The contribution of quality infrastructure to the satisfaction of human needs

Looking at QI from a psychological angle

Quality infrastructure is not an end in itself. Instead, its raison d’être is to support companies in the production and trade of goods and services that are ultimately intended to contribute to the well-being of people.

Human well-being depends on the satisfaction of human needs. According to the US-American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1974), and human needs can be represented in a hierarchical structure (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Simplified hierarchy of needs

Although human needs are universal, they change continuously according to the personal and social development. Cultural and geographical factors also play a role.

Figure 2: The dynamic hierarchy of needs

In a market economy, many needs can be satisfied by consuming products and services. The costs and prices of goods also play a role. As technological development progresses, the prices of basic foodstuffs, for example, fall so that citizens have more purchasing power to buy products to satisfy higher needs. The figure 2 shows how the basic and security needs to be dominated in an early development phase decrease during personal development. The same principle applies to the dynamics of the individual and societal distribution of needs as purchasing power increases.

A refrigerator satisfies human needs.

The example of a durable consumer good, such as the refrigerator, illustrates how quality infrastructure services contribute to satisfying changing needs, especially at the level of the basic needs.

Source: Freepik

A refrigerator, colloquially fridge, is a commercial and domestic appliance consisting of a thermally insulated compartment and a heat pump (mechanical, electronic, or chemical) that transfers heat from the interior to the external environment so that the interior is cooled to a temperature below room temperature.

Refrigeration is an important food storage technique all over the world. The purpose of a refrigerator is to cool food and thus make it last longer. This means that the human need for nutrition can be satisfied at a lower cost. The lower temperature lowers the rate at which bacteria multiply, so the refrigerator reduces the spoilage rate. A refrigerator maintains a temperature a few degrees above the freezing point of water. Overall, the fridge contributes to satisfying the basic need for food and freeing up resources for satisfying other needs.

With the development of refrigeration technology and mass production, the cost of refrigerators fell continuously. Today, every household in Germany has a refrigerator.[1] In Mexico, for comparison, this is 88% of households.[2]

To purchasing a refrigerator, energy costs are an essential selection factor. In this respect, particular emphasis is now placed on energy efficiency. Labels inform consumers about household appliance energy efficiency and other performance criteria. This is part of consumer and environmental protection and responds to information needs.

The electrical operation of refrigerators also poses risks to the safety of the users. Safety standards must be observed in refrigerators’ manufacture, maintenance, and operation. Corresponding safety regulations and tests meet the need for safety. In this area, the state also assumes a protective function that allows it to regulate markets accordingly.

Every technology is associated with undesirable side effects. The first refrigerators were operated with chloromethane (methyl chloride, CH3Cl), ammonia or sulphur dioxide; this caused problems with the storage of moving parts in the compressor and, in the event of leaks, the escape of toxic gases or deflagrations. From 1930, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were technically produced and soon used as refrigerants in refrigeration machines. This avoided the problems mentioned above. In the 1980s, the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was discovered, and the scientific proof was obtained that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer.

Today, living in an intact environment is recognized as a human need. Here, too, the states assume a regulating protective function. In the Montreal Protocol, the signatory states committed to no longer using CFCs. The use of CFCs is now banned, which has led to the development and use of new refrigerants.

Even higher-value needs can be satisfied by buying a refrigerator. For example, the industry produces freezers that make fresh ice cubes at the touch of a button or smart fridges that send us a push message on our smartphone if we have left the door open or if certain food items need to be replenished. Refrigerator technology is responding to new trends such as sustainability and digitalization, and manufacturers are continuously developing it further.


The refrigerator example shows how QI services contribute to well-being at different levels of the needs pyramid. It is striking that the provision of QI services accompanies the changes in needs themselves. First, QI supported the safe functioning of the appliances, which made their mass production possible in the first place. This made it possible to satisfy basic needs for durable and healthy food.

The presence of refrigerators in almost all households, in turn, freed up resources to satisfy other needs. With sophisticated technology and design, advanced refrigerators can even be seen as a symbol of prestige and lifestyle.

