What is Quality Assurance? How QA Can Improve Your Business
Last Updated on April 26, 2022 by Owen McGab Enaohwo
Have you ever bought a product and found out after receiving it that it was not as advertised? You would feel ripped off, right? Without giving it a second thought, you would return the product and ask for a refund right away, especially if you paid an arm and a leg for it.
After that, it would take much persuasion before you would consider buying from that brand again. That’s because they’ve damaged their company’s credibility and your confidence in their product. This is due to the neglect or complete lack of quality assurance.
In this definitive guide, we’ll explain, in-depth, what quality assurance is and how it can improve your business.
Let’s dive in.
Chapter 1: Quality Assurance: What Is It and Why Should You Care?
A quality assurance system increases customer confidence and a company’s credibility. It also improves work processes, efficiency, and competitiveness. Although it is hard to keep up with frequent changes in QA while sticking to production deadlines, it pays in the long run.
If you want to find out all you can about QA to avoid future problems with your product or services, read on.
Quality Assurance: Definition of Terms
Whether you sell products or offer services, learning everything you can about quality assurance is a good idea, especially if you want to build a long-lasting business.
Let’s start with the basics by explaining some important terms in QA.
1. What is Quality?
Quality is the measure of excellence of a product or service, including its features, unique attributes, and characteristics. It could be as explicit as a contract or implied in consumers’ expectations regarding a product or service. It also includes meeting customers’ needs regarding functionality, reliability, durability, and product price.
For instance, you can expect a watch to tell the time accurately or an auditor to follow the terms of his contract.
2. What is quality determination?
Product users, clients, or customers determine product quality. It is quite different from saying a product is expensive or high-quality. Cheap products can be considered high quality if their users say so.
3. What is quality in manufacturing?
Quality in manufacturing is the adherence to specifications. It involves quality design and engineering, quality control, and quality management, which are the three primary functions of quality assurance.
Customers’ expectations have risen over time, and quality in manufacturing has thus become an absolute requirement. It makes no difference where the products are manufactured, distributed, or sold. Manufacturers must always follow design specifications and aim to produce quality products at all times.
4. Guilds: the early pioneers of quality
Manufacturing and commerce experienced a period of growth in the Middle Ages. The boom of the period helped artisans achieve prominence as invaluable craft workers. Guilds became an essential part of the period’s product and service quality, comparable to the modern-day International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations.
A guild is an association established by workers with mutual interests. Each region typically had its guild of merchants (peddlers of goods and services) and craft workers (masons, bakers, blacksmiths, and other workers serving essentials of everyday life).
The guilds assessed applicants and bore the expenses of apprenticeship of new members. Besides training members in the industry’s best practices, guilds also inspected products and services to ensure their members complied with the standards that were acceptable.
5. How the industrial revolution shaped quality
The first industrial revolution was also a significant period in developing the concept of quality. According to Christoph Roser, a professor of production management at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and a lean production expert, it began in 1715 with Englishman John Lombe. He wanted to build a silk-spinning mill, a bottleneck in the textile manufacturing chain during that era.
John knew that there was already a similar machine in Italy, so he traveled there. While in Italy, he perfected his knowledge of spinning mechanization, which made the process more efficient. The quality was much better, and it was also cheaper. The production process gradually became more efficient, and quality assurance increased because workers and machines could focus on a single task.
Americans Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford also championed industrial efficiency in the early 19th century. Both of them contributed greatly toward improving industrial efficiency and redefining quality. Henry Ford was an American industrialist, business magnate, founder of the Ford Motor Company, and the chief developer of the assembly line technique of mass production.
Frederick Winslow Taylor was one of America’s foremost American inventors and engineers. His industrial management system, known as Taylorism, greatly influenced the development of industrial engineering and production management throughout the world.
6. What is Assurance?
Assurance is a promise or guarantee meant to inspire confidence in a thing. It is a declaration made in a positive light.
7. What is Quality Assurance?
QA is a method of preventing mistakes and defects in manufactured products or services rendered to customers. It involves services or product delivery to customers. It is also known as QA testing, and it focuses on improving processes to deliver quality to customers.
History of Quality Assurance
After the industrial revolution, there was an increase in mass production. Defining and controlling the quality of products became important. The earliest goal of quality assurance was to meet specific engineering requirements in finished products. As manufacturing processes became increasingly complex, quality became a discipline for controlling process variation to produce quality products.
The quality profession has since expanded to include quality assurance and audit functions. Primarily, industries were the drivers of independent verification of quality because public health and safety were paramount.
1. The first known uses of quality assurance
Society has always strived for quality since ancient human civilization. We can trace quality assurance back, from specifications for buildings in ancient Greece to the Egyptians building the pyramids. In terms of QA in products, the principles seen in modern QA first came to light in the guilds of the Middle Ages.
2. Initial efforts to control the quality of production
Guilds were established partly to build a standard of quality expected by monarchs for specific trades such as bakers and blacksmiths. Guild masters inspected goods to ensure they aligned with the quality standards demanded of members within the guild. Also, you can not officially master a trade until you have produced a masterpiece of a certain quality.
Guilds were in existence until the late 19th century when they dissipated partly due to the industrial revolution. The guilds impeded free trade and had to be gotten rid of.
3. Wartime production
During the First World War, manufacturing processes became more complex, with more workers under supervision. There was the widespread introduction of mass production during this period. That situation created problems because workers could earn money by producing extra products. This condition led to a transfer of poor-quality craft onto the assembly lines.
Inventors like Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford recognized the limitations of the mass production method and the disparity in output quality. Taylor used the concept of scientific management which helped to separate production tasks into several simple steps called the assembly line, thereby limiting quality control to specific people and limited complexity.
Ford stressed standardization of design and components to ensure quality products. Machine inspectors were placed in each department to ensure quality and ensure faulty production did not continue for a significant length of time.
In the early 1920s, Walter A. Shewhart pioneered statistical process control (SPC) at Bell Laboratories. Shewart was an American physicist, engineer and statistician, and sometimes known as the father of statistical quality control. He came up with the control chart and the concept of a state of statistical control in 1924. Statistical control has the same concept as exchangeability that logician William Ernest Johnson developed in the same year in his book Logic, Part III: The Logical Foundations of Science.
Together with a group of scientists, he put sampling inspection on a rational statistical basis. Shewhart consulted for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal on applying control charts to manufacture munitions in 1934. The successful application convinced the Army ordinance to employ AT&T’s George Edwards to consult with them on using statistical quality control among divisions and contractors at the onset of World War II.
Following WWII, General Douglas MacArthur, a former United States Army general, worked with Japan to prop them up after their defeat. The idea was to make Japan an industrial force with the help of W. Edwards Deming. Deming is a hero in Japan because his work increased factory efficiency and quality. Unlike previous methods, the idea was to focus on producing quality products rather than worry about the total cost.
Many people tried to steer the United States industries toward a more comprehensive approach to quality. The US, however, kept on applying the quality control concepts of inspection and sampling to rid production lines of defective products. They were either unaware or ignored advances in QA for decades.
Why Does Quality Assurance Matter?
Occasional defects in products are not a big problem; no human is perfect after all. However, mismanagement of resources, waste of time, poor oversight, and disappointed customers are unacceptable. Quality assurance is essential because of the situations that may arise if this critical step is missing in production.
Organizations that don’t pay close attention to their product and customers across all departments and operational steps will surely fall into losses. It takes years for a company to build its reputation, which could crumble in minutes.
Neglecting quality assurance could lead to potential wide-scale problems that accumulate and negatively affect your entire brand:
- Consumers now have a wide range of options to choose from, and this is no catchy tagline. They will go for a better option if your products no longer serve their needs. In the end, you could lose customers and revenue.
- QA is important not just for strategic reasons but also for your spreadsheets. The disappointment could spread to employees and affect their performance with poor-performing products and constantly disgruntled customers. What’s the point of creating a poor product?
- Poor QA could eventually create cracks in every layer of your company, and you might lose sight of your vision for building the company.
On the other hand, quality assurance, if properly implemented, can benefit your company in the following ways:
- Your employees could have a result-driven rather than job-driven mindset. Everyone would carry out their duty while maintaining QA as a matter of principle and not a routine checkmark. Work would be about solving problems and bettering the lives of customers. Business would thrive as a result.
- With attention to QA, you could be creating a positive work environment where your employees can thrive. Work attitude is a variable that is extremely difficult to control or track. Only a few managers or directors have grasped the concept well enough. A mission-guided company where everyone takes quality to heart and works to give the best to customers creates a positive workplace.
- Careful attention to QA helps you create a fervent following for your brand. Customer loyalty is ensured when your company follows through on its promises. QA should be the pulse of your brand and the very thing many successful businesses spend big bucks on.
