Back in the early days of mass production the product specification was 'inspected in' to a product. Every part and assemble was inspected for compliance to specification and either accepted or rejected. The cost of inspection was indeed an addition cost of production. The belief was that rejects could only be reduced by increasing cost. It took many years and much grief before it was realised that the opposite was true. As increased effort was put into reducing production costs it emerged that improved efficiency resulting in improved quality and so customer satisfaction in fact reduced production costs overall.
As the realisation that investment in managing inspection was cost effective management teams emerged to exploit the discovery. Even so the process of historical separation of management from productive staff persisted for several decades it not being until well after the second world war that closer working of the two parties could be practiced to the full.
Most of this development took place in Japan as a team touring American manufacturers, the stalwarts, until then, of the process at that time were surprised to find aged demarcation still practiced. It was companies such as Toyota and Nissan who adopted the theories of W Edwards Deming to develop lean manufacturing leading on to continuous improvement into the form we know it today. This work was followed by a whole series of specialist tools to integrate concept with working practice.
Quality Management was rolled out in the main through large integrated production businesses such as motor manufacture yet its application was and is now applied to all sizes of business wherever they are in the world. In deed, what was once the exclusive preserve of manufacturing and production had the principles of Quality Assurance and quality management adapted to provide a equally significant tool for the service sector of business in general. Another example of the wider use of the quality philosophies was the promotion by the UK government during the 1980's of Quality Assurance to 'small and medium business'. A grant aided programme was offered to train and equip people to install and operate quality management techniques.
Now quality management is a significant profession in all the developed economies and continues to evolve to the benefit of all.
Compliance is necessary at a number of levels. The most important is to ensure and be able to identify that compliance exist between a customers product specification and the product which is eventually delivered to him by the manufacturer. This means the producer showing that, behind the scenes, he has complied with the customers specification. This can be done by close relationships between all the parties involved although direct engagement is not always the most practical or cost efficient.
National and International Standard Organisations now issue and maintain Standards for quality systems across a wide range of industries. Businesses and users of these standards are now able to be accredited against almost any of these standards to provide a visual sign to customers and the public and to the world at large of their status and achievement.
Accordingly, in order to speed and assist the spread of the co-ordination and integration of Quality Assurance through supplier, producer and customer, these national and international standards have been used as embryo specifications of Quality Assurance systems to provide a common basis of approach for all interested parties. This structure is of particular assistance in international trading whereby the links in a supply train can assure the purchaser that his product was manufactured to his specification against a known criteria without the expense of visitation.
Quality Manager and Quality Engineer
Many businesses now employ a quality manager. In the first instance his role was to instigate the concepts of quality management across the management team in general - a task which was not always an easy matter. However once achieved the role becomes more one of co-ordination and link man with outside organisations and customers, suppliers and third party auditors of the assessment of Standards. In larger businesses a quality manager will require support, hence the emergence of quality engineers.