Define ‘quality’. I got asked it once, during a lecture about materials or production or something. I forget exactly.
But I do remember the lecturer and his love for the way metal coat hangers were made. It was his favourite topic: he was fascinated by this long piece of wire, complexly bent to make a cheap, reliable and efficient product. He thought it was one of the world’s greatest inventions.
And I think that, in relation to the quality question, its relevance was: how would a basic wire coat hanger fare if you asked people whether it was of good quality?
Answer: it wouldn’t do well. Wire coat hangers are cheap. You can buy 50 of them for £7. They’re very basic and there are far more luxurious examples of coat hangers that do a better job at hanging. You can get wooden ones, or padded ones, or ones with little clips on. Go to pretentious hotels and they’re so worried about you nicking them that they tie them to clothes rails. So they must be good quality, no? Good quality is nice, bad quality is basic: that’s what we all thought.
Ah. Not so, said my lecturer. Because in production, that’s not what quality means. When you have quality control in a factory, it’s there to ensure they build the same thing to the same standard, every time. That’s it. Is it to specification? Then it passes.