Why is Quality Assurance Important and Why is It Growing More Prevalent?
QA is important because it speaks directly to the customer’s feelings about a product. It shows that the manufacturer cares and has paid careful attention to the customer’s pay point. Customers are likely to stick with a brand that consistently delivers quality. QA also shows that you prioritize trust and integrity. It gives your company the stamp of dependability and credibility.
To truly understand why QA has grown more prevalent, you should know how customer tastes have evolved over the century. Countless resources have gone into the industry studies of what makes customers tick. What are the things that influence buying decisions? Why do customers remain loyal to a brand, and what turns them off? There are more questions, but here are some results from the study:
- Emotions, rather than logic, influence consumers. You can’t explain buyers’ decisions in a logical series of steps to the disappointment of economists and marketing analysts. It is a complex mix of emotions, tastes, experiences, and opportunities—subconscious markers that are hard to predict. In the end, your unique selling point (USP) might not even scratch the surface of what motivates real people.
- Building trust is at the very top of the list. Establishing trust is key to any branding efforts and facilitates future contacts between customers and the brand.
- People return to brands they are familiar with. Although the age of a business is essential, integrity also matters. What matters isn’t how long a company has existed but their attention to marketing and purposeful QA.
- The purpose of your brand should be known to people. What do you hope to achieve by being in that space? If customers can define your brand in simple terms, you might need to up your marketing game.
- Consistency is crucial and ties back to QA. Even loyal customers don’t appreciate drastic changes. Whatever changes you want to make to products or how you market them, let it be known to consumers so they can adjust accordingly.
Understanding how your customers think might be tricky, but with the proper QA, you can go a long way in anticipating and meeting their buying needs.
Understanding How Quality Assurance Works
Quality assurance methods focus on building good processes for producing products with in-built quality instead of going through an unmonitored production process and trying to inspect an already finished product.
The Industrial Revolution resulted in increased labor specialization and mechanization. QA arose to address the specialized tasks workers performed. With mass production came the need to monitor the quality of products produced by several workers; thus, they created the role of quality inspectors.
Modern approaches to quality assurance vary depending on the industry. For instance, a hospital might adopt QA methods to enhance healthcare quality. This could encompass defining what quality of effective patient care means. Setting benchmarks for quality and monitoring it with surveys, audits, and supervision is a way to QA.
A nutritional supplement manufacturer would use methods utterly different from that of the hospital. That’s because the parameters are quite different. For example, the supplement company could use guidelines for active pharmaceutical ingredients as a basis in its processes.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), founded in 1947, ensures quality across national borders. It comprises standard organizations representing over 160 countries and preserves the effective quality assurance system for manufacturing and service industries.
Quality Assurance Methods
Quality assurance involves several methods depending on the industry.
1. Failure Testing
This is the process of continually testing a product to know if it will break or fail. For physical products, this could involve exposing them to heat, pressure, or vibration to see if they can withstand the stress. Failure testing for software products could entail placing the software in high usage or load conditions.
2. Statistical Process Control (SPC)
Statistical process control is a method based on objective data analysis. Walter Shewhart developed it at the Western Electric Company and Bell Telephone Laboratories in the 1920s and 1930s. This method employs statistical models to maintain and control production.
3. Total Quality Management (TQM)
Total quality management applies to the quantitative methods as the fundamentals for continuous improvement. TQM uses facts, data, and analysis to back product planning and review of performances.
4. Models and Standards
The ISO 17025 is an international standard that clearly states the general requirements for a company’s competence to conduct tests and calibration. It has fifteen management requirements and ten technical requirements. These requirements show the conditions a laboratory must fulfill to be accredited.
Management systems point to the organizational structure for maintaining processes or activities that convert resources into products or services. The format should satisfy company objectives such as customer’s quality needs, regulatory compliance, and meeting environmental regulations. The WHO (World Health Organization) offers several tools and training courses for quality assurance in public health facilities.
The Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is commonly used to apply Process and Product Quality Assurance (PPQA) in an organization. The CMMI stages are in five steps, and a company can carry out its activities by performing the specifics.
5. Company Quality
In the 1980s, company quality focused on management, and people came to the forefront in the US. They proposed that if all departments approached quality with an open mind, success was attainable provided management led the quality improvement process. The organization-wide approach stresses four aspects (contained in standards such as ISO 9001):
- Elements like controls, job management, adequate processes, performance and integrity criteria, and identification of records.
- Competencies like skills, knowledge, qualifications, and experiences.
- Soft elements like personal integrity, confidence, motivation, team spirit, company culture, and quality relationships.
- Infrastructure, since it limits or enhances functionality in an organization.
The quality of output is at risk if a company is deficient in any of the aspects above.
The PDCA Cycle: Understanding the Processes Involved in Performing Quality Assurance
QA has an established cycle called the PDCA cycle, or Deming cycle after its developer W. Edwards Deming, who is considered by many as the father of modern quality control and assurance. Below are the four steps involved:
- Plan: Planning and establishing the process-related objectives of a company and determining the processes that are required to produce high-quality end products
- Do: Here is the action part, the developing and testing of products and changing the plan if necessary. This is also the data gathering stage to determine the plan’s effectiveness.
- Check: Here’s where the process is monitored, adjusted, and checked to see if it meets set objectives. Data gathered from tests are compared and modified to conform to expected standards.
- Act: This is also referred to as “adjust.” The solution is adjusted based on data gathered from the “do” and “check” steps at this stage. The steps above are repeated to ensure the processes an organization follows. They are also evaluated and improved upon from time to time.
The Pros and Cons of Quality Assurance
You can stand out from the competition by producing quality products. You not only save money but also meet the expectations of customers.
1. QA saves money
It ensures cost reduction by preventing wastage of money and resources that could stem from producing defective products.
2. Prevents unforeseen emergencies
QA leaves no margin for error by preventing unforeseen occurrences. The stakes are incredibly high when dealing with corporate software, for example. The bugs could result in system blackouts, missing data, and communication breakdowns.
3. Promotes the organization’s productivity and efficiency
You can fix defects in the early stages of product development and testing; that way, you won’t have to deal with such problems later on.
4. Boosts customer satisfaction
Involving your customers in the testing process can also boost customer satisfaction with your product. Letting customers in on software development and testing ensures they know the quality.
5. Improves client confidence
Conducting occasional reviews increases client confidence in the way you handle QA. Also, informing customers of changes and the why goes a long way.
Each step in executing an effective QA requires time to perfect products and reduce wastage. It is always worth it in the long term.
Every stage of QA involves spending money and resources to ensure the eventual release of quality products.
3. Challenging to implement sometimes
QA involves implementing all the steps from development through production. Sometimes it can be hard to replicate all the steps during this stage.
Businesses that adopt QA can expect to have the edge over other companies in the same space. ISO certification is undoubtedly one of the best ways to adopt a standard QA in any industry.
Why There’s a Need For a Quality Assurance Program
Even though manufacturers have massive pressure to build quality products in little time, don’t put yourself under pressure. Instead, ensure you get it right the first time and maintain that consistency to stay competitive in the global market.
There’s no gainsaying that neglecting quality assurance could lead to potential wide-scale problems that accumulate and eventually affect your entire brand negatively. However, if well implemented, quality assurance could help your organization in several ways.
With a solid QA program, you can monitor staff performance and ensure they keep to your set standards. QA lets you know if you have established the correct benchmarks and possible needed changes.
A sound QA system is required for business success, especially now that dissatisfied customers have several options to choose from. A negative review about your product or services can spread to people in a matter of minutes.
Here are some reasons why you need a quality assurance program:
1. Prevent Brand and Reputation Damage
When customers think of your brand, specific images, feelings, and expectations should come to mind. Research In Motion (RIM), the telecommunications company that designed the Blackberry, experienced an event that negatively impacted its brand.
They were faced with lawsuits, canceled subscriptions, and embarrassment because their email system blacked out for three days straight. Their primary and backup email system also failed. A good quality assurance program could have prevented this. Maintaining a set standard of regulation and procedures everyone must comply with is essential. After all, whatever is constantly measured improves.
2. Maintain ISO Compliance
ISO certification improves your business credibility, particularly with international organizations. For some businesses, suppliers must have an updated quality certification. This shows that your business is professional and stable.
ISO 9001 requires that organizations set up processes to understand customer requirements. Every member of your organization needs to understand this requirement. Tracking and analyzing customer satisfaction has a direct relationship with customer relationship management. To meet the standards, you need to ask for customer feedback and solve issues that may arise promptly.
By implementing QA, you’re making a regular commitment to customers to deliver quality consistently.
3. Know What Your Customers Want
You can’t always make an intuitive guess of your customers’ needs. Also, investors need reliable data to decide between committing their money or not. A QA program supplies you with data straight from the source—the customer. With the information, you can understand customer pain points and adjust accordingly.
