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10/14/15 6:00 AM Stephanie Hunter

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Effective quality assurance is guaranteed when you’re focused on the process of getting it done. Process connects the dots.

“Financial analysts have estimated that COPQ typically amounts to 5 percent to 30 percent of gross sales for manufacturing and service companies.” Even looking at this conservatively and accepting the average, over 17% of gross sales affected by the cost of poor quality is simply staggering. What can you do to address quality assurance process improvements? First, understand the basics of what causes poor quality.

Reasons for Poor Quality

What are the critical factors that contribute to poor quality? Well known to QA professionals, conventional wisdom points to the variations in following:

  • Personnel: motivation, training, availability, approach
  • Equipment: maintenance, wear and tear, dated technology, lack of spares, lack of capability
  • Material: low quality, unspecified, consistency
  • Management: mission/vision, planning, understanding, incentives, supervision, communication skills, process understanding,
  • Method: procedures, requirements, alignment, communication
  • Environment: lighting, space, humidity

What to Tackle

Let’s assume you have laser focus and that you have:

  • The right people/team in place
  • Equipment is top notch, maintained and available
  • The material is rock solid
  • Management has set the right expectations, incentives, and importantly the missions
  • The environment is correct

What’s left? The method… with the overarching vision, team, equipment, material, and space — it’s the method that will connect the dots.

How Can you Best Set into Action Quality Assurance Process Improvements?

You can put your quality methods in check by focusing on:

  1. Procedures
  2. Requirements
  3. Alignment
  4. and Communication

1.Writing Procedures

Well written procedures are a challenge. It is best accomplished by:

  • Having knowledge of the audience that will be following the procedure(s)-who will be using your procedures?
    • Technical team members or sales personnel?
    • Targeting and gaining an appreciation of the reader’s perspective will help make the procedures reader specific.
  • Engage an expert to write the procedure, but someone who is also willing and able to translate into terms for the appropriate audience.
    • Identify an expert who is knowledgeable of the topic and able to go into detail
    • This needs to be a person or team that has a profound appreciation of technical knowledge, but also needs to take the reader’s perspective on how he/she will access and digest the procedures.
  • Creating a first draft and knowing that revisions need to be made
    • No matter how many times a writer is tasked with creating procedures, nothing is more important than getting first thoughts down into an outline or a draft
    • It’s easier to edit a document than it is to “talk it through”
  • Developing a logical flow
    • Procedures are done in a stepwise fashion
    • Typically linear-the procedure needs to take into account what occurs prior to and after each step
  • Being concise
    • It is all important to get to the point-procedures need convey critical information, readers should not have to hunt and find the points
    • Less is more. Procedures are best followed with fewer words, more diagrams, charts, and visuals.
  • Answering the basic questions
    • Procedures need to have all the right information basic questions don’t need to be ask
    • Best practice is to have several team members read final drafts to ensure that the basics are covered
  • Adopting common terminology and/or offering sources for terminology
    • Publishing and including the key terms
    • Modifying the terms and definitions 2X/year, ensuring relevancy

2.Identify Requirements

For the best methods, be completely knowledgeable about the requirements. There needs to be an end goal in mind — a benchmark. You need to be able to aim at a target.

  • Examples: X% parts/1,000,000 need to be error free or Y% of system uptime is our standard. Quality assurance is a systematic process and requirements are essential.

3. Alignment

For consistent quality assurance outcomes, everything needs to be in alignment. It’s the saying, “we’re as strong as the sum of our parts.” Every division, department, workgroup, and individual needs to be forward facing and headed in the same direction.

Areas where alignment is critical:

  • Individual job descriptions that call out QA process when a job is directly related to adhering to QA process guidelines. Identify positions as accountable and responsible
  • Process goals that align with QA department goals-outline of QA department goals that incorporate processes and requirements
  • QA Department goals that integrate with Company goals.
  • Company goals that highlight quality

4. Communication

The glue that holds together the strongest quality assurance process improvements is communication. Procedures, requirements, and alignment cannot occur in the absence of clear, concise, regular and engaging communication. Communication needs to:

  • Focus on supporting the positive and offering immediate feedback on errors
  • Ensure adoption of a workable and all encompassing communication platform: nimble to enough to support changes and the complexities of all methods of successful communication
  • Be accessible by team members when needed
  • Provide assurance to leadership that those who access the QA process information has been completed are all part of the cycle of success

Successfully addressing quality assurance in a workplace that is compressed for time, where training dollars are scarce, employees are located in different sites, and learning styles vary widely can be difficult. Consider adopting a communication platform that has all the basics in one place.

Ving allows your team to access QA procedures with images and descriptions, watch videos about the station they are working, view QA documents on the shop floor, combine diagrams/jpegs with audio processes and even ask questions to managers, trainers, or other employees. With Ving, you can address the quality assurance process improvements now and in the long term.