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    Understanding "Quality"


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001

    Quality is a major factor in any purchasing decision. Understanding how markets define quality and learning about relevant regulations is a "must" for exporters.

    Q. What is a quality standard?

    The quality of a product can be defined as its "fitness for use". Managing for quality assures that customer requirements are met with satisfaction, conforming to established requirements.

    A "standard" is a document established by a consensus process, prescribing the requirements to be fulfilled by a product, process, or service and approved by a recognized body.

    The purpose of standardization is:

    • At the enterprise level: to promote profitability.

    • At the international level: to promote trade and improve worldwide health, safety and environmental levels.

    There are three types of quality standards:

    • A service standard specifies the requirements to establish its fitness for purpose.

    • A product standard specifies the requirements to establish the product's fitness for use. It details the various characteristics, or parameters which a product must meet if it is to conform to a specified standard, or to customer requirements. This conformity is ascertained by a recognized certification body through periodic surveillance of the enterprise's output.

    The terms "product standard" and "quality standards" should not be confused. A firm can set any quality level for its products on the basis of marketing considerations and customer requirements.

    • A quality systems standard defines the method of managing quality in an organization. It helps an organization to consistently achieve quality levels. The quality system of an organization comprises:

    - Organizational structure

    - Procedures

    - Processes

    - Resources.