4. Promote Higher Productivity
By gathering accurate data from your QA programs, you have all the resources you need for error-free production. No need to waste any more money since you have mastered the process. You now know exactly what your customers need and the right team for the job.
5. Have Better-Functioning Teams
Every process has been practiced, right? There is no confusion as to who can do a better job. Everyone knows where they fall short and need to make up. What is left is constant training to improve on the foundations.
6. More Efficient and Realistic Planning
It is easier to achieve your goals if you already know the steps to follow. This is what QA programs do for you. The path ahead is clear enough, and if equipped with the correct data, you can evaluate the status of your process and even predict completion time. You can also do damage control if there is a need for it.
Although QA programs might seem expensive and time-consuming, can you afford to skip them?
Factors to Consider for a Successful Quality Assurance Program
A QA program should be tailored toward the goals of your organization. The ideal team would have a QA analyst or manager for such programs. Here are some tips to ensure a successful QA program:
1. Program Strategy
A QA program strategy outlines the number and frequency of evaluation and feedback to sales agents. The method to be used and mode of interaction (email, telephone, and chat) depends on the industry and ultimate aim.
2. Quality Monitoring Criteria
This entails making the criteria that the QA team lead will examine while assessing transactions with prospects or customers.
Documenting all procedures, policies, and transactions is essential for use as a standard against future evaluations. You should also record calls, emails, and all other types of interactions. This will assist the sales team with constant audits and sales script updates.
Training processes aligned with the QA program are vital in addressing system issues, concerns on agent performance, and new content. The relevant staff should be trained in the QA program to facilitate effective learning and development. The more effective the training, the better it is for gaining and keeping customers.
Another aspect of the QA program is effective coaching. It helps agents to identify their strengths and areas of improvement. Educational and supportive coaching sessions provide agents with the resources they need to strengthen their resolve and achieve QA goals.
Setting up a recurrent process that aligns with the people involved in the QA process ensures a consistent transaction and fair QA program. You can develop a delta process to ensure consistency, and all QA scores are assigned to an agent equitably.
A daily, monthly, or weekly progress report form can assist you in recognizing the knowledge gaps of QA agents. Their progress, strengths, weaknesses, and procedural enhancements can be improved.
8. Alerts and Required Actions
Constantly monitoring the process gives you the chance to have handy information for correcting agent behavior and improving operational performance. You will be notified with alerts and required action whenever dishonest behavior is noticed.
9. Recognition Program
Top performers should be acknowledged and rewarded to encourage continued success in a QA program. Coming up with a good recognition program that recognizes best practices motivates agents and others. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate.
Chapter 2: Understanding Key Concepts in Quality Assurance
It is necessary to clarify a few key concepts to understand what quality assurance entails.
Quality Assurance (QA) Principles
These are the basic principles underlying quality assurance processes. Every organization must abide by these fundamental principles to standardize their business processes and get the best out of them.
The two (2) principles included in QA are:
- Fit for purpose: This implies that the product should be suitable for its intended purpose and adequate for the purpose for which the consumer has selected it. Abiding by this principle will save businesses the stress of recalling their products, refunds, damaged reputations, and sanctions.
- Right first time: This principle demands that businesses should eliminate mistakes. According to the Cambridge dictionary, “If something is done right the first time, it is done perfectly every time, and no time and money is wasted correcting errors caused by doing it too fast or without controlling quality.”
Internal Quality Assurance vs. External Quality Assurance Practices
Internal quality assurance (IQA) aims to ensure strict adherence to a company’s quality assurance procedures. A system is put in place to monitor, assess the extent of compliance, and standardize procedures among employees in various departments of an organization.
Internal quality assurers are often supervisors or managers and are naturally responsible for conducting quality assurance checks on business processes and ensuring quality compliance in business operations.
In external quality assurance (EQA) an organization or quality assurance agency from outside the institution performs external quality assurance. The organization evaluates the institution’s operation or programs to see if they meet the predetermined standards.
Quality control, accountability, standardization, inspection, and accreditation are among its objectives. External quality assurers complement the effort of internal quality assurers. Their end goal is to ensure the prevalence of quality within an organization.
a. List of internal and external QA practices
- Sampling: Acceptance sampling is a statistical test used in quality assurance. It enables a company to determine the quality of a batch of products by randomly selecting a number of them for testing.
- Quality control: Quality control (QC) is a process by which a company seeks to maintain or improve product quality.
- Accountability: It is a system that holds people responsible and ensures that quality standards will be met and maintained over time.
- Inspection: QA inspections ensure that products and processes meet the quality standards that have been established. They aid in identifying gaps and process anomalies and are an essential part of resolving issues, making continuous improvements, and maintaining compliance.
- Accreditation: Accreditation is a type of external quality assurance process in which an external body (accrediting agency) evaluates the services and operations of organizations or programs to determine if applicable standards are met. Accreditation is a status as well as a process.
- Standardization: Standardization is an internal quality assurance process that ensures uniformity across a business organization, eliminates confusion, prevents chaos, and produces the desired results.
- Others are observation, feedback, testing, among others.
b. The pros and cons of internal vs. external QA practices
Budgets, preferences, and laws influence the tendency of a company to favor one type of QA practice over the other. Some companies use a hybrid of internal and external QA practices to comply with quality standards. Whichever method you favor, each has its pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Internal QA Inspections
|The company saves money on external consultants and auditors as there is no need to hire them.||The gathered data may be biased and might be used to cover up employee negligence and other unethical practices.|
|In-house employees perform the audit and are in the best position to understand the quality standards of the business better.||The management might not take the enforcement of changes seriously, as there is no external pressure to do so.|
|The internal audit department can check the authenticity of inspection reports faster since they have easy access to the data.||Internal QA inspectors may grow complacent over time and treat their job like a chore.|
Pros and Cons of External QA Inspections
|External quality inspectors have experience and knowledge built from conducting inspections in different companies.||It is expensive to hire a third-party inspector to conduct QA audits.|
|Third-party quality inspectors provide an unbiased and objective assessment report compared to in-house quality inspectors.||External quality inspectors may be valued for being objective, but their work might be ineffective if they lack specialized knowledge for the particular product or service.|
|By engaging the service of an external inspector, workers can focus on other daily tasks.||Third-party inspectors can make demands requiring staff to work extra hours, contributing to workplace stress.|
Quality Assurance Activities
The three key activities of QA in project management are:
The first activity in QA is the overall planning of processes that would assure quality. The purpose of planning is to design a QA plan template (an efficient tool that ensures quality in projects) and monitor problems and drawbacks during the implementation stage. The QA team needs to use the plan as a guide during QA activities, including audit and analysis.
The fundamental steps in creating a QA plan template are:
- Setting goals for the quality assurance project.
- Delegate responsibilities to members of the QA team, and set the hierarchy of management (who will do which QA activity?).
- Compile relevant data on the project standards and outline compliance criteria.
- Identify the metrics to be measured to determine the quality and overall performance levels.
A quality audit systematically reviews project activities to identify if they comply with organizational and tactical decisions. The project quality audit aims to show any inefficient policies that may reduce quality or increase the probability of failure.
A typical audit session involves the team under supervision reviewing quality metrics like budget deviation, timely performance, failure rate, and defect frequency. It measures project activities against a quality baseline. External and independent auditors usually carry out quality auditing with expert knowledge and advice.
- Analyzing project quality
Quality analysis is steps used to examine and investigate certain project activities and identify what enhances the value of the activity. The goal is to review levels of quality and define the necessary improvements in the existing quality management framework.
This process involves examining problems QA teams experience, deviations in constraints, and performing root cause analysis. It also involves methods for identifying and solving problems and techniques for growing corrective measures.
For example, while doing fit analysis, product testing is used for examining product features and checking if they fit into user acceptance criteria.
Quality Assurance Process
The quality assurance process is a continuous effort to improve processes, products, and services.
Six Steps of a Quality Assurance Process
Step 1: Identify Improvement Opportunities. Select the appropriate process for improvement.
- Process evaluation
- Challenge or problem selection
Step 2: Analyze. Identify and verify the root cause(s).
Step 3: Take Action. Plan and implement actions that correct the root cause(s).
Step 4: Study Results. Confirm the measures taken to achieve the target.
Step 5: Standardize Solution. Ensure the improved level of performance is maintained.
Step 6: Plan for the Future.
- Make a plan of what is to be done with any problems that are left.
- Assess the effectiveness of the team and set a target for improvement.
Quality Assurance (QA) Process and the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)
The quality assurance (QA) process is the same as the continuous improvement process (CIP), which is an act of continuously working to improve a process, product, or service by taking small incremental steps.
Why Use a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) for Quality Assurance (QA)?
