Apple’s Inc. Quality Management Tools

Introduction

The pressure towards globalization has compelled many organizations to put a greater focus on quality, responsiveness and, cost as competitive strategies. In order to remain operational and also realize customer satisfaction, organizations are expected to monitor their processes frequently and work towards producing high-quality products.

Organizations that use quality management tools and techniques may range from private, public, large to small organizations. Besides, the service and manufacturing organizations also fall into this category. Quality management is important for both small and large organizations because both of them share similar characteristics like vulnerability due to shifts in the market. These organizations also rely on a strong customer base for their survival. Therefore, the loss of customers may cause an organization to collapse.

Both small and large organizations also face direct competition from foreign firms. This means that in order for these organizations to remain competitive in the market, they must ascertain the importance of practicing quality management practices. Failing to observe quality control would lead to a decline in market performance and subsequent decline in customer base (Lederer, 1997).

Different organizations use various techniques for quality control in order to enable them to realize quality processes in their systems. This kind of control is also one way of reducing variability. Examples of quality management tools and techniques used by organizations to control process or product quality include Pareto analysis, Flow Chart, Cause, and Effect Diagram, SPC chart, Histogram, Check Sheet and Scatter Diagram. The main aim of this paper is to discuss how Apple Inc. implements some of the quality management tools and techniques and also identifies the factors that lead to the selection of a given quality control technique.

The paper explains the reasons behind the application of the identified quality control tools and techniques as well as the challenges experienced during the process of implementation. The first section of the paper offers a brief description of quality control and the implementation process in the organization. A detailed description of the company is provided in the next section. This includes the mission, vision, objectives, products, and background of the company. The tools or techniques used by the company have also been discussed.

Quality control

Jain (2001) defines quality as the ability of a company to produce products that conform to the specifications of the customers. This means that the products should not have any defect. For a product to achieve quality, it should be reliable and be able to serve its intended purpose without any undesired effects. Therefore, quality control can be used to refer to the activities carried out by a given organization to ensure that the goods or services offered by the company are of high value.

These activities also ensure that customers are provided with quality products. In this case, a business is likely to realize improved performance. Jain adds that the tools and techniques used to control quality can be categorized into three groups. These are basic level, intermediate level, and advanced level.

Company description

Apple Inc. is a manufacturing company that was founded by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. It is located in Cupertino, California. The company undertakes designing and marketing of communication equipment and media devices such as iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Apple TV. The company’s applications and digital contents can be bought from different outlets, which include App Store, iTunes Store, and Mac App Store.

Also, customers from different parts of the world can access the goods and services of the company from the retail and online stores. Customers can also decide to access Apple’s products and services from the direct sales agent, wholesalers, and the value-added resellers. Other products sold by the company include application software, headphones, storage devices, printers, and other accessories (eM Publications, nd).

Apple’s mission, vision, and objectives

Apple’s mission statement is directed towards providing high-class experiences to educators, students and other professionals in different countries. In order to achieve this mission, Apple maintains high levels of innovation when manufacturing its products.

Apple’s vision identifies mankind as being responsible for changes that occur in the world. This means that man should have control over systems other than being a subordinate. To realize this, Apple ensures that all its products are easily operated by customers. In this way, both the employees and customers of the company can be able to comprehend the vision and fight towards attaining it.

The objectives of the company are set in such a way that provides customers with high-class user experience by ensuring enhanced levels of innovation when manufacturing the company’s products. The Company aims at being unique when designing and developing different applications in order to provide its customers with superior products.

Another objective of the company is to undertake frequent research and development followed by extensive advertising to enable the company to sell its innovative technologies. To achieve this objective, Apple has continued to expand its operations by seeking and utilizing feedback from customers in order to ascertain the changing consumer needs (eM Publications, nd).

Quality management tools and techniques used by Apple Inc.

Apple Inc. uses a number of quality management tools and techniques to ensure that the company’s products are of high quality. SPC charts and Flowcharts are examples of some of the quality management tools and technique used by the company (Cameron & Quinn, 2011).

Flowcharts

A flow chart refers to an illustration that indicates a given process or algorithm. The process is presented in small boxes which are connected together using arrows. A flow chart helps to provide the desired solution to a particular problem (Doty, 1996). Apple Inc. uses flowcharts to analyze, design, document and also to manage different processes in the company.

In order to make good use of flowcharts, the company links the causes and the effects together since it becomes easier to identify points for measuring quality performance. Apple Inc. also uses flowcharts to ascertain the current progress of the company and the expected performance of the company. By doing so, the employees are able to comprehend and identify areas where changes should be made.

