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All business involves constant repetition to deliver its product. Most product has a price which is influenced by the customer and competitors. Therefore the cost of delivery must be controlled to ensure profitability.
The business will draw up a specification of material, labour and equipment, their inter-relationship and usage, whereby each delivery of the product can be as near identical as possible time after time. The specification will incorporate parameters for reliability, safety during manufacture and use, and any environmental issues surrounding the product/delivery. This sequence should be in place whatever the level of sophistication or value of the end product.
With these control mechanisms in place almost all of the elements of the product physicality and resultant cost can be tightly controlled.
To achieve these goals overall and to assist compliance a range of tools, such as continuous improvement, lean production, etc., have been developed over the years.
How is Quality Assurance applied?
Efficient businesses adopt the Quality Assurance principles and benefits from choice and apply them to their manufacturing or service operations and thereby to the benefit of their customers, consumers and clients.
In support of inter-business trading the principles of Quality Assurance have been codified into national standards maintained and monitored by independent organisations such as the British Standard Institute in the UK. Most industrialised nations - Germany and France (which with the UK also function collectively under European Union auspices) as well as the USA, Japan, etc. - have similar structures in place. International Standards are now also well established.
The structure of Standards leads to a third group, of independent companies, who can be hired into any business to 'accredit' that the QA system in place and its operation complies with a national or international code. Such accreditation offers 'assurance' within a supply chain that the product has been reliably and safely produced. Quality audits, performed both internally and by third parties, are also commonplace.
Many businesses have Quality Assurance managers (QAM) to monitor and control their QA systems. Increasingly these managers responsibilities have been extended to include similar codification and control of health and safety (H&S) matters and environmental (E) issues. From this broadening involvement a range of acronyms has arisen which is explained further in QHSE, QUENSH, HSEQ, QEHS, QAM, QE, SQE and other acronyms and acronyms.
What is 'the Quality Register'?
Now well over ten years in operation 'the Quality Register' seeks out people skilled, experienced and active within Quality Assurance, whether hands on - on the shop floor, academically, or anywhere in between. Finding the people first is our unique approach - and it is practical because our concentration is solely upon our three specialist subjects. Indeed from this action an added benefit has emerged; once registered, people stay in touch with us enabling our registration numbers to steadily expand.
'the Quality Register' also seeks employers with vacancies for these people with a view to marrying two compatible parties together. 'the Quality Register' acts as a marriage broker for the quality world: a go-between service for individual and employer.
Most of the people registered with us are resident in the UK with a growing number living in other EU member countries. In addition we have over 1000 people resident in each of India and South Africa as well as small groups in many other countries.
Quality Assurance - a brief history
The development of Quality Assurance traces back to the aftermath of the first world war and the high death rate through accidents during munitions manufacture.
Techniques developed in the UK and the States but sprang to prominence in the 1950's with the birth of Japanese manufacturing skills.
The purpose of the concept is to manufacture the product or produce the service "Right First Time" and to maintain the cost of quality within budgets when substantial manufacturing cost savings can be achieved.
Dr W. Edwards Deming an American statistical academic became the 'father' of the quality movement when invited to 'invigorate the Japanese manufacturing sector in the early 1950'. He was also renowned for his famous 14 principles. A summary of which is worth while at this point.
- Seek constancy of purpose for continual improvement of products and service
- Adopt the new philosophy created in Japan
- Eliminate the need for mass inspection
- End the practice of awarding business solely on the basis of price
- Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production, and service
- Institute modern methods of training on the job for all
- Adopt and institute leadership aimed at helping people do a better job
- Encourage effective two way communication
- Break down barriers between departments and staff
- Eliminate the use of slogans without providing methods
- Eliminate work standards that prescribe quotas - substitute aids and helpful leadership
- Remove the barriers that rob workers and management of their right to pride of workmanship
- Institute a vigorous program of education, and encourage self improvement for everyone
- Clearly define top management's permanent commitment to ever improving quality and productivity
Many analytical tools and methods have been evolved to achieve these principles in practice including FMEA and Pareto analysis, Ishikawa, 8D, 5 whys and DOE. Widespread use of SPC, Six Sigma fault prevention and its Master Black Belts concept, quality improvement, lean manufacturing and manual charting APQP processes also arose.
To aid the adaptation of these principles by any business organisation management procedures and systems have been continuously codified over the year to now result in the all embracing general purpose international standard ISO9000 as well as specialist codes such as TS16949 and Q1in the automotive sector, ISO 15504 for software project modelling, versioning and control - previously known as Tickit, ISO 13485 (Medical Devices), ISO 17025 (Calibration and test laboratories)- and Qualifas, UL/CSA, QS9000, and many more.
Peripheral tools include best practice, planning and achieving continuous improvement (KAIZEN), Total Quality & Change Management, the EFQM Excellence Model and Investors in people.
However, after so much endeavour it is sad to relate that so often the principles and tools of 'quality' and 'business excellence' are often inefficiently and ineffectively, applied. The promised benefits are lost in a fog of jargon and empty phrases and are made difficult to attain by an emphasis on models and badges rather than on straightforward good practice.