CIP is among the most widely used tools that use the four-step QA methods: plan, do, check and act.
Executing the CIP in an organization is a widely used practice today because of the main advantages of the QA method. It is a six-step systematic way to plan, sequence, and execute improvement efforts applying data and using the Shewhart cycle (plan, do, study and act).
The CIP supplies a common language and methodology that helps you understand the improvement process. The CIP always connects with an organization’s goals and priorities.
The Best Time to Start a Quality Assurance Process
There is no wrong time to start a CIP process, but the earlier, the better. Here is a list of the times you can implement a QA process:
- At the start of the project
- Process and procedure development stage
- New or improved product or service stage
- During data collection and analysis
- Any change implementation process
- Whenever there is failure
Quality Assurance Plans (QAP)
A quality assurance plan (QAP) is used to define the criteria and processes that will ensure and verify that data meet particular quality objectives throughout its lifecycle.
Quality Assurance Plans: Recommended Practices
A QAP focuses on quality goals, criteria, assessment, and validation methods. It covers the whole data lifecycle from its acquisition to publication and can do the following:
- Identification of data quality objectives for your data and project.
- Identification of requirements for:
- Training staff and enhancing their skills.
- Laboratory and field processes and tools that comply with data collection standards.
- The types of software and files to use for data handling and analysis that backs quality data goals.
- Structure, standards for data and domains consistent with societal conventions for other data in the same field.
- Occasional data quality assessment and use in defining quality metrics.
- Description of data storage structure that can help in checking errors and data document quality.
- Description of approved data entry tools and procedure if applicable.
- Establishment of quality data criteria and screening processes for all collated data.
- Inclusion of quality metrics that can determine the status of current data quality.
- Establishment of a data quality assessment plan as sections of data flow.
- Holding a process for data corrections handling.
- Including a process for users of data to dispute and correct data
Quality Assurance Plans: Examples
There are quite a lot of quality assurance plans. However, we will look at specific examples from the US Geological Survey (USGS). Here you go:
- USGS Quality Assurance Plan for Digital Aerial Imagery (PDF)
The US Geological Survey (USGS) and its partners launched a QA Plan for Digital Aerial Imagery to facilitate the acceptance of new digital technologies in aerial imaging and mapping.
- US Geological Survey Quality-Assurance Plan for Surface-Water Activities in Kansas, 2015
This research report is a surface water QA plan that records the standards, policies, and procedures of the Kansas Water Science Center (KSWSC) of the USGS for activities concerned with collecting, processing, storing, and publishing surface water data.
- Quality-Assurance Plan for the Analysis of Fluvial Sediment by the US Geological Survey Kentucky Water Science Center Sediment Laboratory
This report describes the laboratory procedures used by the US Geological Survey Kentucky Water Science Center Sediment Laboratory to process and analyze fluvial-sediment samples for the concentration of sand. The document describes the processes a sediment sample goes through, from the analytical process to the compilation of the analysis result.
- USGS National Water Quality Laboratory: NWQL Quality Links, Including Quality Assurance Plan
The USGS National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) is a top-class research and environmental analysis laboratory on the campus of the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, CO. One of the critical roles of the laboratory is producing water quality data and describing the quality of data.
- National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP): Quality Assurance Plans
Chemical measurements of precipitation samples require strict QA and quality control procedures to ensure meaningful data is obtained. Stringent QA and QC methods are vital to getting unbiased, precise, and representative atmospheric deposition measurements. This helps maintain the sample’s integrity during collection, handling, and analysis. They thus emphasized QA in all aspects of the NADP procedures.
- US EPA Guidance on Preparing a QA Project Plan
This document provides a guideline for preparing a QA project plan (project management). It contains a guideline of the National EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requirements as outlined in the EPA requirements and companion guidance document.
How to Develop a Quality Assurance Plan
The first quality assurance activities involve planning the whole process of assuring quality. Its purpose is to design a QA plan template that is a highly effective tool in ensuring quality in projects—also noting problems and limitations that may occur during the process of executing the projects. A valuable team is needed to utilize the plan and carry out other quality assurance activities such as auditing and analysis.
The basic steps in developing a quality assurance plan template are sequential and begin with setting goals for the project and why the project needs quality assurance.
The next step is to assign duties to quality assurance team members and decide the management hierarchy in carrying out QA activities, gathering information on available standards, and defining compliance criteria on making QA. It aso involves recognizing the standard of measurements and metrics to gauge quality levels and performance to know if the project is performing under appropriate quality levels.
Quality Assurance (QA) Surveillance
One of the activities of quality assurance is surveillance. It is a continuous verification of a contractor’s quality system to see if it meets contract quality requirements and yields quality products. QA surveillance identifies vital processes, develops and maintains a risk-based surveillance plan, and does other necessary surveillance and data analysis.
Quality Assurance (QA) Audit
A quality assurance audit is a systematic and documented process performed by competent, independent personnel to evaluate an organization’s adherence to principles and requirements of quality regulations and customer expectations.
The main objective of a quality assurance audit is to compile information related to the ongoing status of a process and apply it to evaluate performance against set criteria. When you perform an audit, you review activities, records, processes, systems, user experience, staff competencies, etc., against established performance standards.
Quality Assurance Systems
Quality assurance systems are measures for the effective functioning of any quality management system (QMS). They include processes that ensure organizations conform to quality requirements, such as ensuring products’ or services’ safety and optimal functioning. The essential requirements for QA systems to follow are explicitly stated in the standards for each industry.
Chapter 3: Quality Assurance FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Quality assurance guides you to continue producing quality products and services. This aids in the long-term retention of your existing clients. It also improves productivity, eliminates errors, and ensures that only high-quality items reach the market.
As you do the practice of quality assurance, many questions come to mind. In this chapter, you’ll get answers to frequently asked quality assurance questions.
Let’s get started.
1. What are quality assurance best practices?
Quality assurance is vital to your business’s success. For it to work correctly, you need to set it up properly. There’s no one sure process when conducting quality assurance. Different companies, industries, and teams have their requirements.
Below are some quality assurance best practices to keep in mind.
Create a set of clear procedures for the team to follow
Always ensure that you have “in-process verification points” in place to assure the intended product quality.
You should also focus on identifying clear objectives, creating succinct and robust control checklists, and encouraging the team to follow them.
With these, you’ll be able to correctly specify product routes, conduct periodic reviews, and sense your consumers’ thoughts.
Create a robust testing environment
Also, you have to create a robust testing environment so that you’re constantly ensuring that your products are up to the necessary quality standard.
So, put a distinct test environment in place and ensure that it is similar to your production line. Everything should be identical, from every hardware component to software programs, down to the patch level. This way, you’ll have a well-defined procedure to ensure that any changes made in one environment were mirrored in the other.
Select release criteria carefully
What should be in place before a product passes?
You should put those criteria in place. It’s called release criteria.
This is a predefined contract that you and your stakeholders agreed to before any product or service moves to the next level.
Select relevant criteria to avoid discrepancies between what was promised and delivered.
Apply automated testing to high-risk areas
Automated testing in high-risk areas helps save money and fasten the entire quality assurance process.
You can use this approach more effectively during requirement analysis as it provides you with an advance report of the likely risks of the products and features when they hit the market.
This will guide you to take proactive actions to mitigate them and reduce errors in future production.
Allocate time appropriately for each process
Appropriate allocation of time is a quality assurance expert best practice that ascertains your understanding of the importance of quality.
You manage time and quality by properly setting targets and taking measurements. Besides, your growth metrics would be how best you can manage the triple constraint (scope, money, and time).
With this, you’ll be able to communicate quality levels with your stakeholders and ensure that your project achieves standards that match your budget and schedule objectives.
It is crucial to prioritize bug fixes based on software usage
Not being ready to fix problems defeats the purpose of developing a quality product. In quality assurance, it’s essential to prioritize bug fixes or errors.
If a defect prevents the feature from being labeled “complete,” it’s essential that you quickly fix it.
Form dedicated security and performance testing team
Products that are of less quality could destroy your business. This is why you should create reliable protection and performance testing teams you trust and are difficult to control by other stakeholders.
They should be largely dependent on the engineering team’s knowledge and assured by code review, analysis, and reworking. They should also ensure that the product is of the highest possible quality, both architecturally and functionally.
Simulate customer accounts similar to a production environment
The way you feel about your product isn’t always enough. Make sure that you simulate your customers’ perspectives before the product reaches the market.
For instance, you have a test environment when you set aside storage, computation power, and other resources to provide room for tests. But when you simulate for your customers, you get actual users to test the product and make reviews of them.
Start the procedure as soon as possible
Don’t begin your quality assurance process at the end of your production. Starting it early in a project’s life cycle is critical.
This is important as it provides your team with the needed time to test projects within timeframes and spot errors quickly.
