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May 07, 1975 - Image 11

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-05-07

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Wednesday, May 7, 1975


Page Eleven

Wednesday, May 7, 1975 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Eleven

Quality and Value
Two "positives" that product
planners accentuate, when
they groom their entries
for competition.
The ingredients American businessmen strive
for, are indeed the ones consumers look for,
when they buy. After all, the consumer is the
ultimate voter in a product's election ... and
But just how much quality can be built into a
given item? How many colors and sizes? How
will added quality affect the market price? Read
about the route most American businessmen
take-"The Main Street" approach. Read what
this has to do with 21 million dishwashers and
35 million clothes dryers winning their way into
American homes.
The adjoining message from the May
Reader's Digest sums up important thoughts
about quality and value. It's one in a series
on our economic system placed by The
Business Roundtable.

During these hard times, when
all of us are concerned about getting
full value in the things we buy,
here are some important thoughts
about quality

T HE NEW toaster was so
shiny you could see your-
self in it. But its first
piece of toast looked like
scorched plywood. And you burned
your fingers fishing it out when it
didn't pop up. Then the machine
heaved a little electronic sigh and
stopped toasting altogether.
What a storm! And it got worse.
Leaving your wife and three kids
beneath the shopping-center canopy,
you dashed to your new station
wagon. Soaked to the skin, you got
behind the wheel and turned the

key in the ignition. It wouldn't
start. You tried again and again.
Nothing. Not a spark.
It was a grand dinner. There were
even some halfhearted offers to
help with the dishes. "No, we
bought a new dishwasher," you
announced proudly. You loaded the
dishes and joined the company. Un-
cle Ray was describing his new boat
when you noticed the foamy water
running across the dining-room
Sound familiar? 'We all remem-
ber vividly when things don't work
right. But somehow we don't even
think about it when our car covers
the 2032-mile trip to Canada and
back without a hitch, or when the
electric coffeepot keeps perking
away year after year. There's just
nothing spectacular about the
sweeper that sweeps, the oven that
bakes, the refrigerator that keeps
right on doing its job.
No, the fact is that in our minds
one malfunctioning product cancels
out the thousands that do work. One
of the greatest tributes to American
industry is the fact that the "lemon"


is news-the fact thatb ad products
are the exceptions that surprise and
bother us.
The expectations of the American
consumer are very high, and the
businessman knows it better than
anyone else. That's why he seeks
constantly to improve his product
and maintain standards. The Ameri-
can Society for Quality Control esti-
mates that ,business in this country
spends from 8 to 15 cents of every
sales dollar to overcome errors, to
test, inspect and assure quality.
Some examples:
* On the Tide-detergent produc-
tion line in Cincinnati, boxes under-,
filled 'or damaged in any way are
automatically and literally "kicked"
into a reject bin.
* At the Gillette Company in
Boston, every razor blade is ex-
amined for surface imperfections and
sharpness. Some employes come to
work unshaven each morning to test
Gillette (and competitors') blades
under laboratory conditions.
* At Eli Lilly Corporation in In-
dianapolis, some pills take as long
as 45 days to manufacture. The
process is stopped many times for
tests of the purity and exact tluant-
tity of ingredients. As long as the
pills * are available on drugstore
shelves, a control batch will be test-
ed periodically to ensure potency
and safety.
* At Sears, Roebuck & Co. in
Chicago, many new products, from
air conditioners to shotguns to water
pumps, are tested in the field and in

the lib (sometimes to final destruc-
tI)on) before they are maketed.
To an alert, comopeticive company,
these efforts are as routine (and as
vital) as breathing. "The best sales
tool possible," says one executive, "is
a product worth what you pay. for
it." But still those negative experi-
ences force their way into our minds.
Why can't we make things more
reliable? Why do there have to be
any mistakes.
To answer such questions, we must
measure our expectations as con-
sumers against the realities of the
mass market. We must consider
what absolute product-perfection
would do to prices and volume.
Have you ever stopped to think
what it would cost to build a tele-
vision set that would "never" fail
or wear out? Many thousands
of dollars. And the assembly and
inspection procedures would pre-
clude more than a few thousand sets
being built each year. Thus, the high
quality would be academic for
the majority of Americans, who
would simply be priced out of the
Businessmen face a challenge. Do
they travel the low road? Cut cor-
ners, use the cheapest materials they
can get by with? Or do they take
the high road-turning out each
product by hand, forgetting costs,
doing only "custom work" beyond
the financial reach of millions of
cost-conscious average Americans?
Wisely, realistically, Americain
business travels instead a "Main

Street," where the aim is the best
product that can be made at a price
the mass of consumers can afford.
In shops and factories across the
country, engineers, designers, shop
foremen hold "product audits," ex-
amining the chain saw or tape re-
corder or child's toy before them.
With production costs rising, how
can they improve the product but
keep the price competitive? Will this
plastic compound be as strong and as
workable as the now-too-costly met-
al it must replace ? Sure, this transis-
tor is cheaper, but will it do the job
as well? At the Rockwell Interna-
tional Corporation, engineers rede-
signed a pocket calculator over and
over again to cut the cost and time
of manufacture while improving the
reliability of the machine.
. The cumulative effect of such ac-
tivities is a boon to the American
consumer, especially during this dif-
ficult economic period when all of
us want to stretch our dollars as far
as possible. For, what good is an
improved'"product if it isn't readily
available to everyone at a reasonable
The Main Street approach means
that there are t 7 timillion TV sets in
U. S. homes, a million dishwashers,
35 million clothes dryers-and it
means that by and large this abun-
dance of products is an abundance
of good products, constantly being
improved because of competition.

Look at automobiles, for instance,
probably the most complex and
sophisticated item the average con-
sumer will ever buy. Today's cars
run much longer between engine
tune-ups, oil changes and lubrica-
tions than earlier models. Their
brakes are much more relsable, their
cooling systems require much less
"Consumer pressure" is a healthy
Alihrmation of the market system.
After all, what good would con-
sumer demands be in a society with-
out businesses competing in reaction
to those demands? But consumer
pressure is no new phenomenon; it
is rather the same pressure that has
always motivated the conscientious
Certainly, consumers have the
right to complain, to send things
back when they aren't tight. But
what really makes American prod-
ucts the greatest bargains in the
world today-in both cost and per-
formance-is the fact that all of
us constantly cast our votes in the
marketplace. It is these consumer
"ballots" that shape the quality of
the goods we purchase day in and
day out.
For reprints, write: Reprint Editor, The
Reader's Digest, Pleasantville, N.Y. 10570.
Prices: us-9so; o-$2; i10-$3.ssi0
-$tt2.-i;sooo-$2o. P 'ices Scsirtger

This message is prepared by the editors of The Reader's Digest
and presented by The Business Roundtable.


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