Quality Management is a rigorous methodology employed by a manufacturing company to ensure that the quality of its products is consistent. Two essential components of quality management are Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC), which are often used interchangeably, even though there are distinct differences between the two.
The Relationship Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control
According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), “Quality assurance consists of that ‘part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.’ The confidence provided by quality assurance is twofold—internally to management and externally to customers, government agencies, regulators, certifiers and third parties. Quality control is that ‘part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements.’ While quality assurance relates to how a process is performed or how a product is made, quality control is more the inspection aspect of quality management.”
Best practices in quality management focus on the prevention of mistakes and/or defects during the manufacturing process. Adherence to its principles helps to streamline production and ensure the company’s exacting standards are met throughout the design, development, manufacturing, and delivery processes. Quality assurance also helps to safeguard the quality of all raw materials, components, assemblies, and finished products and to prevent any issues arising as a result of defective third-party components.
Typically, those working in a manufacturing quality control team function as overseers of critical systems such as document control, process control, calibration, training, and corrective action, and are also tasked with conducting audits, as necessary, to ensure compliance with ISO 9000 or TS16949 standards.
The ASQ, in collaboration with the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC), recently published the 2016 Global State of Quality 2 Research reports. The report’s findings are based on nearly 1,700 survey respondents from organizations around the world and it addresses topics that are relevant to quality and continuous improvement programs, including the influence of the customer, trends in industry standards, training systems, governance structures, and more. One interesting fact from the report is that 60 percent of respondents don’t know or don’t measure the financial impact quality has on their organization.
Quality Assurance Best Practices
Best practices in a company’s QA program all contribute to a host of benefits, including reduced costs, dramatically increased efficiencies, and ultimately, greatly enhanced customer satisfaction.
5 key quality management best practices to consider:
1: Integration of a Robust ERP system With QA Capabilities Delivers the Highest Quality
While many manufacturers have yet to adopt a fully automated system to ensure the quality of their product, gradually, more and more are transitioning into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) with robust QA functionality to achieve these objectives. These solutions provide the tools needed to effectively manage quality assurance objectives at every point in the supply chain, from initial evaluation to finished product to distribution. ERP systems also enable QA teams to monitor all of the systems and sub-systems in the production cycle for errors or defects so that the finished products are consistently of the highest quality, as well as safe and effective.
2: Quality Assurance Yields Higher Customer Satisfaction
Quality assurance and customer satisfaction are inextricably interconnected. That’s why manufacturers who rely on ERP solutions during the production process are much more likely to deliver higher-quality products that will attract more loyal customers for the long term. An ERP system with robust QA capabilities can gather critical, real-time intelligence from within the manufacturing plant, distribution centers, human resources, etc., as well as every link in the supply chain. Armed with all of this intelligence, manufacturers are not only able to produce higher-quality products; they can deliver higher levels of customer service.
3: Improved Workflows Mean Reduced Expenses and Better Decision-making
Another by-product of an ERP system with integrated QA functionality is the ability to generate accurate forecasts that can anticipate future events in the supply chain and help to make workflows more efficient. Worthy ERP solutions provide a broad range of business analytics that can shed light on the effectiveness of assorted workflows, including production planning, inventory, and distribution. Studies indicate that the use of ERP systems helps businesses make more informed decisions and significantly reduces costs. One such research study by the Aberdeen Group reveals that access to accurate, real-time information about daily operations helps businesses make faster, smarter decisions, enabling them to reduce operational costs by 23% and administration costs by 22%.
4: Quality Products Breed Loyal Customers
This is an extension of QA Best Practices #2, but it bears restating – if a manufacturer takes all the steps necessary to produce a first-rate product and delivers to its customers on time, the odds are very good that not only will they achieve repeat customers, but those repeat customers will recommend their products to others. In other words, the benefits (and the profits) will continue to accrue over time. One additional way to earn customers’ trust is to provide them with up-to-date manufacturing QC and assurance testing information (taken from the ERP system) on products they purchase, which reinforces the perception that the company is committed to quality and transparency.
Compliance is a critical issue for all manufacturers and an ERP solution with QA capabilities will instill confidence that all regulations and manufacturing quality standards are met across the board. For starters, these systems will help manufacturers comply with all health and safety guidelines in the workplace (e.g., OSHA) and thus avoid hefty fines and other penalties that can result from non-compliance. To this end, the right manufacturing ERP can collect all applicable data from integrated systems to monitor workplace safety and to prevent any potential workplace hazards. An ERP solution also generates weekly or monthly safety reports. The system should also enable manufacturers to design their own testing procedures of incoming materials to make sure they meet all requirements, starting with the quality of raw materials and spreading throughout the entire manufacturing process.