The team involved in initiating new projects in the company can also use the flowcharts to understand the process and make changes where necessary. As an orientation process, Apple handles different processes by first making use of employees who have vast experience and then resulting to those with less experience (Cameron & Quinn, 2011). Use of flowcharts, therefore, helps to involve even the less experienced employees in carrying out various processes within the company. Flowcharts are also used when the company needs to introduce a new product in the market and to aid in problem-solving.

SPC charts

Statistical process control (SPC) refers to an application used in statistical methods to monitor and control a given process. This helps to ensure that the process operates in accordance with the expectations and at the same time produce products that conform to specifications. Statistical process control ensures that the process is able to produce conforming products which do not have any waste.

SPC is mostly used in companies involved in manufacturing and can also be applied in other processes whose output is measurable. The control charts are the main tools used in statistical processes control and they focus on carrying out frequent improvements on the products manufactured by the company. Control charts are also called process-behavior charts whose function is to establish whether a given business or manufacturing process is in statistical control (Doty, 1996).

Apple uses the control charts to identify whether a given process is under control. This information helps the company to predict the expected performance. In case the company finds that the process is not performing as expected, the company reacts by analyzing the control chart in order to establish the variation source. By doing so, it becomes easy to put the process under control by allowing significant changes to be made.

Apple Inc. also uses the SPC charts to carry out quality awareness in order to prevent the manufacture of poor quality products which do not conform to consumer requirements. The company puts a greater focus on new product development to ensure that it remains competitive and also to stimulate the demand from the customers. Apart from introducing new products in the market, the company undertakes the improvement of the current products. This is from the fact that the tastes and preferences of consumers keep on changing (Cameron & Quinn, 2011).

According to Doty (1996), a company can realize success when introducing a new product if it has the ability to make a timely introduction of the product. SPC chart helps the company to manage the likely risks that might be experienced when introducing a new product into the market. Using the SPC charts, the company can detect any defects that interfere with product quality and rectify the identified defects before introducing the new product to the market. To help reduce the risks of introducing a new product to the market, Apple finds it necessary to involve its customer.

This helps the company to acquire a good understanding of the needs of its customers. Customers are free to provide their specific requirements for a given product long before the product is introduced. The SPC charts are then used to check whether the new product conforms to the customer specifications. Apple ensures that only products that match the requirements of customers are introduced to the market.

However, it should be understood that Apple cannot determine the effects that are likely to be faced as a result of introducing a given product. This is the main reason why the company depends very much on the information given by the consumers when making a decision on whether to introduce a new product to the market.

Apart from the SPC charts and the flow charts, Apple also uses the cause and effect diagram. This technique aims to identify the cause of a given problem since it is easier to find a solution to a given problem by first eliminating the root causes. It should be noted that this technique cannot provide a permanent solution if it is not done continuously. In order for this technique to achieve the desired outcomes, the intervention should be done frequently until the problem is completely solved.

However, Apple has not been able to fully implement this technique in its operations. A number of factors can be used to explain why Apple has failed to make efficient use of this technique. One of the limiting factors is that the technique can only be used after a given incident or problem has occurred (Doty, 1996). This means that Apple cannot fully ascertain the quality level of its manufactured products before availing them for sale to consumers.

The company relies on its customers by getting their views after using the product. This may negatively affect the company since some customers may decide to shift to other similar products from other manufacturers in case they detect any problem or defect on Apple’s products.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that quality management tools and techniques aim at reducing or eliminating errors in the manufacturing process. As a result, a company is able to produce quality products which conform to consumer requirement. It is therefore important for all the employees of a company to be aware of the need to maintain product quality during the manufacturing process.

Continuous improvement should also be carried out to ensure that the company’s products are in line with customer specifications. Apple Inc. has successfully managed to use quality management tools and techniques in manufacturing its products. This explains why the company has continued to dominate and out-compete its competitors. The high-quality products manufactured by the company helps the company to increase the sale of its products and at the same time realize high levels of consumer satisfaction.

References

Cameron, K. S., & Quinn, R. E. (2011).Diagnosing and changing organizational culture: Based on the competing values framework. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Doty, L. A. (1996).Statistical process control. New York, NY: Industrial Press. eM Publications (nd). Apple Inc. New York: eM Publications.

Jain, P. L. (2001). Quality control and total quality management. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill.

Lederer, P. J. (1997).The practice of quality management. Boston: Kluwer Acad. Publ.