Each project phase should have quality gates in place
Establish quality gates at each phase of your production. From preparation to exploration, realization, deployment, and the run phase, make certain that your product passes through some quality checks before moving to the next stage.
This will allow you to balance product quality, and your products will seamlessly empathize with your users.
Transparency should be a top priority
Transparency for high-quality products and services should be a top priority in your organization. You can attain this level by paying attention to the interconnected components that make a quality product.
When you design solutions to avoid quality-affecting concerns, it will empower your team to report developing challenges in real time.
Make use of automation
Identify the need for automation in your testing process and apply automation strategies to your quality assurance process. It will make your job easier and allow your team to improve monitoring.
To achieve this, identify skilled resources, tools, and capabilities, and utilize automation techniques that will help you reduce faults and scale production.
Ensure that cross-functional collaboration is possible
Many organizations overlook collaboration as a vital aspect of quality assurance. By creating engaging cross-functional teams, you’re able to establish quality assurance advocates throughout your firm.
Try to be as objective as possible for your own work
Be objective. You can’t succeed as a quality assurance specialist if you’re biased. It’s critical to be as objective about the problem or work at hand as possible.
Set up an integrated quality control system that is constant
Set up an integrated quality control system that connects DevOps and quality assurance experts. With this, you can develop a well-formed quality assurance team that will save everyone time and energy.
Every fix should be documented and tested
Document each process of your quality assurance. This will help you notice minor changes in the system. So when you test scenarios and confirm that a broken system is due to a change from the usual, it shows that minor adjustments might have far-reaching unforeseen repercussions.
Team members should be rotated throughout deployments
Peer review is a very successful quality assurance technique. Always ensure that each team member rotates through numerous deployments regularly. This is to ensure iterative evaluations throughout the deployment life cycle.
This method ensures that reviews are fair and thorough, ensuring that the product meets user and market expectations.
2. What industries does quality assurance apply to?
Quality assurance works across many industries, not just in processing or manufacturing companies. Below are some industries that benefit from quality assurance.
The government sector provides tangible and intangible services requiring public trust, from public utilities to legislative bodies and regulatory agencies.
Quality assurance encourages clearer messaging, bureaucratic processes, and access to informational or educational resources in this sector, allowing the public to get essential and straightforward information. It also reduces processing times and streamlines numerous government activities to benefit regular citizens.
Technology is pervasive, from computers and phones to the increasing popularity of smart technology in cars, homes, schools, and companies. Many of our everyday activities are dominated by its broad and overwhelming reach.
The nature of the tech industry requires quality assurance and control across the board to ensure consumers get the best product and promote brand integrity.
Nonprofit organizations rely on trust, ambassadorship, benevolence, and social good to function. The services nonprofit organizations provide incorporate many quality assurance and quality management systems to stay faithful to their goals.
For instance, if a nonprofit organization ignores quality, it may lose its funders’ trust and support. You need to create a high-value impact with funders’ money, and if you can’t do so, your nonprofit could cease to exist.
People in the financial services industry use benevolence and consumer-first principles at the heart of quality assurance. They also use it for in-person, online marketing, and customer service activities that are creative and focused on the customer.
Money goes missing when there’s no system to check the company’s financials. Quality assurance ensures that each penny spent is well audited and accounted for.
The manufacturing sector has been the most advanced with quality assurance, from testing, checks and balances, and quality control principles in the automotive, electrical, heavy machinery, steel, and raw products industries, and so much more.
Quality assurance has become the most critical factor in manufacturing organizations’ branding initiatives due to the market nature, competition, product reliability, cost-effectiveness, and confidence it generates.
Food and beverages
Successful food and beverage companies are known for their consistency and consumer responsiveness. Customer preferences in food and drinks have shifted in favor of products with precise components and ethical sourcing, highlighted in modern quality assurance.
Health and beauty
Health and beauty companies compete for the market share by performing quality assurance and trust-focused marketing approaches. There’s usually a conflict between producing products that people want and adhering strictly to available standards. Quality assurance aids in the mediation of these requirements.
Quality assurance is essential in this field as it directly deals with human lives. They identify, assess, correct, and monitor critical patient care areas to improve the quality of health maintenance services while staying within budgetary constraints.
In pharmaceuticals, quality assurance experts keep track of the warehouse for incoming components, containers, closures, and labels. They do manufacturing process checks, process monitoring controls, and review production record reviews.
Quality assurance professionals monitor the structure that oversees the aviation industry’s equipment, systems, and procedures. They verify the state civil aviation regulatory organizations’ standards and ensure they are all met. They also provide customer safety, trust, and satisfaction by delivering products or services up to par.
Quality assurance in project management ensures correctness in the steps taken to complete a project. It ensures that a project goes according to plans.
For instance, ensuring that progress reports are filed on time and in the correct format, or that a team member has the necessary qualifications to complete a task is required during project management.
Software quality assurance experts ensure that all software engineering processes, methodologies, activities, and work items are monitored and meet set criteria. They sift through the entire software development process, from requirements definition to coding and release, and make sure that they align with best practices.
Quality assurance professionals in software development focus on tools, technologies, and techniques that make top-quality software development possible.
3. What is a quality assurance scorecard?
A quality assurance scorecard is a scorecard that allows a quality assurance analyst, team lead, or manager to grade their client interactions.
These scorecards are based on a company’s principles and standards for agent-customer interactions. They serve as the backbone of the quality assurance process, allowing support teams to guarantee that customer interaction happens as planned.
Irrespective of your company’s size or annual revenue, implementing a quality assurance scorecard in your process is quite essential.
Quality assurance scorecards provide a guiding framework for stakeholders and managers to monitor external agents. This ensures that everyone stays on the same page on job activities.
Transparency and accountability
It allows you to create transparency and accountability for day-to-day tasks. Quality assurance scorecards let you assess stakeholders and their responsibilities. For instance, to automate the ticket assignment and keep managers accountable to their grade goals, you could build a quality assurance scorecard to check this.
The quality assurance scorecards help you identify and solve inefficiencies in their quality assurance process. It creates a system that your team can get response times back to pre-growth surge levels.
4. How do you tell the difference between quality assurance and testing?
Quality assurance refers to the actions that guarantee the project meets the stakeholders’ expectations, whereas testing is a procedure that involves exploring a system to uncover flaws.
The goal of testing is to control the quality, whereas quality assurance is to ensure the quality.
To avoid the recurrence of an error, the quality assurance specialist identifies the process that resulted in the error and re-engineers the system to eliminate the flaws. This quality assurance process ensures that the product will continue to perform as expected by the customer.
Testing is a component of quality control. It is the process of operating a system to find and correct flaws in the product. Testing is an essential aspect of quality control since it demonstrates that the product performs as expected and designed. Technical reviews, software testing, and code inspections are examples of quality control.
This means that quality assurance ensures that the assembly line actually works in a production line. In contrast, quality control is the process of ensuring that the items that come off the assembly line fit the needed requirements.
5. What do quality assurance engineers do?
Quality assurance engineers, often known as QA engineers, monitor the product’s development process from beginning to end. Before moving on to the next phase, they supervise production and inspect each element to verify it satisfies business standards and external compliance.
The purpose of quality assurance engineers is to ensure that products are market-ready and comply with all regulatory requirements before they are distributed to the public. Manufacturing and software businesses are the most prevalent employers of quality assurance engineers.
6. What are the top quality assurance certifications?
There are various quality assurance certifications, each with its own set of standards for different products. If you’re thinking of getting a QA certification, then make sure you choose one that fits your level of experience, standardizes your industry, and meets your country’s requirements.
Here are the top quality assurance certifications.
Certified Test Engineer (CSTE)
The purpose of this QA certification is to establish and maintain the requirements for an initial software quality assurance qualification that demonstrates competency in the fundamentals of QC in the IT field.
A CSTE certification allows you to join a well-known professional organization, enhance your career, and demonstrate your capacity to advise management. The certification is for newcomers to the profession who want to improve their resume and experience.
Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA)
This credential has a more advanced foundation than the CSTE. It includes quality assurance and quality control. After obtaining their CSTE and progressing further in their QA responsibilities, the course is taken.
Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST)
This certification indicates basic knowledge of QA testing and technical aspects in IT software and the ability to use the methodologies acquired in the course. For a newbie, it provides excellent QA training.
Certified Manager of Software Quality (CMSQ)
Obtaining this certification demonstrates that the individual is highly qualified in software QA techniques, skills, and abilities, and has solid management capabilities to head a QA team.
International Software Testing Qualification Board (ISTQB)
This board is an international software testing qualification organization that qualifies persons as ISTQB testers and is widely recognized as the gold standard for software testing qualifications. It has worldwide acceptance, a universal syllabus, and national boards. You have the option of working at the foundational, advanced, or expert levels.
