Entering a New World, Quality and Customer Service

ISO defines the attribute “Quality” as the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of a product or a service fulfills requirements, which are fixed according to the needs or expectations of the customer. As any definition this description sounds extremely sober and theoretical. It is nevertheless the crucial element for the satisfaction level of a customer. For each project developing either a new product or creating a service innovation the targeted quality is fixed in its specifications document. This document is now the reference for the work of the project team and in its efforts to reach compliance with these requirements it is supported and controlled by Quality experts. I use the unpopular word “control” on purpose because it is this characteristic which makes the job of the Quality expert sometimes a little difficult.

At that time Essilor, as many other industries, had already started for some time to control quality generally not by sorting out defective products, but by controlling the production process. Furthermore it was not only considered the production process, but all the phases of the product life cycle, as the research/development process and the marketing process. In any company everybody will consider the quality function as being absolutely necessary, but nevertheless the cooperation between the Quality department and the operational divisions sometimes  proves complicated. The activity of Quality people implicate supervision and control and for certain projects under strong time pressure the big powerful operational divisions, occasionally have the impression that the quality requirements are too stringent and make them loose time. Therefore quality departments need not only a high degree of sensitivity in their negotiations with the divisions, but in particular a strong commitment by General Management to the Quality concept and the Quality Plan.  When I took over the responsibility of the Quality & Norms organization,  there was a central department taking care of all the essential product quality aspects on a worldwide basis as well in the mass production as in the local prescription manufacturing. As regards the Norms, which were the official reason for my move from Marketing to Quality , there was one person responsible for the topic of national and CEN/ISO standardization.