Beyond satisfying individual needs, the QI also supports energy efficiency and the avoidance of environmentally harmful gases. In this way, the QI contributes to protecting the planet and humanity.

Overall, however, the contribution of QI to the satisfaction of individual and collective needs always depends on the requirements set by public, private-sector, and social actors. In this respect, QI services are a helpful instrument for achieving set goals.


This text was produced as part of a study for the Global Program for Quality Infrastructure (GPQI). Our thanks go to the GIZ GPQI programme in Mexico for its support.

[1] (Retrieved 05/12/22).

[2] 05/12/22).

The interaction of QA, QM and QI

What is the difference between quality assurance and quality infrastructure? I was recently asked this question by a young colleague who has just started coordinating projects to promote quality infrastructure. The answer to this question is undoubtedly essential for every newcomer to quality infrastructure. Moreover, it is also a welcome stimulus to think more fundamentally about the relationship between these concepts.

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Calidena – Closing quality gaps jointly

A simple way to explain the importance of quality infrastructure is to refer to a specific product. For example, if we take any food product, such as a frozen pizza, we can clearly explain the requirements of food safety standards or the verification of the cold chain.

Quality infrastructure services can be applied to all products and many services. Since no single company usually manufactures a product in isolation, the entire value chain needs to be considered. Quality and safety checks are particularly in demand at the interfaces between different companies or value chains stages.

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Is quality really free?

In the 1980s, the US-American quality guru, Philip B. Crosby, said, quality is free. [1,2] Crosby meant that the price not doing quality assurance is very high and always justifies the investment in quality.

One central goal of any quality management system is to reduce quality costs to the lowest practical level.

The figure shows that the cost of defects decreases as the quality of conformity increases towards perfection, during assessment and prevention increase. Theoretically, an “optimal” target quality was the sum of prevention, assessment, and error costs at a minimum. Efforts to increase quality above the optimum would increase total quality costs and would be inefficient. [3]

Source: Juran’s Quality Control Handbook [3]

In that sense, quality is a cost-benefit trade-off. On the one hand, there is the cost of good quality, which breaks down into appraisal and prevention costs.  Appraisal costs are associated with measuring and monitoring activities related to quality. On the other hand, prevention costs are incurred to prevent or avoid quality problems. These costs are associated with the design, implementation, and maintenance of the quality management system.[4]

On the other hand, there are the costs of poor quality, which are divided into internal and external failure costs.  Internal defect costs are incurred to correct defects before the goods reach the customer. These include waste, scrap, rework or rectification, and the cost of the internal product or service failure reasons. External error costs arise from customer feedback and complaints (repairs, reclamations, returns) and the associated administrative and communication costs.[4]

The metaphor of an iceberg is used to differentiate the costs of missing quality.[5] Thus, a minor part of quality costs such as complaints, rejection, rework, scrap or inspection and testing are easily visible. In contrast, the more significant part of quality costs is less visible. These include late delivery costs, inventory costs, premium shipping costs or loss of customer loyalty. The problem with these hidden costs is that they are difficult to quantify.

Figure: Costs of Poor Quality [5]

In principle, Crosby assumes that cost savings always justify investment in quality. Thus, if Crosby’s thesis were generally accurate, all companies would have to invest in quality management systems.

However, it is mainly large, internationally active corporations that certify and update their quality management systems regularly. In contrast, many SMEs have no formalised quality management in place. Moreover, in geographical terms, systems like ISO 9001 are less present in the Global South than in the North.

To better understand why many companies in the Global South do not use certified quality management systems, my Ecuadorian colleague, Mauro Rivadeneira (Corporación Q), and I conducted a non-representative survey with the support of ISO Tools. [6]

Between April and June 2021, 152 companies from twelve Latin American and Spain countries completed our questionnaire.

