Quality: 5 Key Elements

Quality: 5 Key Elements

As humans, we like having what we consider to be better than that which we do not.

That should go without saying. We all like nice stuff, right? We like things that look good, that make us look good. We like things that last. We like things that are sleek, simple, efficient, elaborate, intricate, well designed, unique, rare, and difficult. We prize the strong, smooth, soft, rigid, relaxed, predictable, surprising, wild, and graceful. 

Things of quality often have varying degrees of these elements, even if they are not the first to stand out to us. While many of these criteria are borderline subjective, they all have some element of meaning, which causes a differentiation in our minds. They create judgments. We deem one thing to be better than another; one thing to be of greater quality or value than another. We have all looked through a catalog and immediately found what we like most, which is always the most expensive item on the page. Of course, the one you like the most is probably the highest quality, which is almost always the most costly. I guess you just have expensive taste.

It is natural for us to be drawn to what we deem to be high quality. 


But have you ever thought about what makes something better or "higher quality"? It wasn't until I worked with a veteran Quality Control engineer, that I learned a few things about what was considered high quality. In manufacturing and engineering terms, it is essentially adherence to a set of measurable criteria such as material specs, dimensional tolerance, surface finish, etc. But simply obeying orders and meeting baseline requirements doesn't guarantee quality, right? So what exactly is it?

First, let's objectively try to understand the word 'quality'. Defined by the Merriam - Webster dictionary, 'quality' is "Peculiar and essential character, a degree of excellence, or a superiority in kind". Well, that seemed to have gotten us almost nowhere. It seems to be saying what I just said but with a better composition. Oh, wait! I just used a set of judgements to say one thing is better than another. 

I'm going to attack this elusive word from a psychological angle and see if I can nail it down.

According to behavioral psychologists, people do not so much see things as abstract items, but as things that can be used to accomplish a particular goal. The more focused a person is on a goal, the more things begin to look like means to that end. It's the way we are wired. Our brains actually work so closely with our eyes and hand control, that we interpret items as things to be grasped and used. That's kinda crazy, but it holds a key to defining the word that describes so much of what people want: Quality.

Based on the former starments, I suppose we can deduce that the better something is at helping us toward our goal, the higher it's quality. This is part of the definition I am going to rely on as we go forward, but I will outline a handful of criteria we often subconsciously use to parse out the subjective nature of things. Not surprisingly, another way we think about quality is interns of value, which is a measure of accomplishment. Hmmm, interesting!

The primary elements that compose quality are:

  • Perception
  • Functionality
  • Durability
  • Predictability
  • Precision

PERCEPTION: We may consider something "high quality" if it appeals to a large number of people, even though it serves no functional utility. Think jewelry, art, music, woodworking etc. These things beautify life, which kmoroves living. The utility of perception is that it helps us obtain the goal of "living better", or maybe showing status. These are somewhat intangibles, but they are desirable nonetheless. 

FUNCTIONALITY: This one seem a bit more obvious because things that function well tend to move us toward our goals better than things that don't. If one pair of scissors will cut 3 layers of paper at once, and another pair will cut through 7 layers, we would consider the latter to be better than the former due to its functionality. However, if the 7-layer cutting shears are uncomfortable, that diminishes it's value. I think we can all agree that an item must have ease of use, even be pleasurable to use, in order to increase its value. 

DURABILITY: Naturally, the longer something lasts, the better we consider it's quality. If we get more use out of something, we value it more because it continues to move us closer to our goals. The value that durability adds to quality makes for a nice introduction to the next category.

PREDICTABILITY: We place a high value on things remaining the way we left them, or the way we expect them. There is great value in a vehicle that lasts years of use without problems, but not in one that has unpredictable issues,though it might looks nicer or newer. One of the main pillars of engineering quality standards is consistency. Mid-grade repeatability in manufacturing is universally more valued than perfect random parts among good quality runs. One considerable influencer in this regard is material selection. Poor materials in a well-designed, and excellently crafted item will not last or function as expected.

PRECISION: ..."but the greatest of these is... precision". Accuracy of movement accounts for a good deal of quality value. This is partly due to the fact that greater accuracy is often more difficult, yet yields superior results. The movement of a Swiss watch requires almost unfathomable detail, and are among the most highly desired products in the world. The greater the precision and accuracy of parts in an engine, the more efficient and the longer lasting the engine will be.

It should be apparent that precision leads to better accomplishment of gosls and therefore, greatly contributes to the first four elements of quality.

1. Better precision results in greater perceived quality because it produces a better appearance. The process is slower, limiting the amount able to be produced, which makes them more scarce.

2. High precision offers better functionality and ease of use.

3. Longer lasting products are often the result of high precision.

4. Being precise in all possible aspects of a product will result in a very predictable outcome.


To wrap up, it is the engineer's definition of quality which holds the key to understanding what quality is, so long as we first agree that the underpinnings of our notions of quality and value are grounded on the basic human need to achieve specific goals. Therefore, an item is only as good as it accomplishes the task for which it has been designed. 

With all of this in mind, we at Yerg Tools, strive to design and create the highest possible quality of goods. Our aim is to deliver perceptible, functional, durable, predictable, and precise products that allow the users to accomplish their purposes with beauty and joy.

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