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What is the relationship between quality and productivity?

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Quality and productivity have a positive correlation. When quality improves, productivity goes up.

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While “productivity” is not exclusive of “quality,” as “productivity” can, indeed, refer to the quality of output as well as the quantity of items produced or services performed, for purposes of discussion there is a simple distinction between the two concepts.

“Productivity” refers to the volume of items manufactured or the number of service contracts executed. The more productive an assembly line, for example, the more units are being produced. Additionally, the phrase refers to the balance between resources invested in the enterprise in question and the volume of output. The more accurate the match between components purchased and completed items produced, the greater the level of productivity. The more efficient the enterprise in question, the higher the level of productivity. “Quality,” however, is sort of a tautological concept in that it is difficult to define without inclusion of the word itself in the definition. Suffice to say that “quality” refers to the perfection, or lack thereof, of the products produced or services performed. The closer to perfection, the greater the quality.

“Productivity” and “quality” are used as reference points in academic discussions with the two usually treated as distinct measures of performance. As suggested above, however, “productivity” can also refer to the quality of the product or service, as it would be illogical to suggest that an operation or organization is very productive in terms of volume despite the fact that the quality of the product or service is substandard.

Understanding that “productivity” may inherently include a measure of “quality,” businesses in general set as their mission the greatest volume of the highest quality of good or service. A productive organization, such as on an assembly line or other type of manufacturing operation, is producing the requisite amount of goods that meet the qualitative expectations or standards of the customer, preferably without generating excessive overhead costs, such as underutilized manufacturing facilities. Here is where the two concepts might diverge: Generating sales without regard to qualitative considerations or determining the proper ratio of components or manufactured items for the identified market are measures of “productivity” irrespective of qualitative measures. Quality might take a back seat to volume if the business is simply out to make a buck without regard to customer satisfaction. Most businesses, however, operate with the understanding that longevity and profitability demand high levels of both productivity and quality. Unscrupulous business owners may disregard quality in the hopes of generating a lot of sales—quantity or productivity—with no expectation of being around later to deal with the consequences of customer dissatisfaction because a quick and sizable profit followed by a long vacation in the Caribbean is the primary objective.

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Quality and productivity are both measures of performance. For example, the performance of a country’s economy is determined by the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product. The higher the GDP, the better the economy is doing. GDP is the total output of a country. The output is a result of productivity. The more productive you are, the more output you give.

You say a product is of good quality if it meets consumer expectations. That means a quality product performs better than the competition.

In an office environment, improving the quality of life boosts worker productivity. You bolster the quality of life by appealing to your employee’s innate desires. For example, providing better chairs and desks so that they can be more comfortable. You can also allow employees to work from home as a way of improving the quality of life. When you give employees more flexibility and offer better comfort, it boosts their morale, which then leads to better productivity.

The positive correlation between quality and productivity also applies to the manufacturing sector. To improve the quality of an end product, you should buy machinery that will accurately cut and join raw materials. Since machines can do the job better and within a shorter period, your output levels will rise, translating to better productivity.

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Quality experts such as W. Edwards Deming have stated that quality is positively associated with productivity because as the quality of a product or service increases, there is less need for correcting work or fixing mistakes, so productivity improves. However, many experts disagree with Deming's view and instead believe that as quality improves, the cost of production goes up. The result is higher prices and reduced productivity. 

Other experts believe that quality can only be increased through Total Quality Management (TQM), a process that requires an overhaul of systems and behaviors. The idea is to make organizations more competitive through improving the quality of the product or service and to improve the organization's ability to meet the customer's needs through continuous improvement of the process. TQM is a process that aims to improve productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction. Therefore, to increase both quality and productivity, an organization can use a process of continuous improvement that addresses both goals simultaneously.


Kontoghiorghes, C. (January 2003). "Examining the association between quality and productivity performance in a service organization." Quality Management Journal, Vol. 10 (1).

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Productivity can be defined as the ratio of total output to total input (raw materials, man-hours, capital cost, etc.). Quality is a measure of excellence and can be defined as the overall performance (reliability, durability, serviceability, etc. ) as compared to customer expectations. There is a positive correlation between the two in any business environment. 

Better quality sets the product apart and increases sales. It also results in lesser defects, increases production efficiency, reduces replacement/repair costs and increases overall customer satisfaction. The decrease in defects and repair costs decreases the input cost and increases the overall productivity. In fact, better quality serves as the best advertisement (through word-of-mouth advertising by satisfied customers) and decreases the cost incurred in sales/marketing. In manufacturing industry, quality can also be enhanced by use of computers and machines (instead of manual operation). In such a manufacturing environment, standardization and precision will likely reduce production time and defects and enhance productivity.

The exception to this positive correlation would be in the case of more time and resources spent in quality production, esp. in manual production. 

Hope this helps.

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