Quality assurance is based on idea of prevention of failures. It's the next stage of quality approach development, after quality inspection and quality control. It was superseded by quality management.
The quality assurance moves the focus to the earlier stages of the production process than quality control. However it should be noted, that quality assurance includes all the methods of quality inspection and quality control and adds two new concepts:
- right first time,
- fitness to use.
The quality assurance is a system of double feedback loop. The first feedback loop sends information about quality to workers, like in case of quality control. This enables workers to improve quality of work. The second loop sends information to managers, designers and technologists. This enables them to improve product, technology and production system.
Right first time
Failures of products detected by quality inspectors at the end of production line come from two sources: poor design (see below: fit to use) and poor performance. The latter can be divided into low quality of work and low quality of management.
Quality of work
Quality of work is related to all work done by employees, excluding managers. The typical signals of low quality of work are:
- workers comes to work tired and sleepy,
- workers are inattentive during work,
- employee attrition,
- workers don't care for the product they make,
- workers don't inform about problems with machines or process.
In short: if workers are not engaged into the work, the quality of work is low. This leads to low quality of products.
In quality assurance we put emphasis on improving quality of work. The workers should be engaged and aim to make their work right the first time. To help them several methods are used e.g.:
The help can be also correct equipment of workplace, including:
- Product specification,
- Technical drawings,
- Measuring tools,
- Sample products,
- Tools of high quality,
- Tools enabling quick communication.
Quality of management
Quality of management is related to work performed by managers, who organize production processes. It's responsible for 80% of product quality. Poorly managed workers, even striving to make good product, simply can't achieve this. Quality of management can be observed in production line through e.g.:
- short transport lines,
- no overproduction,
- no workers without job,
- all workplaces having necessary raw materials,
- short downtimes,
- no broken machines,
- well equipped workplaces (see earlier: quality of work).
There are methods that help managers increase quality of management in production, e.g.:
- Total Productive Maintenance,
- 7 quality tools,
- Quality loss function,
- Good manufacturing practice,
- Organization of production space,
- Transport routes optimization.
Quality of management is much wider term in quality management context. It is not limited to production only, but refers to whole organization. This meaning is described in separate article: Quality of management.
Fitness to use
Fitness to use refers to product design. The product and production technology should be designed in such a way, that the probability of errors is minimal, as well as features of the product are important to the customer and satisfy him. To achieve this, designers and technologists should use appropriate methods, e.g.:
The idea of fitness to use is wider described in article: Designed quality.
Examples of Quality assurance
- Establishing and adhering to quality standards: Quality assurance involves creating and implementing standards that meet customer and industry expectations. This may include establishing specific parameters for product design, production, testing, and quality control.
- Documentation: Quality assurance involves having written records of activities and processes, such as quality control plans, quality management systems, and inspection and test plans.
- Employee training: Quality assurance involves providing training to employees to ensure that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their jobs correctly and to the required standards.
- Quality audits: Quality assurance involves conducting periodic audits of processes and procedures to identify any areas of weakness that need to be addressed.
- Root cause analysis: Quality assurance involves investigating and analyzing any problems that occur in order to identify the root cause and take corrective action.
Advantages of Quality assurance
Quality assurance has a number of advantages for businesses and organizations, including:
- Improved customer satisfaction: Quality assurance ensures a high standard of product or service is provided to customers, leading to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Increased efficiency: Quality assurance processes help to identify and eliminate wasteful activities and processes, leading to greater efficiency and cost savings.
- Increased reliability: Quality assurance helps to ensure that products and services are reliable, consistent, and meet customer requirements.
- Improved reputation: Quality assurance helps to ensure that customers receive high quality products and services, leading to an improved reputation for the business or organization.
- Reduced costs: Quality assurance helps to identify problems before they occur, leading to reduced costs associated with unexpected repairs or replacements.
Limitations of Quality assurance
Quality assurance has its limitations, such as:
- Cost of implementation: Quality assurance requires resources and investments to implement the processes, which can be a limitation for organizations with limited budgets.
- Lack of flexibility: Quality assurance processes can be rigid and inflexible to accommodate changes in the organization.
- Overly reliant on documentation: Quality assurance is reliant on documentation and processes, which can be time consuming and rigid.
- Difficulty in quantifying results: Quality assurance is difficult to quantify in terms of performance outcomes.
- Difficult to measure customer satisfaction: Quality assurance can be difficult to measure in terms of customer satisfaction, since it is subjective.
There are several additional approaches which are used in order to ensure the quality of products and services. The following are the approaches:
- Quality Planning: This involves developing plans, procedures and processes that ensure that products and services are able to meet the required quality standards.
- Quality Control: This involves monitoring and inspecting the quality of products and services to ensure that they meet the required standards.
- Quality Improvement: This involves making changes to processes and procedures to ensure that products and services are improved in terms of quality.
- Quality Measurement: This involves measuring the quality of products and services and comparing them to the required standards.
- Quality Assurance System: This involves creating an organizational system which provides assurance that products and services are meeting the desired quality standards.
In summary, Quality Assurance includes Quality Planning, Control, Improvement, Measurement and Assurance System to ensure that products and services meet the required quality standards.
- Quality assurance vs. quality control (ASQ)
- History of quality (ASQ)
- Bogue EG, Saunders RL (1992) The Evidence for Quality, Jossey-Bass Inc, San Francisco
- Mahfout M, Gama MA, Panoutsos G (2008) “Right-First-Time” Production: A Reality or a Myth?, Materials and Manufacturing Processes, Volume 24, Issue 1
Author: Slawomir Wawak