Costa Rica21,32%
Other Central American countries138,55%
Source: Survey of Mesopartner and Corporación Q

More than half of the companies have been active for more than ten years. The remaining companies existed for 5 to 10 years (6.6%), 3 to 5 years (11.9%), 1 to 3 years 24.5%) and less than one year (4%). In terms of sectoral affiliation, the service sector (34.5%), manufacturing industry (24.7%) and the public sector (12.7%) dominated.

Operation timeTotal%
1. less than one year63,97%
2. between 1 and 3 years3724,50%
3. between 3 and 5 years1811,92%
4. between 5 and 10106,62%
5. more than ten years8052,98%
Source: Survey of Mesopartner and Corporación Q

Source: Survey of Mesopartner and Corporación Q

Only about 40% of the companies surveyed stated that they have or had a certified or accredited quality management system. Among the systems, ISO 9001 dominates, followed closely by ISO 14001 (environmental management), ISO 45001 (occupational safety) and accreditations of the ISO 17000 series for conformity assessment bodies.

The management systems of 30% of the companies have been in place for ten years or more. Another 30% have been certified for five to ten years and the rest of the certified companies for less than five years.

It raises concerns that 27% of the once certified companies have not renewed their management system certification. The reasons for this were manifold: the companies mentioned that customers did not demand certificates or that the cost of certification was too high. Other companies switched from the general ISO 9001 to more specific certification schemes.

We assumed that in companies without certification, the investment in quality exceeded the cost of tangible quality improvements. In the case of companies with certification, the result was the opposite.

In the case of the companies with certification, the costs of obtaining the certificate exceeded the adaptation of the production processes and personnel training. The companies without management system certification also invested in quality. Surprisingly, the non-certified companies also report high expenses for conformity assessment. These costs may be explained by the fact that these companies were previously certified or by a simple mistake in filling out the questionnaire. The transformation of production processes, staff training and consulting costs are also high. In both cases, costs for acquiring standards, payment for overtime or other representative costs were less relevant.

Source: Survey of Mesopartner and Corporación Q

The costs of non-quality are similar in both groups. Overall, the costs of correcting defects, losses due to poor quality and the costs of complaints and warranty services dominate. The costs of inspection and other representative costs, on the other hand, were less critical.

Source: Survey of Mesopartner and Corporación Q

Regarding the monetary costs of quality and non-quality, the survey did not generate any apparent results. In general, companies find it difficult to qualify the expenses of non-quality precisely. Therefore, we assume that the hidden costs of quality are generally underestimated. Overall, there is a need for further training among SMEs in Latin America and indeed in other world regions to assess the costs of quality.

On the other hand, it is noticeable that the offers of the certification bodies and quality consultants still seem expensive, especially for SMEs. In this respect, the certification bodies should make more effort to explain the benefits of their services and adapt the prices to the financial capacities of SMEs. At the same time, larger companies and the state are called upon to create incentives for investment in quality management systems by introducing quality requirements into procurement processes.


[1] Crosby, P. B. (1980). Quality is free: The art of making quality certain, Signet Book.

[2] Crosby, P. B. (1996). Quality is still free: making quality certain in uncertain times, McGraw-Hill Companies.

[3] Juran, J.M. and Gryna, F.M. (1988) Juran’s Quality Control Handbook. 4th Edition, McGraw-Hill, New York.

[4]  ASQ, COST OF QUALITY (COQ); in: Quality Glossary Definition: Cost of quality, retrieved 16/07/21

[5] DeFeo, J. A. (2001). The tip of the iceberg, in: Quality progress 34(5): 29-37, 

[6]  ISO Tools (2020)., Costos de la No calidad Presentación de los resultados del estudio, Webinar

Geographical Indication – place-linked quality of products

Geographical indication of product quality

Mexican Tequila, Darjeeling Tea, Roquefort cheese, French Champagne, Italian Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, Ecuadorian Cacao Arriba, Colombian Coffee, South African Rooibos herbal tea, Scotch whisky, Munich beer or Phu Quoc fish sauce from Vietnam. These are all famous examples of origin-linked indication of product quality. Hearing such product names provides an affirmation with customers about trustworthy quality, a long tradition in the production and legal brand protection.

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