What Is Quality? A Design & Manufacturing Perspective
Updated: Mar 24, 2021
Quality, like beauty, is often in the eyes of the beholder. What one person thinks is "great, premium quality" another person may think belongs in the bargain bin.
Great businesses have a clear view on what Quality IS and what Quality is NOT. They are able to explain what it is for their business and how they deliver it. And most important, their CUSTOMERS recognize and value that view of quality.
Unfortunately, many businesses struggle in the quality management arena. People even struggle to define it in practical terms.
A great friend of mine has a great view on the topic:
"It's about the expectation you have in your head, and then AFTER experiencing the product, did it meet, exceed or fall short of that expectation?"
Clearly your expectation level is different walking into an establishment with white table clothes vs a drive through.
Actual experience must be = to or greater than the expectation.
I'll throw in a few added components of the quality equation:
It's not enough to be right one time. You need to continually deliver.
Who's the Mac Daddy In Terms of Consistency?
McDonalds. The Big Mac. What are your expectations for the Big Mac in South LA vs. Oklahoma? Probably exactly the same. Blind taste test and I bet you wouldn't tell the difference. That's amazing, and the work of decades refining their supply chain, kitchen operations and branding to be able to deliver against that standard.
Back to the world of Outdoor Living, Landscape Design, Hardscaping.
The PAVERART View...
In the world of Outdoor living & Landscape Design we come across a wide range of quality providers at the contractor/installer level. We see all ends of the spectrum, from the "fly by night" contractor engaged in ultra competitive pricing tactics to the super-premium design/build firms that are annual award winners in the industry trade journals, and every one in between. We've talked to what must be thousands of players in all states of our country. It clearly is in our best interest to have projects go flawlessly, so we are always on the lookout for great contractors with solid reputations.
It is not uncommon for a Landscape Architect to ask our opinion on a contractor when bids come in. We freely share our experiences, especially for people that stand out in our past experience. This also happens with Paver Manufacturers when we have an opportunity to design a project from the ground up, including the choice of paver materials. We have worked with many suppliers across the country so we think we have a solid view of what materials work great for a given design at hand. In a sense, we are in a position to SPECIFY a material, like PAVERART gets specified into a Landscape Design Plan.
PAVERART started from a massive quality break-down at a high profile municipal job 17.5 years ago. It opened the door, and we went through it.
4 decorative intersections were torn up after less than 2 years in the ground at a summer destination community. The town opted for decorative stained stained concrete. What happened?
Eyesores as far as the eye could see.
The township tore up all 4 intersections.
PAVERART was called on to build the project, and build it to last. 17+ years they still look great.
But we have to ask ourselves, what broke down?
* What reputational hit was incurred by the designers? The town council? The Contractors? Too much. In short, a massive break-down in the quality/procurement process.
This is not UN-Common, it happens all the time. We wrote about the Streetscape Challenge, and these concepts apply to all projects. "When Cheap Becomes Expensive."
What's our Position on Quality?
Quality has a close cousin. It's name is Integrity.
Integrity is about doing what you say you will do. That's what creates a reputation (good, or not so good).
So there's a real element of communication and expectation setting that under-pins a business's quality foundation.
The business owner has the opportunity to DEFINE the expectation for the client. In great detail. To gain Buy-in of every step leading up to the end product. Crystal clear expectations.
Why would a business put themselves in a position of their CUSTOMER developing their own expectation and leaving themselves vulnerable to UNDER-delivering?
Ensure Clarity. Get signatures from all relevant parties that will judge/weigh in on the project.
Do A Post Mortem (If Possible) With The Client when the dust settles.
How does the quality expectation get specifically defined?
A Product Specification Sheet (for manufactured products)
A Project Drawing/Schematic (For Custom Projects)
Real World Experience, performance over time.
In our world of Custom Paver Design, we call it: "From Paper to PAVERART." Solid shop manufacturing drawings that give a precise picture of what will be built, clear to everyone involved.
* Note: We've been at this for a long time, but we are always refining what we do. We wrote about improving our expectation-setting process ("better color design renderings) in the summer, and you can review the enhancements.
The PRE-project design is critical. It maps out what exactly is being delivered. We hate to say it, but we cringe when people can't share their designs. It's usually not because they don't want too, it's because they can't do it. That's a danger sign and a customer disappointment in the making.
We talk through quality often with our clients, particularly Landscape Architects & Designers. We usually start with what we do at PAVERART and usually reference our 2 key design principles.
1) "Wow Factor" - We generally do what can't be done with traditional hardscaping methods. We have the word ART in our name, and we try and live up to that.
2) Built to Last - We want our designs to outlive us as humans.
PAVERART Brings unique capabilities to the table in the area of QUALITY. To name a few:
We stay true to our 2 key design principles, Built To Last + Wow Factor. As evidenced by our first project (and many others we see all over the country), that can not be said for all projects we come across.
If the artistic touch is called for, our body of work can touch on thousands of designs produced to give confidence we can get it done.
By the very nature of our business model, 100% of our design and manufacturing work occurs OFF-site, at our shop in NJ, NOT at the job site. Imagine trying to fabricate intricate, large designs at the job site and controlling for environmental and quality challenges? We couldn't imagine. We think of our process as "Don't ship it until the design is 100% perfect, and you can prove it." In the world of ART, you do not want to be figuring this out either on the fly, or on the job site. We prove each and every project with a finished photo. And for larger jobs we are starting to bring in ZOOM to do the post mortem.
SIMPLE, yet overlooked components of design. Check out the video below wear we talk about the challenges of making the perfect arched cut, as a basic example. Sounds simple, but it is NOT.