7. What are the top quality assurance skills and qualities?
Businesses deliver better products and services to their consumers when their employees strive for excellence. Thus, your skills and qualities as a quality assurance professional lets you do accurate work for your company.
Here are some skills and qualities that every quality assurance engineer should have.
Attention to detail
Quality assurance entails paying attention to minor details to ensure that the process runs well. Even the tiniest flaw in a process might jeopardize the capacity to produce a quality product; therefore, meticulous attention to detail is essential for every quality assurance professional.
As a quality assurance technician, you may need to track out the source to correct it if you discover an issue. You’ll review hundreds of lines of code in software quality assurance (SQA) to locate a bug. Sometimes, you’ll need to try a few different approaches before finding the appropriate one. Patience during testing can aid in the detection and correction of faults.
To build a process, several quality assurance specialists collaborate with other professionals. They may collaborate with other quality assurance experts, project managers, coworkers, and clients to produce a product or service. You can receive the best outcomes when interacting with others by communicating excellently.
Professionals in quality assurance frequently evaluate large chunks of data and statistics to design a methodology. Quality assurance experts require analytical thinking to interpret data for insightful and actionable results.
When quality assurance experts detect faults, they must apply problem-solving abilities to guarantee that all feasible remedies are considered. It is necessary to brainstorm options and choose which would function best to produce successful outcomes.
8. What are the top jobs in quality assurance?
If you’re interested in pursuing a job in QA, here are some jobs in the quality assurance field.
Quality assurance analyst
A quality assurance analyst verifies that an organization’s software is in good working order. Quality assurance analysts test a program after it has been developed by software engineers. Software programs frequently freeze, fail to run correctly on various operating systems, or lack essential features.
Quality assurance tester
A QA tester is in charge of monitoring all aspects of a product’s design and implementation to guarantee that the company’s requirements are satisfied. Their contribution benefits the development process by increasing efficiency and quality and detecting problems early on.
The responsibilities of a test engineer are planning, designing, and reviewing goods, as well as coordinating with production management. The test engineer ensures that the finished product can be easily recognized and extensively tested.
Project managers are in charge of planning, organizing, and supervising the execution of specific projects for an organization while ensuring that they are completed on time, within budget, and within scope.
Chapter 4: Explaining the Differences and Similarities Between Quality Assurance, Quality Control, Quality Engineering, and Quality Management
Now you know what quality assurance is. But how does it compare to quality control, quality engineering, and quality management?
Are there any similarities or differences between these concepts?
You’ll find out about that in this chapter.
First, know that quality assurance, quality control, and quality management are the core elements of production consistency.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control (QA vs. QC)
Before looking at the difference between quality assurance and quality control, here’s a look at the similarities they share.
Similarities Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control
- These concepts are related to quality management and have the same purpose. They’re both about getting rid of errors.
- To achieve this goal, all stakeholders are interested in quality assurance and quality control. Customers expect a product or service to suit their needs. Quality is equally important to manufacturers since it ensures customer loyalty, cost control, and waste reduction and is, ultimately, the foundation for a thriving business.
- Because QA and QC are parts of quality management, they are controlled using the same process. Both have an impact on all aspects of the business.
Differences Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control
The significant distinctions between quality assurance and quality control are as follows.
- Quality assurance is a set of operations that ensures that the method through which a product is generated is up to par. At the same time, quality control refers to a collection of procedures that ensures the product’s safety.
- QA is proactive, but QC is reactive. Quality assurance occurs during the product creation process, whereas quality control occurs after the finished product is manufactured.
- Quality assurance focuses on the consumer, whereas quality control focuses on the standards.
- Quality assurance is concerned with the process, while quality control is concerned with the product.
- Quality control detects and sorts out faults in the product. But quality assurance safeguards the product from them.
- Quality is created throughout the design process in quality assurance. On the other hand, quality is developed at the control level with quality control.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Engineering (QA vs. QE)
The Similarity Between Quality Assurance and Quality Engineering
Both quality assurance and quality engineering are designed to improve product quality.
Differences Between Quality Assurance and Quality Engineering
- Quality assurance “assures” the product’s quality, but quality engineering is responsible for the development of high-quality goods and procedures.
- Quality engineers focus on product development from the moment an idea is conceived, which encompasses techniques such as agile processes, test-driven development, and behavior-driven development processes to establish functional requirements for business developers and testing teams.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Management (QA vs. QM)
Quality management (QM), on the other hand, is the activity of creating plans that establish the standards that must be implemented to the project.
The Similarity between Quality Assurance and Quality Management
Quality assurance and quality management have the same goal: to ensure that the work is effective and conforms to the industry’s best standard.
Differences Between Quality Assurance and Quality Management
- Quality management is a planned and defined guideline, while quality assurance is a part of the quality management system. Quality management considers the quality of the entire value chain, whereas quality assurance investigates potentially harmful effects on quality.
- Quality management is a significant determinant of DIN EN ISO 9001, but quality assurance assures quality standards. Also, quality management is necessary to identify areas where there is room for improvement while quality assurance follows specifications that are put into action.
Chapter 5: A Guide to Understanding Quality Assurance Standards
Every business’s goal is to provide value for both the customers and other stakeholders involved. They do this by providing quality services, products, or facilities that solve the specific problems of their target audience.
But how do they maintain such quality that keeps them in shape? The answer lies in the concept of quality assurance. This is simply how a business ensures quality maintenance in all the processes that lead to the development of the product or services. This task is performed by auditors within the organization.
In other words, the auditors’ job is to ensure that no or minimal errors are made during the organization’s production of products or services.
However, these auditors do not work based on their intelligence. Instead, they follow a documented guide that ensures that businesses maintain quality in all their processes. This written guide is known as quality assurance standards.
What Are Quality Assurance Standards and Why Do Organizations Need Them?
Quality assurance standards are documents that contain specifications, guidelines, requirements, etc., that guide businesses in ensuring that quality is met in all their external or internal processes. Some of these processes include staff safety, product development, etc.
This process is fundamental to the development of any business as it significantly affects all the stakeholders involved.
Here are some of the reasons why a business needs quality assurance.
It provides confidence.
Quality assurance doesn’t only boost the confidence level of the business; it also helps to improve the confidence of the customers to continue using the product or even recommend it to their loved ones.
It improves the business’s reputation.
Every business aims to maintain a good reputation with its customers, stakeholders, and potential investors. This is precisely what a well-curated quality assurance process will do. Many investors prefer to invest or partner with certified businesses in quality assurance, as reported by Compliancehelp.
It ensures the safety of products, services, or facilities during usage.
The bottom line of ensuring quality processes within an organization is to ensure the products or services are safe for consumer usage. This is what quality assurance aims to achieve as it scrutinizes every step of the development of the product.
It gives room for the optimization of resources.
Quality assurance helps to ensure quality is built into the product and not the other way around, in which the quality will be assessed after the product development. This, therefore, helps in the optimization of resources and prevents waste.
It allows organizations to comply with both international and local regulatory laws.
Quality assurance standards help to uphold quality in a business’s processes. These standards are documented laws that have both local and international recognition. Hence, it makes companies comply with these regulations.
The importance of quality assurance in an organization can not be over-emphasized. Hence every organization is expected to follow the quality standards effectively. But which organization is responsible for developing the regulations within these standards?
Quality standards are developed by the International Organization for Standardization.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Its Importance to Quality Assurance
To maintain quality, specific organizations have taken the lead to provide them with standards that will guide their internal and external processes.
One globally recognized organization that caters to such needs is the International Organization for Standardization, popularly known as ISO. What exactly is ISO, and most importantly, how do they provide guidelines that help businesses to achieve quality in their processes?
What is the International Organization for Standardization?
According to Investopedia, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), formerly known as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Association (ISA), is responsible for developing and publishing standards that guide the product or numerous products worldwide.
The organization consists of a leading standard organization from each country. The organization has its headquarters situated in Geneva, Switzerland, and annually, the members meet to review these standards.
It should be noted that individuals and companies cannot become direct members of the organization. However, experts from various fields can collaborate with the organizations via different avenues.
Some of the standards published by the ISO have been adopted in different industries, including metallurgy, health sector, manufacturing, finances, agriculture, and many others.
It should be noted that ISO doesn’t stand as an acronym for the International Organization for Standardization. Instead, it was derived from the Greek word, Isos, which means “equivalent or equal.”
The 167-member organization is responsible for developing standards for over 20,000 products worldwide. Some of the popular standards by the ISO are discussed below.
What Are ISO Standards?
ISO standards are like formulas designed to help guide the developmental process of products, services, facilities, etc., to maintain quality for all the stakeholders involved, including the consumers.
These standards are designed by experts that understand what matters in their industry. Some include manufacturers, sellers, buyers, consumers, regulating bodies, and others.
