Your quality assurance plan is critical to ensuring that products will be implemented successfully without tarnishing your brand with customers. With a plan in place it becomes easier to for you to try out business improvement/development techniques, anticipate problems and then control the kind of desired results (performance/specification) desired.
What exactly is quality assurance?
Quality assurance, usually shortened to QA, is a system involving standardized evaluation and monitoring of procedures processes and other aspects of a wide variety of your firm’s activities and projects. It is part of a concerted risk management process to make sure you develop the best products or services possible.
QA is utilized in many different industries and departments such as production, manufacturing, design, accounting and human resources to name a few.
The goal of your QA system is to impose a minimum set of standards on which the desired quality of a product or service will be based. It should really form a key selling point for your product and any simple business plan you need to product for venture capital firms.
In essence the quality control/management plan might not teach you how to build a ship but it will show you how to sail that ship to make sure you get a good return on your investment. If you buy into using a more formal quality assurance methodology (e.g. total quality management technique) then you have already decided that product quality is one of the key features and benefits of your product to your customer base.
There are no shortcuts to your quality improvement process and when quality can be assured organizations will be able to reap the benefits in meeting both short and long term goals.
Some of the key advantages of having a plan in place include:
- Self-regulation: A good plan can be utilized as a means for your organization to manage itself without turning to third parties for assessment and monitoring. This not only saves you time and money it also helps build confidence among your team members regarding their ability to create positive change on their own.
- Waste reduction: Waste costs you money. With a list of standard procedures and statistical process controls in place wasteful practices are eliminated and any processes that contribute to it can be significantly minimized. The result is you’ll have better control of product or service results.
- Increased reliability: When your products and services are constantly monitored to determine if they meet standards there is less time wasted and more work done. Because inefficient practices are eliminated there is increased confidence in the ability of your workers to deliver what is expected of them. Thereby contributing to the improvement of their skills. Any problems or issues that may be present can also be rapidly rectified before the customer sees them.
- Streamlining of processes: Any unnecessary procedures in your operations or ineffective processes are easily spotted with the use of a quality assurance plan. When processes are improved production processes can be shortened without sacrificing the results.
- Improved reputation: An organization that constantly performs at par is regarded as reliable and trustworthy. As a result the reputation of the organization and the individuals involved is established. This in turn helps build strong relationships with customers business partners, suppliers and venture capitalists.
Understanding What is Quality Assurance Trying to Do For Your Business
When you’re considering implementing some form of quality assurance into your business or project the first thing you ask yourself is ‘what is quality assurance’? Is it people, processes, roles, etc.? If you can narrow down that question to exactly what it is you’re trying to flush out with a QA program then you’re heading in the right direction.
Usually quality of work results in the ability to use processes & tools to get consistent results and meet expectations with regard to your budget and time.
Quality of work is often a trademark of how you perceive quality. If you’re doing half-baked work and not really paying attention to how well your product is being seen or received then there should be no surprise that your level of quality and the work you produce is on the low scale.
For you to save your business or your product you need to (a) put together some kind of quality assurance department that (b) grades and points out flaws in the end product as well as (c) identify opeational/process bottlenecks that crop up along the way. Larger companies often refer to this as an enterprise-level project management office.
Garbage in means garbage out and if you’re grading quality along the whole manufacturing or production process then take a look at your product specifications/requirements first. If you’re not getting what you need in order to succeed then that might be a place to focus on.
Your Next Big Step: What is Continuous Quality Improvement Providing on Top of QA?
Continuous quality improvement (C.Q.I.) is the opposite of “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The philosophy of CQI is that whatever the process is it can be improved by targeted gathering and analysis of data.
Think of continuous quality improvement as Q.A. for operational & business processes.
The quality management plan will be applied both to individual processes and the business as a whole. For example, Ford will have a quality management plan in place for operations such as “Attach Wheel Nut” and also for the overall quality of a finished Cougar.
The idea is that you improve the quality of your finished product by cutting down on rework and customer dissatisfaction, and by maximizing the efficiency of each individual process in the making of the product.
CQI separates the process from the people; the aim is to ensure the quality of the process regardless of the person operating it (given due training of course).
The aim of Continuous Quality Improvement is to keep improving processes over time; it should be part of the whole business philosophy and not just “something we’re doing this week”. Techniques such as Statistical Process Control, still regarded as a Dark Art by some, are designed to ensure the process is stable and predictable (two reasons we don’t apply it to people).
CQI Standards – Six Sigma is The Holy Grail in QA
The Six Sigma manuacturing philosophy contains many tried and tested techniques for continuous quality improvement. Expert Six Sigma practitioners (aka “Black belts”) are much in demand in modern manufacturing facilities.
Six Sigma is driven by the so-called DMAIC cycle (Define Measure Analyse Improve Control – and repeat) which underpins the methodology used by Six Sigma black belts to reach process objectives. In Six Sigma improvement is measured in terms of dollar savings which appeals to managers all over the world.
In conclusion: Your approach to quality assurance may vary depending on your context. Basic quality control is highly recommended and any firm can upgrade their techniques, even to Six Sigma standard, as their business processes become more consistent, reproducible and standardized.