Author: Jim Riley Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012
In many products and services, quality standards are set by Health & Safety legislation and enforced by Trading Standards officers.
This is especially important in areas such as catering, food, health and electrical products and for any product that might pose risks to users if the quality was poor.
Other relevant legislation would include food labelling and weights and measures, which aim to ensure that the product is as described, contains the correct quantity, and to include correct information about ingredients.
Some examination specifications may require a more detailed understanding of relevant legislation, as part of the study of external influences on business.
British Standards and ISO
The British Standards Institute (BSI, and the International Equivalent, ISO) publishes standards for many kinds of product and services, known as the ‘Kitemark’, which can be seen as a badge of quality.
BS5750 is a British Standard for quality assurance and ISO 9000 is the international equivalent. This approach requires that firms set out clear procedures for all business processes – usually these are set out in manuals and reinforced through staff training. Regular audits are carried out to ensure that processes are being carried out consistently according to standards.
This approach was very common in the 1980s and 1990s and many major organisations would only buy products and services from firms that possessed BS5750 accreditation. In general, accreditation was achieved by engaging external consultants to help with documenting processes and setting and monitoring targets. Many firms achieved substantial benefits from this process, by reduction in waste and an improved reputation for quality.
However, BS5750 can result in a rigid and inflexible, process-driven approach to providing products and services to customers. It can mean that employees are not encouraged to take ownership for improvement, and therefore it can be at odds with approaches such as Kaizen and Quality Circles.
Furthermore, just because a firm holds BS5750 and is delivering a consistent service, it does not guarantee that the service is better than a firm that does not have the award.
In electrical products, the CE mark signifies a standard of safety.
Some British firms are fortunate to gain a ‘Royal Warrant’, which allows them to state that they are endorsed by Royal Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, to the Duke of Edinburgh or to the Prince of Wales. This accreditation will be proudly displayed on the product packaging and on the firm’s correspondence and marketing literature.
Firms are awarded royal warrants when favoured by a member of the Royal Family, and cannot be formally ‘applied for’. Interestingly, Cadbury manufactures some products abroad whilst still displaying its royal appointment, and Harrods famously lost its royal appointment, apparently following the public falling-out between the firm’s owner Mohammed Fayed, and the British royal family.
Branding as a mark of quality
Many firms rely on their own brand to signify quality. Firms such as BMW, Sony, Rolls-Royce and Waitrose all place quality at the centre of their marketing. Clearly, it is important that, in the long run, the product or service supplied does actually measure up to what the marketing says about its quality.