However, it should be noted that the ISO also publishes technical and annual reports as well as technical specifications guides, among others.
What Are the Most Popular ISO Standards?
There are currently thousands of standards that have been published by the International Organization for Standardization. Each of these standards has been designed to suit a particular industry.
This, therefore, makes it difficult for business owners to know which of the ISO standards is designed for them. However, in this guide, you will discover the 10 most popular ISO standards and which industry they are best used for.
1. ISO 9001:2015 – Quality Management Standard
ISO 9001 is a family member of quality management standards designed to improve the quality of products and services that businesses offer their customers. There are about 14 members, but ISO 9001 is the most popular and the only one companies can get certified in.
According to an executive summary published by the ISO Survey of Management System Certifications in 2021, over 900,000 certificates have been issued to businesses globally. The standards can be adopted by any type of business, whether new or old, large or small.
The standard was designed to follow certain quality management principles, including continual development of quality products, continual improvement in the business’s processes, the type of process approach, and many others.
In other words, ISO 9001, which was reviewed last in 2015, aims at providing quality services to consumers to improve the overall performance of the business profit-wise.
2. ISO 22000 – Food Safety Standard
ISO 22000 is for businesses in the food industry. This standard was designed to ensure food management safety to provide quality food and drinks for consumers.
The adverse effects of unsafe food on the body cannot be over-emphasized. Hence, businesses in the food industry need to carry out all measures to provide safe food for their consumers.
For effectiveness, the ISO 22000 should be used together with the ISO 9001. Irrespective of where your business is in the food chain industry, you can get certified with the ISO 22000. According to the International Organization for Standardization, over 30,000 companies have been certified.
In a nutshell, the ISO 22000 helps identify the potential food hazards during the production stage and how they can be conquered. Therefore, this is a necessary standard to follow, especially for businesses in the food industry.
3. ISO 27001 – Information Security Standard
To keep information about your business secure, you need ISO 27001. This standard consists of over a dozen standards, but the ISO 27001 is one of the common standards adopted to protect an organization’s assets.
The standard provides requirements to ensure quality in an information management system. It can be used by any business, but it is not mandatory.
The standard is currently adopted by over 44,000 businesses across the globe, as captured in an executive summary published by the ISO Survey of Management System Certifications in 2021. The ISO 27001 is broad, which is why it can easily be customized to suit any business.
4. ISO 31000 – Risk Management Standard
Businesses are saddled with numerous responsibilities ranging from providing quality products or services to consumers to managing internal affairs effectively. As if this weren’t enough, they also have to effectively manage risk to make profits and thrive in the industry.
To help them achieve this goal, the ISO 31000 was developed. This standard was designed by experts in risk management, and according to the International Organization for Standardization, it can’t be used for the certification process.
However, any business can use the standard, no matter the size. ISO 31000 helps companies achieve their objectives, minimizing risk as much as possible. Also, it opens the eyes of the company to the various opportunities they can explore to grow and serve their stakeholders better. Organizations using this standard can compare their risk management process with internationally recognized methods.
5. ISO 45001:2018 – Workplace Safety Standard
ISO 45001, which was last reviewed in 2018, is valid for businesses that aim at minimizing injuries at work to maintain a good workplace for their workers. The standard specifies the requirement needed for a company to ensure an occupational health and safety management system.
Like many other standards, any business can use this, irrespective of size and position. According to an ISO publication, about 200,000 certificates have been issued to different companies across the globe.
However, it should be noted that ISO 45001 doesn’t encapsulate issues like product safety, environmental impacts, etc., beyond the risks imposed on the workers.
6. ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management Standard
ISO 14001 is another ISO that businesses can get certified in. It is known for catering to the environmental standards that business processes must meet to achieve excellent operational proficiency. It helps organizations manage their resources to positively impact the environment.
Similar to the ISO 9001, there are numerous members of the ISO 14001 family. However, the most popular is the ISO 14001:2015, which most organizations get certified in.
Apart from helping organizations to make positive impacts on the environment, ISO 14001 also helps to:
- Increase environmental awareness within the organization.
- Reduce the generation of waste resources by the organization.
- Enhance the organization’s reputation and profile.
- Increase the overall profits of the organization.
7. ISO 26000 – Social Responsibility Standard
ISO 26000 is a standard designed for organizations to help them assess social responsibilities that positively impact their vision, mission, processes, customers, employees, stakeholders, and environment.
In other words, the standard helps organizations integrate socially responsible behavior into their processes and also recognize social responsibility and engage stakeholders. According to ASQ, the standard can be used by all organizations, whether small or large, as it will be helpful to them in one way or the other.
8. ISO 20120 – Event Management Standard
ISO 20120 is a standard developed by the ISO to provide the event management supply chain guidelines. The goal of the standard is to help the concerned organizations reduce their environmental footprints and still help them attain financial success.
The standard was created in 2012 due to the BS 8901’s unwavering support for those in the event management industry.
9. ISO 50001 – Energy Management Standard
Designed in 2011, the ISO 50001 was developed by the ISO to help the organizational use of energy. This also includes the design of systems that help reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses and improve the overall efficacy of the organization. According to Wikipedia, the standard is suitable for use by any organization regardless of its size, location, or sector.
10. ISO/TS 16949 – Automotive Quality Management Standard
This standard ensures that automotive organizations achieve quality assurance in their processes. It brings about standards from different parts of the world like Europe and the United States of America for achieving best practices concerning the design and development of products in the industry.
The standard is based on ISO 9001, the quality management system standard, and emphasizes defect prevention and reducing variation and waste in the supply chain to ensure continuous business improvement.
In conclusion, ISO standards are crucial guidelines that every business should follow to ensure quality services for all the stakeholders involved, including consumers, investors, and workers.
These standards are designed by the International Organization for Standardization, which consists of expert leaders in various industries from different countries across the globe.
As it stands, the organization has designed thousands of standards to ensure quality assurance for businesses in different industries. Therefore, many business owners always come up with the question: “How can we find the right quality assurance?”
Chapter 6: A Guide to Finding the Right Quality Assurance (QA) Tools
Quality assurance tools for regulated or ISO-compliant companies can improve and simplify quality processes. These tools are essential for businesses to effectively carry out their quality assurance initiatives and maintain quality assurance processes.
Businesses adopt numerous tools in the race to provide quality services to their stakeholders, including their consumers, workers, and investors. Below are some of the tools a business needs to ensure quality assurance.
This is the process whereby a business compares its products, services, and techniques with other leading companies in one or more aspects of its operational strategies. This gives the business an understanding of improving its products, services, and processes.
In other words, it helps businesses to identify which part of their operations or systems needs to be improved on to meet the standards required in the industry.
There are two aspects of benchmarking: technical and competitive benchmarking. Technical benchmarking helps compare the capabilities of a business’s product, service, or process to other leading firms in the industry. Competitive benchmarking helps to ascertain how an organization is performing in comparison with other leading businesses, especially in the area of operations, product quality, and customer satisfaction.
Force Field Analysis
Force field analysis is a quality assurance tool used to assess the root causes of any situation to take the necessary action. This tool ensures that for any problem to occur, the forces against and for must be in equilibrium.
The tool helps the business to compare the positive and negative aspects of their product development. Force field analysis was designed by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s, and it helps to consider all the changes desired in a product or service.
A flowchart is an essential tool for quality assurance. It helps identify the cost of quality by analyzing the frequencies within decision loops and the input and output branches involved.
The tool is designed to show changes in an exceeding method once enhancements have been created. In other words, a flowchart can be employed to improve the graphical representation of a process, and it is one of the seven essential tools needed to uphold quality assurance in an organization.
This is also known as thematic analysis, K-J method, affinity chart, and affinity mapping. Developed in the 1960s by Jiro Kwakita, the affinity diagram helps maintain quality assurance by organizing many ideas based on their natural relationship.
The tool generates, assembles, and groups information about an organization’s particular product or service. It is also an essential tool for testing the team’s creativity and intuition when it comes to idea generation about the processes within the organization.
The Delphi technique is a quality assurance tool used in an organization to estimate the likelihood of a future occurrence. The modality usually adopted is that experts on the concerned issue send their independent reports or insights to a facilitator who reviews the data and provides a summary report.
The summary report will be given to the experts, and each of them will review the report independently. Afterward, the data are again submitted to the facilitator, who studies them and provides another report. This continues until the experts reach a consensus.
This is a quality assurance tool that was designed around the principle of Pareto. The Pareto principle ascertained that 20% of a situation is controlled by the other 80%. This principle can be applied in various aspects, including business, wealth, and more.
Therefore, the Pareto chart is a chart that shows how much a cause contributes to an effect. The length of each bar represents the cost of each cause. The bars are arranged in chronological order to denote the most critical cause to the least important.
