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  • Definition of quality assurance in business

  • Process of quality assurance

  • Techniques in quality assurance

  • Comparing internal and external quality assurance

  • Illustrations of Quality Assurance

  • Pros and Cons of Quality Assurance

  • Distinguishing Quality Assurance and Quality Control

  • Key points on Quality Assurance

Home > Resources > Explore Quality Assurance: Definition, Process & Methods

Explore Quality Assurance: Definition, Process & Methods

Quality assurance plays a pivotal role in meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers for organizations. A company that consistently provides superior quality garners trust, giving it a competitive edge in its industry. Effective quality assurance boosts confidence and enables a company to promote its offerings with greater certainty. But what is quality assurance in essence? How does it operate? And how does it differ from quality control?

Definition of quality assurance in business

Quality assurance (QA) involves the systematic measures and policies a business adheres to, ensuring its products or services uphold a predefined quality level. Its primary aim is to detect and correct any flaws or mistakes before making the offering available to the consumer.

Quality assurance (QA) is described as the collective actions conducted to confirm that a service or product aligns with established quality requirements and guidelines. It includes setting quality benchmarks, monitoring operations, and applying corrective measures as needed.

Consider a bakery focused on delivering cakes of uniform quality. Here, quality assurance would mean setting specific criteria and protocols to ensure each cake conforms to these benchmarks. This might involve the choice of certain ingredients, adherence to a particular recipe, oversight of the baking process, and quality evaluations of the end product. Through these quality assurance practices, the bakery can guarantee that each cake presents a predefined quality level, earning customer trust for consistent excellence with every purchase.

Process of quality assurance

The process of quality assurance might appear intricate, yet it becomes more manageable when integrated with the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) framework, widely recognized for improving processes continuously. The alignment of quality assurance stages with the PDCA cycle is detailed below:

Stage 1: Plan

This stage involves a quality assurance specialist or leader in defining precise objectives for high-quality output and outlining appropriate methods to meet those objectives, including forecasting possible challenges.

Stage 2: Do

Here, the devised plan is put into action. The organization commences its quality initiatives by establishing protocols, educating employees, and executing quality checks.

Stage 3: Check

At this phase, outcomes are examined against the expected standards to assess if the products achieve the necessary quality criteria. Success leads to the final phase, while failure prompts a return to the first stage for adjustments.

Stage 4: Act/Adjust

This concluding phase sees the organization acting to refine the quality strategy based on insights from the third stage. Modifications to the plan, the introduction of new processes, and the ongoing monitoring of quality outcomes are potential steps.

Techniques in quality assurance

A variety of methods and tools are employed in Quality Assurance (QA) to maintain or elevate quality levels across products and services. Standard QA techniques encompass:

  1. Pinpointing procedures
  2. Quality review
  3. Control diagrams
  4. Comparative analysis
  5. Cause and effect charts

Moreover, sophisticated mechanisms such as Six Sigma, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis, Root Cause Analysis, and the Poka-Yoke (mistake-proofing) strategy are also deployed.

Pinpointing procedures

Establishing the framework for organizational processes and standards from the start of a project ensures the development team adheres to the intended direction.

Quality review

This approach involves a structured evaluation of how the processes and guidelines are functioning during the creation and design phases, including the scrutiny of design documents for adherence.

Control diagrams

These tools are essential for observing changes in processes and their stability by comparing with previous data. They help in forecasting future outcomes and determining necessary modifications.

Comparative analysis

It involves measuring performance against industry benchmarks to identify operational strengths and weaknesses, thereby enabling targeted improvements in quality.

Cause and effect charts

Engaging in investigative discussion around the potential reasons for issues to identify fundamental causes and formulate remedial actions, such as identifying elements leading to product flaws.

Comparing internal and external quality assurance

Internal quality assurance (IQA) focuses on upholding quality standards through internal oversight, evaluation, feedback, and continual enhancement within the entity.

External Quality Assurance (EQA) aims at ensuring uniformity, security, and impartiality in evaluative practices through engagements by an external Quality Assurer from the Awarding Body, distinct from the organization.

Illustrations of Quality Assurance

Highlighted below are three instances of quality assurance across various sectors:

  1. In the manufacturing sector, quality assurance involves the scrutinization and evaluation of each product during and post-production to guarantee adherence to predefined standards and specifications.
  2. In the realm of software engineering, executing comprehensive tests on the software to uncover any bugs or issues that could affect functionality or user experience is vital for quality assurance.
  3. Within the healthcare sector, ensuring medical procedures and protocols are up to standard and regulations involve examining patient outcomes and conducting routine audits for potential enhancements.

Toyota’s quality assurance system is grounded in the principles of ‘customer first’ and ‘quality first’, established since the company’s inception. The objective of their quality assurance team is to confirm that every vehicle produced worldwide meets the company’s stringent safety and quality benchmarks, with approximately 2000 inspections conducted on each vehicle before it is deemed ready for delivery.

Pros and Cons of Quality Assurance

While quality assurance serves to validate that products and services surpass. It comes with its set of benefits and challenges worth noting for businesses considering its implementation. Following are some pros and cons associated with quality assurance.

Benefits of Quality Assurance

Quality assurance offers numerous advantages:

  • Maintaining uniform and predictable product or service quality
  • Minimized defects, wastage, and mistakes
  • Boosted customer satisfaction and fidelity
  • Enhanced operational efficiency and productivity
  • Identification of processes needing enhancement
  • Ensuring adherence to regulations and quality standards

Drawbacks of Quality Assurance

Negatives associated with quality assurance encompass:

  • Considerable upfront investment in resources and training
  • Lengthy and intricate methodology
  • Potential for creating an overly formal and inflexible infrastructure
  • Challenges in gauging quality assurance effectiveness
  • Limited applicability across all industries or project types
  • Risk of engendering complacency and a misleading sense of security

Distinguishing Quality Assurance and Quality Control

A crucial distinction lies between quality assurance and quality control; QA is dedicated to process development for achieving desired quality and preventing defects, whereas QC focuses on defect Identification and quality verification.

Outlined below is the contrast between quality assurance and quality control:

Quality assurance (QA)

Quality control (QC)

  • Objective of QA lies in defect prevention.
  • QA acts as a managerial method for quality.
  • QA is exclusive of program execution.
  • As an example of QA: verification process focuses on doing the right activities.
  • Goal of QC is identifying and enhancing defects.
  • QC embodies a method of quality verification.
  • QC invariably involves program execution.
  • As an example of QC: validation process to assure end results align with expectations.

As time progresses, the emphasis on quality assurance has been universally recognized by companies aiming to deliver exceptional quality products to their clients. Quality assurance supports companies in this quest, thus cultivating a foundation for customer loyalty.

Key points on Quality Assurance

  • Quality assurance (QA) encompasses the systematic actions a business takes to ensure products or services maintain a specified quality level.
  • The objective of quality assurance is early defect detection and correction prior to customer release.
  • Quality assurance processes follow the PDCA cycle with four key phases: planning, executing, examining, and amending.
  • Included among quality assurance methodologies are quality reviews, control diagrams, comparative analysis, and cause and effect charts.
  • Conversely, quality control is concerned with ongoing maintenance or improvement of product quality, involving test units to verify the end product aligns with quality standards.

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