What is a Quality Target?

A Quality Target refers to a qualitative or quantitative value assigned to a required operation in the manufacturing or service process that affects a product’s end conformance to customer specifications. This value represents the maximum allowable discrepancies per 1,000 opportunities. Quality targets are determined by either the customer or client. Depending on the process, there are different kinds of quality target values customers will expect. The end goal is to have as little variation around these targets as possible.

The most common quality targets are: (1) smaller is better, (2) larger is better, and (3) nominal is best. Specification limits can also help product designers understand where quality targets would fall in the product lifecycle.

1. Smaller is Better

If the quality target is a smaller is better type parameter, then it will generally just have one specification limit, the maximum. For example, consider how long a customer waits on hold to get a service request addressed. Ideally, the customer would like this to be as close to zero minutes as possible. Other examples include delay times, power consumption or product defects. The target in an achievable low value considered optimal by the client.

2. Larger is Better

If the quality target is a larger is better type parameter, the specification limit will correspond to the minimum. A client will consider a product defective or unacceptable if it does not meet the target value. For example, if a fast food company promises speedy delivery, their target value would be 99.8% of deliveries made on time. Other examples include battery life of electronics and test scores. Here, the target is an achievable high value considered optimal by the client.

3. Nominal is Best

If the quality target is a nominal is best type parameter, it will have both upper and lower specification limits. The quality target sits between these two limits, or “the sweet spot.” Consider the example of a customer service call. An operator has to be sure to keep the call as short and productive as possible while still solving the issue at hand. The main quality target is an achievable value that would be considered optimal by most clients.

3 Benefits of Quality Targets

1. Higher customer satisfaction rates

Incorporating quality targets within the manufacturing or service process helps companies deliver consistent quality value to the customer. It gives them a product they are happy with, leading to higher customer satisfaction rates overall.

2. Better quality

Critically-defined quality targets will ultimately push the quality of the ultimate product or service to be better overall, leading to reduced defects.

3. Reduced costs

When quality targets are met and customers are satisfied, nonconformance costs go down and business profits can increase.

An Industry Example

In order to deliver the highest value to their customers, airline companies have to hit their target values as frequently as possible. Customers pay top dollar for flights, so usually expect their flight to not be delayed or cancelled (smaller is better) and their luggage to arrive in the right destination 99.8% of the time (larger is better). But, with so many external factors affecting this industry (including weather, global politics, health concerns), airlines often set nominal is best parameters that will please the greatest amount of customers most of the time.

Best Practices when thinking about Quality Targets

1. Quality targets should be well-researched.

There are many examples of companies assigning quality targets or specification limits arbitrarily to a random percentage. Project managers should consider what is needed to meet customer expectations instead of focusing on the most marginally-accepted product.

2. It can be difficult to set quality targets.

Different customers or different customer sets can have vastly different expectations. Project managers should consider how, in the design phase, a product can be customized to meet the greatest number of customer expectations possible.

3. Any business can implement quality targets.

Quality targets aren’t just for companies that manufacture products. Any company that provides end-to-end service to a customer or client can benefit from highly-defined quality values that deliver better satisfaction rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are quality targets?

Quality targets are critical parameters defined by the customer and set in order to achieve quality and conformance for the customer.

When do you use quality targets?

Quality values are considered during the DEFINE and MEASURE phases of Lean Six Sigma. In the define phase, project managers should first understand the process operations needing to be improved and what quality targets the customer expects. In the measure phase, project managers should establish Upper and Lower Specification limits around the quality target.

How do I even know what my customer expects?

Using a Critical to Quality (CTQ) diagram can provide a visual breakdown of how customer expectations are built. Quality targets are built into the end CTQ requirements. Good CTQ requirements and quality targets are specific and measurable, easily understood by all in the company and measured by a numerical amount.

For companies to stay competitive, continuous attention must be paid to developing and focusing on the most ideal product quality target. When processes operate to clearly-defined quality values set by the end user, less defects and discrepancies occur, leading to happier customers, boosted employee morale and better brand credibility.

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