Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Accuracy of Quality Assurance

Accuracy of Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance and Control: Why Accuracy is Vital

Competition is intense in today’s business and industrial arenas. When products and services vie heavily for market shares, the ability to deliver quality products that stand up to their promises is often a determining factor when a customer chooses a vendor. The accuracy of that vendor’s quality assurance process is key to gaining or expanding footholds in market shares.

Quality Assurance (QA) can be defined as “the inspection and testing process a business conducts to verify manufacturing, assembly, or performance standards for a product or service in accordance with business, local, industry, or government guidelines.”

Quality Control (QC) often goes hand-in-hand with Quality Assurance. QC can be defined as “Steps, checks, and balances to detect, repair, and improve upon errors or defects in a manufactured product or a service.”

A QC/QA inspection process can be as simple as checking a document for typographical, grammatical, or punctuation errors. It can be as complex as disassembling a large-capacity airliner and inspecting every part then reassembling it, testing performance as each step is completed.

Typical QC/QA Process Steps
The most popular Quality Assurance process is called the Shewart Cycle, developed by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The cycle outlines a process untailored to specific businesses or industries.

Commonly abbreviated as PDCA, the Shewart Cycle comprises four steps:
1. Plan. Outline specific and detailed inspection steps and expected results. Explain corrective actions at each step, should a product or service fail to pass inspection. Include the percentage of each product category to undergo Quality Assurance testing.
2. Do. Initiate and complete each action step within the QualityAssurance process.
3. Check. Using prequalified standards, monitor, test, and compare products for known quality points and potential defects or shortcomings.
4. Act. Adjust product generation processes to improve and correct products to meet or exceed expectations or requirements.

Above all, test and retest often.

The Shewart Cycle versus ISO 9000
PDCA is a process to ensure accuracy in quality assurance and is conducted within the business structure. ISO 9000 is an international standard that ensures a company’s Quality Assurance plans and procedures are in place and effective.

Quality Often Lies in the Details
Focusing on details will enable thorough and accurate quality assurance processes. QC/QA in a manufacturing process could easily include not only the final product but the raw materials used in creating a product.
· Is the ordered materiel of the correct chemical composition? Is the steel strong, dense, etc., enough? Is the liquid too acidic, sweet, watery, etc.?
· Is the board precisely the correct length or it is slightly off the required dimension? Is the glass too thick? Too thin, etc.? Is it strong enough or thin enough? Is it made from the right wood?
· Is the color or shade correct? Is it of the correct dye lot?
· Is that bolt under the sealed covering torqued to specifications? Is it too tight or too loose? Is it the right type, length, or width? Is it the color specified or does it matter?
· Is the switch high enough or low enough? Is it rheostat control or levered?

Details Beyond Construction
Accurate Quality Control and Quality Assurance processes offer more to businesses and manufactures than product quality. QC and QA procedures test product generation efficiency and cost analysis data, as well.
· Can efficiency of manufacturing of Widget X increase if the business moves the tooling machinery? How quickly will the move pay for itself?
· Can less costly materials be used and still maintain quality standards? Is materiel the cost cutting tool or is the vendor?
· Can Shipping and/or Receiving Departments’ procedural changes assist in Quality Assurance improvements?
· What faster manufacturing process exists?
· Will better lighting help?
· Will additional personnel be worthwhile?
· Will fewer personnel be worthwhile?
· Would more automation improve product quality?
· Are employees encouraged to forward ideas for QA improvement? Are they rewarded or recognized for it?

Costs of Inaccuracy
Inattentive inspections or overlooked processes can cause product errors and faults, slow downs or stoppage of the manufacturing process, and even cause injury. Quality products are not available; sales decline, and the business finds itself unable to maintain its workforce or its market share.

Product Liability
When a product fails, breaks, or injures someone, a lawyer is second on the call list, right after an ambulance or vendor. When potential injury is catastrophic, civil damages can total in the millions of dollars. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) could site the using organization, which in turn might sue the vendor. No business can afford repeated and repeatedly large cash outlays, simply because they failed to ensure availability or accuracy in QA processes. Costs are considerably lower to develop, maintain, and improve quality than they could be due to the lack of quality.

Long-Term Impact
Slipshod Quality Control and Quality Assurance processes that do not detect degrading quality or performance will heavily impact any business’ bottom line. Customers will cancel orders, possibly return products already sold, because no one likes sub-par quality, regardless of the amount paid for it. When products stay on the shelves, no business can survive.

But the opposite can be true, as well. High quality products or services that meet or exceed customers’ needs and expectations can sell for higher prices and more steadily than products of lesser quality can. Ensuring high benchmarks are the Quality Control and Quality Assurances goals and gold standards.

A huge market may await a business’ product or service, but unless the business can deliver a product that meets or exceeds customers’ expectations in a safe, timely, and effective manner, others claim that market share, and the business is left behind.

Assuring quality of products and services is paramount, and maintaining accuracy and consistency of those standards is vital to keeping or expanding customer bases.

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