The other day I came across this description of MANUFACTURING QUALITY and I thought about it since I had been the service rep for a manufacturer and decided this would be an interesting topic for a post.
You can call something quality by testing for quality.
You can test for quality by knowing how to measure quality.
You can measure quality by knowing the specs.
You know the specs by knowing the customer. Now read it backwards! (author unknown)
In our industry. “QUALITY” is a buzz word that manufacturers like to use as part of their marketing. The best manufacturers use “focus groups”, employee input, distribution input, and their own expertise in the design of a product. They work the quality statement from the bottom back to the top. But does that guarantee a quality product?
Today, most manufacturers use vended components and, other than the physical design, basically “assemble” products. They may make the basic cabinet, the coils, or heat exchanger, but the operating controls are a purchased product. The manufacturer also chooses how “robust” the cabinetry is by either metal gauge or design.. So, other than the “appearance” of the product and the “brand name” on the cabinet, it all comes down to what I always said was it is all just “BTU’S ON A BOX”.
There is not a manufacturer out there that intentionally designs a BAD PRODUCT. Sooner or later, every manufacturer will have a problem, and it is usually with a vended component. A responsible manufacturer will address these issues and provide some form of “extended warranty”, labor, or both to correct the issue. The vendor of the problem component is also asked to participate in this as this directly reflects on their quality.
Now we get to what the title of this post is saying. Above, we talk about the relationship between the manufacturer, engineering, and their vendors. Now we need to look at our side of the business and our relationship with the manufacturer.
A manufacturer could have the best product out there, but if the installers don’t install it properly, it will never work properly. Also, if there are problems, do the service techs know how to properly address the problem and correct it?
Too often, a home owner doesn’t know who the original installing contractor was or he couldn’t get there soon enough to their liking and “randomly” calls a contractor who advertises they work on ALL BRANDS because they have a problem and want it fixed now! Of Course the problem here is they never ask if they are familiar with the product they have in their home. This is especially true with a manufacturer’s HIGH END products. All manufacturers have them and they can have very sophisticated controls or sequences of operation. The manufacturer have made some major investments in design and efficiency. They also have made major investments in being able to train the contractor with manuals, PowerPoint programs, on-line training etc. and usually require training on for the contractor to be able to purchase the product. They want to assure the “quality” of their product is not compromised because of “lack of knowledge” on the technology used in the product.
Now, the contractor who was randomly called gets to the home, starts working on something he is not familiar with, tries to figure it out but, if he can’t, he tells the home owner, “Yeah, we have nothing but problems with this brand!” and may even try to sell them a new one all because he does not understand the specific product operation. — It happens all too often! What does this do to the manufacturer’s reputation? Too often the manufacturer gets the “bum rap” for quality when it really is the contractor had never been to training on that product.
Our industry needs to stop the practice of saying “We sell XYZ Brand but we work on anything”. That was possible in the days of thermocouples, standing pilot furnaces, fan and limit controls, belt drive motors, 6 SEER A/C’s etc, but it just is not possible today for an individual contractor to be familiar, let alone have the parts on their truck, to fix every brand unit out there, and not to mention the training expertise to do the same. Contractors need to ask new customers what the equipment is that they have and be honest enough to tell them that they need to call a ‘dealer who is familiar with that brand and who would probably have the necessary parts to get them going right away. If they do get to a customer’s home or site, and find something they are not familiar with, to, again, be honest and tell the home owner that they don’t have the parts or expertise to handle their needs. Lastly, and most importantly, contractors need to keep up with the newest technology by attending manufacturer’s training, community college training, union training, etc.
So, the two-way street is manufacturers need to partner with vendors who provide quality components, use those components to produce quality designs, and have quality training programs in place for the contractor. The contractor, in return, needs to attend the training, have the necessary parts for that brand available, and be honest enough with the customer to tell them they are not “set up” to handle their specific product. The day of “we work on anything” are gone.
Quality starts with the manufacturer but, if you read the opening description above in reverse as it says to, it also starts with the contractor/customer.