As an industry veteran of both owning my own business and a business that is manufacturing a product, one of the most common phrases clients have to either listen or read is that this supplier’s product is a quality product, but how can all suppliers provide quality? We all have heard horror stories and more, so what do we perceive quality to be as surely it is different from each location.
If one searches for the meaning in a dictionary, which is a good resource to begin with, the word means “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.”. I felt that this was a good benchmark or starting point to examine closer.
Quality, therefore means something that is measured against a similar product and is better than that product so when a manufacturer writes it’s a quality product how has he made such a statement or claim? Did he measure his product with others? Most probably not, so my understanding is that quality has lost its relevance; it’s loosely thrown into some marketing jargon but sadly many products aren’t defined by their build and assembly to be quality, more than likely it is built as cheaply as possible and pushed through as quickly too.
Furthermore, quality is on many occasions distracted when labelled “Made In China”. Again, I find myself wondering why everyone automatically thinks Chinese-made products are poorly made. Remember that China manufactures so many products for the global market, more than the US & EU combined. Could that not be, in essence, where we get jaded? That we overlook or forget countless products that come out of China are well made; we zero in on that one bad experience.
So in what way does KT Group build on trying to achieve its slogan, a slogan that was borne out of a desire to reach a level that would allow us to build for some of the biggest retailers or clients and one which we have reached as well, I can proudly say. First and foremost, we build and engineer a product based on 13 years of experience. In the beginning we made many errors and mistakes; it comes with the territory, but what we did not replicate was making the same error continuously. We removed the errors and mistakes and furthermore we explored those previous errors to ensure that new products also didn’t get hit with similar issues, so after a while you find that core team of skilled staff who started off working as professionals without a background, now have a background. A side note here, that KT Group isn’t about laying off staff in lean times; we keep core staff on the payroll at all times so that we have our resources in place to ensure continuous expertise and experience. The next step for our cornerstone to achieving quality was the manufacturing location. It’s a well-known fact that if you wish to achieve excellence you must have the building blocks to do so and one such building cornerstone is the right manufacturing partner. In 13 years we have seen our fair share of manufacturing partners but as our success grew, our thirst for improvements also grew, as more complex designs required more advanced machinery and also expertise to interact with machinery to gain the best results. With any product you start with raw materials; in our case the raw materials are based on metals, primarily steel, but we enhance our products with an array of other materials such as stainless steel, plastics, acrylics and aluminium. The factor that relates to quality is the ability to gain resources of these materials and confirm that they are of a high grade. Only the most experienced staff will know how to grade raw materials so that they can confirm that, if we ordered a particular gage of steel plate and type of steel plate, our qualified staff can visually inspect it and check the documentation to see that it conforms. Such staff are far and few between. Assembly of product is another factor that many inexperienced companies will not know to look for; whether it’s in the finish of welding, powder coat paint finish or the type of hinges used to affix doors, a kiosk has many hundreds of minute parts that make up a completed product and each item or stage is just as important as the next because this sets aside products robustness, finish, appearance and lifespan. In more cases than not, the unexperienced will overlook facets which may not seem important at the time but play an important role, for example; rust and metal degradation can start to appear on enclosures that are painted but not primed beforehand. This can extend both the lifespan of the unit and also maintain the appearance of the finished product.
Cabling is complex and the amount of errors I see from companies who claim to be experts is breathtaking. The process to cable a unit is a complex undertaking; it not only has to be thought out how best to reach from Point A to Point B to ensure that cables are routed out of way of service staff and also away from areas that can potentially damage the cables, but also these cables are at the heart of the unit to ensure that the machines run uninterrupted, so therefore a must is cable boxes and shields to protect the cable itself against damage and wear and tear. A thorough cable diagram has to be the starting point for each new kiosk project, so that a plan is set into motion on how all components connect together and at what points they should meet. Furthermore, labelling of cables and using index cards for reference points are a must for each unit as dozens of cables are used in each kiosk. Quickly and efficiently locating a specific USB or AC Cable should not be time consuming but more so also not stressful.
Manuals? How many owners receive technical manuals with their purchases? This should be mandatory for each kiosk as it provides a detailed overview of the kiosk terminal. With detailed photos, schematics and short descriptions the manual is the cornerstone to any service technicians toolbox.
Finally primary components that come with kiosk cabinet; a host of specialised equipment, that are designed for integration within a box. The mechanical engineers who perform integration must have a well documented past to understand unbeknown challenges that face both investors, service personnel and kiosk customers kiosk. These all play important roles to meet the deadlines for delivery, budgets, servicing fees and successes of deployments and are at the heart of the success of kiosk projects.
But wait! There is also more to the word “Quality”. They may be more indirect but we also see such categories as Design, Service, Spares and Know-How as factors to achieve a proud stamp to be called a quality supplier.
About the author, Kenneth Larsen is the owner of KT Group Ltd a kiosk manufacturer that specializes in designing unique bespoke kiosk machines for some of the top industry leaders in their field. Kenneth background is a 17 year veteran of which 13 years has been with KT Group the company he himself started as a sole proprietor back in 2005. Clients of KT Group include Chevron, NCR, UN, Nordisk Film, Snaitech, US Army, Danish Tourist Board, Volkswagen, GE, NASA.