What is Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance is one of the most important issues for almost every organisation on earth. Our organisation has worked in the field for decades, both prior to and since the prevalence of the ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems standard.
The Definition of Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance is a term for the systems and processes used to prevent mistakes and defects in delivering a product or service. To put it another way, the systems to ensure products or services as delivered meet the expectations and contractual requirements of the customer.
What is Quality Assurance? What does it involve in practice?
In practice Quality Assurance must be applied at every step from conceptualising a product to delivering it to the customer. It must be applied not just in production, but also in the design and development phases. A product which is perfectly designed but poorly produced may have defects, just as a product which is produced perfectly but was designed badly will.
In practice Quality Assurance involves a very wide range of discrete activities. There will need to be conceptual analysis to correctly identify the parameters the product or service should comply with to meet the requirements of the customer. Processes will need to be thought through and controlled. Monitoring must be done – probably at multiple phases along the way. Technical checks must be performed, such as calibration of machinery. The staff must have the necessary skills and training to perform their role.
At the end of it all, the final product or service must be checked in some way to be sure that the quality is good this is quality control. This may be by checking each product, checking some of the products at random, or by surveying the customers to assess their satisfaction and document any defects reported.
Quality Assurance vs Quality Control
These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, or the difference is misunderstood. Quality control is really one part of quality assurance. Quality assurance refers to the entire matrix of systems and processes needed to ensure the quality of the product, whereas quality control just refers to checking finished products to ensure they are not defective.
Why is Quality Assurance Important?
Quality Assurance is essential for the long-term success of businesses. Good quality assurance should reduce defects. There is a close relationship between quality assurance and customer satisfaction. Obviously selling defective products or services will antagonise the customers, reducing the chance that they will become repeat customers or recommend the business to others.
A business which sells defective products or services may need to repair or remedy the issues, cutting into the profit margin. If the business does not remedy the issues, it will at very least have irate customers, but may even wind up getting sued.
Reputational damage stemming from leaving customers unhappy has always travelled fast by word of mouth. Now in the digital age that brand damage can travel even further and even faster, through viral posts on social media or scathing Google reviews that will be visible to anyone looking up the company in future.
We live in an increasingly legalistic society. If a product or service is defective there may be legal ramifications. At very least the business may be sued for financial loss by a customer, but in serious cases quality problems can make a product unsafe, and if somebody is injured as a result the legal ramifications could be much more serious. In some jurisdictions owners of a company can be found criminally negligent.
ISO 9001 and Quality Assurance
ISO 9001 is the most recognisable incarnation of quality assurance. It is a standard which essentially boils down to guidelines on what a good quality management system should include. If an external auditor from a certification body attests that your business is doing everything the standard requires, then you can be certified as ISO 9001 compliant. There are a number of marketing benefits to having ISO 9001 Certification, and certification is often a pre-requisite for contracts with government or major companies.