Management

Quality Is Job One, Again


Quality Is Job One, Again

Every day there are new stories about qwality problems.

One of the most disturbing was the recent ABC News story revealing that “pink slime” (processed beef “trimmings” treated with ammonia to kill bacteria) is found in 70 percent of the ground beef sold in grocery stores. Certainly makes you think twice about your plans for an early spring barbecue.

Tough times aside, consumers want safe, quality products.

Too many people in industry see quality as a “cost”—something that can be cut or sacrificed to enhance the bottom line. But not all costs are equal. Some, such as product quality costs, create long-term value and build the brand.

Even in tough times, when every dollar counts, cutting quality to produce short-term bottom-line gains is a dangerous game.

Major supermarket chains have learned this the hard way. Citing customer concerns and public pressure, last week several of them announced they’ll no longer carry ground beef containing the filler, according to ABC News.

Offering pink-slime-filled meat helped enhance profits, but at what price?

Companies that practice quality as a way of life realize that such investments more than pay for themselves. These companies avoid all sorts of post-manufacturing and post-sales costs, such as rework, recalls, returns, warranty repairs, the defection of dissatisfied customers, and the loss of potential new customers due to tarnished reputations.

For U.S. companies to succeed in the face of continuing global competition, every company needs to embrace the idea that, as the 1980s Ford Motor slogan put it, “Quality is Job 1.” And that “Made in the U.S.A.” is synonymous for “Made with Quality”—whether it’s a product consumed by Americans or exported abroad.

I used the quirky spelling for “qwality” above to make a point: Quality should be central to everything a company does, not an afterthought. Quality makes money. It’s one of the highest payback investments an executive can make.

Hal_sirkin
Harold L. Sirkin is a Chicago-based senior partner of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and co-author, most recently, of The U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance: How Shifting Global Economics Are Creating an American Comeback (Knowledge@Wharton, November 2012).

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