Cause and Effect Diagram
Cause and effect diagram is a quality assurance tool organizations use to identify, sort, and display different causes of specific problems to provide the right solution. It shows an outcome and all the factors that influence the outcome.
Invented by Kaoru Ishikawa, this tool is also known as the Ishikawa diagram or fishbone diagram because of its appearance. This tool helps members of an organization think more systematically. Some of the benefits of using this tool include:
- Identification of root causes of problems using a more structured approach.
- Improving teamwork in providing solutions to the problem.
- Presentation of the cause and effect relationship in an orderly and easy-to-read format.
- Identification of different variations in a process.
- Identification of areas where more data should be collected and studied.
A scatter diagram is another tool used to uphold quality assurance in a business. It is used to assess the relationship between two variables. Like the cause and effect diagram, the scatter diagram also evaluates the cause and effects. Therefore, it is a validation tool.
The diagram is produced by plotting the two components of a variable on two axes of a graph. The chart’s pattern is then used to understand the correlation between the two variables. It’s essential to learn how to interpret scatter diagrams to provide quality services and products to consumers.
According to Quality America Inc., check sheet is a quality assurance tool that contains a product or services item list and how often the items occur on the list. Even though they are simple, they have been shown to help organizations solve problems. However, its power is even more pronounced when used with other quality assurance tools like the Pareto, histogram, etc.
The control chart is a quality assurance tool that analyzes how data is used over time. The chart usually comprises an upper line for the upper limit, a central line for the average, and a lower line for the lower limit. These are determined based on historical data.
From these lines, one can predict whether the concerned data is out of line or is consistent, which will help make decisions that will affect the overall quality of the organization’s services.
An organization makes use of a control chart when:
- Trying to solve problems about an ongoing process.
- Trying to predict the possible outcomes of a particular process.
- Trying to see if a specific is stable or not.
Process Capability Index and Ratio
According to Wikipedia, the process capability index ratio is a statistical tool to assess a particular process’s capability. In other words, it is employed to see how a specific approach will produce outcomes to meet a particular objective.
This quality tool is used by organizations to assess how their operational process affects the overall conditions of the environment. It is a standard designed by the ISO to guide organizations on environmental standards set-asides by the government or any other concerned bodies.
Apart from the standard allowing organizations to comply with environmental regulations, it also gives them a competitive advantage as consumers like doing transactions with ISO 14000 certified organizations, according to Potoski and Prakash’s article in the American Journal of Political Sciences in 2005.
Quality professionals use quality assurance tools like histograms to analyze different data they are presented with to maintain quality. The tool can help organizations concisely present data so that any area of improvement will be clearly seen.
A histogram comprises a bar representing a group, with the height of the bar representing the frequency of data within that group. They are beneficial to organizations when grouping the frequency of data about a particular process into different categories.
When data has been lumped together, it is always important to interpret and understand it. This is why stratified sampling is essential. As a quality assurance tool, stratified sampling organizes data about a particular organizational process into various subsets (or layers) for proper analysis and interpretation. Its effectiveness is more pronounced when used with other statistical tools.
To wrap up, there are different tools organizations can use to ensure that they continue to provide quality services and/or products to their consumers. These tools are considered as business investments that yield high return-on-investment (ROI) in the long run. Therefore, they should be regarded as such for the company or organization’s growth.
Chapter 7: How SweetProcess Can Help You Achieve Effective Quality Assurance
Maintaining adequate quality assurance should be a top priority for all organizations. However, many businesses still fall short of this standard requirement even though there are available tools to help them achieve effective quality assurance.
For example, SweetProcess makes documenting standard operating procedures (SOP) and business processes super easy and efficient. Essentially, your ability to properly document your business processes and standard operating procedures is a crucial step toward achieving effective quality assurance.
That’s because quality assurance units use standard operating procedures to ensure the precision and accuracy of quantitative experimental results to support other units.
Apart from SOP and business process documentation, SweetProcess also allows you to manage your processes, organize your workflow, and create valuable policies necessary to run your company. All of these add up to improve quality assurance effectiveness.
Let’s see how companies worldwide use SweetProcess to turn their businesses around.
Before discovering SweetProcess, Stone & Wood documented their processes with binders and Microsoft Word, making them far from getting it right. They also faced the challenge of updating work procedures and processes appropriately.
Also, their employees’ repeated use of outdated procedures put the entire production process at risk. They sometimes had to restart the procedures from scratch, which wasted time and resources.
Thomas Parker identified this problem from the onset and kept looking for solutions. His role as the quality assurance and sensory coordinator involves maintaining quality assurance and smooth operations, so he couldn’t rest until he found a lasting solution.
Thomas recalls how SweetProcess has helped them improve their processes. According to him: “We always struggled with following the due process and to be honest, it’s something we still do. But now, it’s far easier to get the guys on board with the procedures because they can access it from their phone, and we know that they are accessing the most up-to-date [information]. We can see that they’ve signed it off. Previously, there wasn’t any sort of tracking as to whether someone had looked into a procedure. That’s really made the difference.”
That’s not all. SweetProcess also helped them adhere to regulatory standards and operate within the confines of the law. With SweetProcess, the company could now prove that its employees were adequately trained according to the regulatory standards.
“It really helps us a lot with standard requirements that are out there like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) where you have to demonstrate that your employees have been trained and show procedure documents, so it ticks all the boxes there.”
For Zen Media, a public relations (PR) firm specializing in the tech niche, the issue was about a chaotic process. They had business processes to work with, but the processes were all over the place. Employees were forced to figure out their own processes, which resulted in disorganization and a lack of consistency.
Stephanie Chavez, the chief marketing officer who was determined to enhance operations, recognized the importance of a more structured workflow to achieve the company’s collective goals.
To quote Stephanie, “We were always producing great products and doing a great job for our clients. That wasn’t debatable. What was debatable was the ‘how can we streamline?’ and so that was really one of the first things that I noticed.”
SweetProcess proved to be a gamechanger for their organization by helping the company to align its operational structure with employees’ outstanding performances. It has also created uniformity in organizational output and efficient quality assurance, which helps win customer trust and loyalty.
Stephanie has admitted that “by having everyone on the same page with SweetProcess, they can have a more efficient and predictable result.”
The story was no different with Ajay Prasad, president of GMR Transcription, before discovering SweetProcess. Speaking on the SweetProcess podcast, Ajay narrated how his company almost tanked due to a lack of business systemization.
With 10 employees, the company only generated a measly $250,000 a year. Now fast forward to the period after adopting SweetProcess, their annual revenue skyrocketed to $1 million a year, with only three employees on their payroll.
What happened? SweetProcess ensured seamless automation and systemization that allowed them to standardize their procedures. With the help of SweetProcess, Ajay was able to implement a quality assurance system for the work delivered by transcribers.
“So we started to say get the transcriber based on their expertise. And you did a process for assigning the file to the right transcriber. And also created the QA process so that all of a sudden my product to the final work to the client is good. So that was the second thing. So when the client involved comes back it goes through a QA department that kind of checks it and does some spot checking to make sure that the transcriber did a good job.”
There you are. You’ve seen how SweetProcess helped three businesses improve their organizational systems. If you’re tired of bottlenecks around your business processes and want your employees to know how you complete tasks step-by-step so they can deliver the results you want for your clients, then sign up for a free 14-day trial with SweetProcess.
Quality assurance is a critical part of quality management that focuses on achieving the requirements. Every organization needs a standardized way of conducting business, thus ensuring compliance with the available quality assurance standards.
People usually don’t realize that the cost of manufacturing poor-quality products is high. You have to deal with customer complaints due to product failures, product recall from the market, frequent rework, and accumulating scrap. All of these can cause irreparable damage to your business, resulting in inefficiencies, delays, direct costs, customer dissatisfaction, and a lack of shareholders’ confidence.
Your employees can develop a results-driven mindset instead of a job-driven mindset. Also, you’ll create a positive work environment and cultivate a fervent following for your brand. Additionally, quality assurance helps you save money, prevent unforeseen emergencies, promote productivity and efficiency, boost customer satisfaction, and improve client confidence.
Even though quality assurance may be costly, time-consuming, and challenging to implement sometimes, it’s better to have it in place sooner than later. Also, since quality assurance is ongoing and there’s always something new, it’s essential to keep tabs on quality assurance updates, especially those relating to standard organizations. That puts you on top of the situation and saves you the stress of playing catch up.
Are you looking for an indispensable tool to document your standard operating procedure, or do you want to streamline your business processes for maximum output? All you need to do is sign up with SweetProcess for a free 14-day trial for the best experience.
Also, our free implementation cheat sheet will help you build an efficient quality assurance program from scratch. Make sure you download it here.