inventory as
a buffer to absorb fluctuations in demand.
The simultaneous production and consumption in services also eliminates many
opportunities for quality-control intervention. A product can be inspected before delivery,
but services must rely on other measures to ensure the quality of services delivered.
Customers presence in these facilities and their participation in the service process expose
them to errors.
g. Customer Participation in the Service Process
The presence of the customer as a participant in the service process requires an attention
to facility design that is not found in traditional manufacturing operations e.g. self serve
meal in a buffet restaurant. That automobiles are made in a hot, dirty, noisy factory is of
no concern to the eventual buyers because they first see the product in the pleasant
surroundings of a dealer’s showroom. Attention to interior decorating, furnishings,
layout, noise and even color can influence the customer’s perception of the service

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