Empirically derived dimensions of quality for softwood lumber

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Virginia Tech


Quality perceptions of three major softwood lumber consumers: wood treaters, truss manufacturers, and home centers were investigated to determine their definition of softwood lumber quality. Data was gathered through a mail survey of buyers in each of the three groups. In total, 867 responses were received.

Respondents rated the importance of product and service characteristics to quality. These characteristics were based on dimensions of product quality developed by Garvin (1984) and dimensions of service quality developed by Parasuraman et aI. (1988). A total of 80 product and service quality characteristics were assembled to represent, or measure, twelve dimensions of total product quality.

Analysis indicated that the twelve dimension model, derived from previous work, was not applicable to softwood dimension lumber. Thus, exploratory factor analysis was used to assess the underlying dimensions of quality and a five dimension model resulted. The dimensions, ranked in order of importance, were: Lumber Characteristics, Supplier/Salesperson Characteristics, Lumber Performance, Supplier Services, and Supplier Facilities. These findings share few similarities with past research. In fact, they suggest that the concept of quality as a higher order abstract (i.e., dimensions of quality are similar regardless of product) may be flawed.

Respondent groups differed in the importance they placed on three of the five dimensions. No difference in importance levels were found for Supplier/Salesperson Characteristics and Lumber Characteristics. However, truss manufacturers perceived Lumber Performance to be more important than treaters or home centers and Supplier Services was perceived to be more important by home centers than the other two groups. Finally, Supplier Facilities was perceived to be most important by treaters.

Data gathered in a follow-up questionnaire indicated that the model developed in this study was understood by buyers of softwood lumber and that they buy from suppliers who perform well on dimensions of quality. Buyers also indicated that they pay more for better quality lumber and better service. This evidence indicates that suppliers of softwood dimension lumber can differentiate themselves based on quality and in tum command a higher price. Given these findings, strategies for utilizing quality, and the model developed in this study, to gain competitive advantage are discussed.