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What is Quality Assurance?

Towards a definition of Quality Assurance?

Quality assurance is a term the average person in the street has heard. Actually, how many people really know what it means? This phrase, trips off the tongue with cavalier intent, but often with poor understanding. Indeed, there are a range of “Quality” phrases associated with products and services that fall into the area of poor public understanding. However, their use promotes strongly evocative meaning. Unfortunately, this situation blinds us to reality. Thus, the aim in this article is to help iron out some of the wrinkles in ‘quality’ definitions.

Quality Assurance is not about Perfection

Frequently, people hear the word ‘Quality’ and almost equate it with perfection. Such is the power of marketing. Unfortunately, our media use the word to persuade the hapless consumer that the riches and technology of modern industry combine to provide the perfect product. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In the end, there is no magic involved.

In reality, the ultimate goal of perfection is not attainable. It is an idealist state. A state that stays just out of your grasp because something always comes along that is better. And yet, we aspire to want good quality products and services and acknowledge them when we see them. Incidentally, the Internet meme of ‘Love, Like or Loath’ reporting universally recognises that principle.

The point is, a less romantic word than “Quality” lies behind the term “quality assurance”. In short, that word is maintenance.

So, what is Quality Assurance?

“Quality Assurance” is the set of activities that together maintain, and possibly improve, a desired level of quality in a product or service standard. Ultimately, the aim of a quality assurance process is to ensure customer satisfaction, and sustains that satisfaction over time.

What does that mean? Well, in modern times we have sophisticated processes behind our services or products. Those processes in manufacturing and service delivery represent a comprehensive attempt by the management to assure the quality of their product. Further, they work to maintain or improve that standard over time. In addition, those products should continue to meet or exceed customer expectations.

“Quality Management” – the set of principles that govern the administration of quality assurance

All processes, in product and service industries, maintain some sort of standards. Ultimately, a quality product or service must realise those standards through effective management. That involves all the management activities of the organisation. Actually, that is a large proportion of the administration of a business overall. Consequently, the management need to be able to provide consistency, continuity, compliance, control of and support to the workflow. So, Quality Management standards, like ISO 9001, set out the Quality Principles. Through guiding documents and tight specifications, those principles support the product or service. In other words, Quality Management is the set of principles that create the operational environment in which to nurture Quality Assurance.

Yes, in the modern world, management has well defined methods and principles that determine successful outcomes. Basically, Quality Assurance perpetrates and supports Quality Management. Actually, both work together to provide what the customer wants and also at the standard the customer needs. Moreover, that co-dependence underpins one of the strengths of business ‘quality’ principles.

‘Quality Assurance’ is the set of activities that together maintain, and possibly improve, a desired level of quality.

~ Unknown Author

Quality Assurance, Quality Control and Quality Management are jewels in the Golden Triangle that supports and defines modern standards in industry.
Quality Assurance, Quality Control and Quality Management are jewels in the Golden Triangle that supports and defines modern standards in industry.

What of Quality Control?

Another common term in this field is Quality Control. It sounds very authoritarian. In fact, quality control forms part of the framework behind meeting customer expectations. Hence, Quality Management seeks to bring order to the business in a consistent and controlled way. It endeavours to manage the work processes themselves. Consequently, Quality Control ensures products and services meet the specification or standard that the customer expects. In effect, Quality Control deploys clear operational instructions. That, in turn, leads to product or service standards meeting the required tolerance.

Meeting tolerances

To precisely meet the customers’ specification, demands clear guidelines and controls that can…

1. Agree the Specification.

2. Implement and/or manufacture to fulfil that Specification.

3. Check against the Specification to ensure it is accurately fulfilled.

4. Monitor the processes to ensure they comply to and maintain the required standard.

5. Comply with prevailing contractual tolerances, standards and legal obligations.

6. Conform to the organisations’ own documentation and standards to ensure continuity, consistency and problem resolution in production or service provision to the customer.

7. To identify, remove and resolve non-conforming services or products to ensure customers avoid the effects of problems.

Quality Control is a technically orientated discipline. This is because emphasis is on repeatability, process control, managing variances and consistent delivery of a well specified product or service. Undoubtedly, Quality Control is there for the customer. Therefore, Quality Control is ‘process control’ to work to a tight specification to in order to meet customer needs.

Quality Assurance, Quality Control and Quality Management – a golden triangle

Altogether, the three Quality concepts of ‘Quality Assurance’, ‘Quality Control’ and ‘Quality Management’ form a stable platform for delivering customer satisfaction.

Quality Management acts to manage and control the ultimate satisfaction of the customer through the management of the quality assurance principles and quality control technical practice. In response, Quality Assurance acts to hold together the way that quality control and quality management interact to ensure the processes and policies support and foster quality within the organisation. Finally, Quality Control determines how work processes meet the demands of the customer and the required standards aspired to under the auspices of Quality Assurance. Hence, the result is a Golden Triangle of  Quality interactions that work together to please the customer.

Quality Management initiatives

Around the world there have been many initiatives to improve the management of Quality. One initiative has enjoyed considerable success. In fact, over a million businesses worldwide have been certified to this standard. That initiative  is, “ISO 9001 – Quality Management Standards”. This globally recognised management standard is also supported by a raft of other related ISO Management Standards. Effectively, ISO 9001 stands out as the embodiment of a range of policies, principles and practices that capture the essence and ethos of management process.

The success of ISO 9001 is built on some solid foundations. Principally, these are
1. Agreeing Customer Expectations.
2. Clear documented Processes to fulfil the Expectations, carried out by trained and competent staff.
3. Monitoring and improving standards of production or service provision.
4. Internal & external independent auditing & checking.

Quality Management – is ensuring the Organisation is aligned to agree and fulfil the Customer expectations. Therefore, it encompasses everything from Sales to Service and from Purchasing to Invoicing and from Monitoring to Complaints and Improvements. However, Quality Management only exists through its relationship with Quality Control and Quality Assurance. In other words, management initiatives become successful only through understanding and commitment to this Golden Triangle.

Meeting and exceeding the Customers expectations

Successful business relies on the way these central ‘Quality’ principles work together. Unfortunately, some businesses think that ISO 9001 and other management standards are just a qualification. That is, they perceive the certificate only shows you have acquired an industrial award. This misrepresents what ISO Standards are all about. Instead, organisations should break away from the tick-box mentality. Instead, organisations should use these standards to upgrade and develop their. The spin-off is improved business outlook, effectiveness and competitiveness. Unquestionably, it is only through using good management standards that the organisation will improve.

At CHARTER4 we have one solid aim. We help organisations gain certification to an ISO Standard with a practical approach. In particular we aim to improve your business, rather than just comply through a tick-box response. CHARTER4 truly embraces the meanings of Quality and Standards. In reality we work to ensure the certification process will move your business toward continuous and effective improvement. Our commitment to this aim underscores your drive to meet and exceed customer expectations.

If you would like to know more about our approach and how we can help you satisfy or exceed your customers’ expectations, please contact us. Simply press one of the buttons below and we will help you to invest in your future.

Certification with Charter 4 – the Business Benefits
  • Improve, rather than just comply.
  • Full service and ongoing support to compliment your resources.
  • Build on your Processes & Systems (no standard templates).
  • Help defining your Best Practice.
  • Certification by independent UKAS accredited Assessors.
  • 100% Success & guaranteed support until Certification.
  • Help to get Government Grant (when available).
  • Flexible support to complement your resources.
CHARTER4 – Partners you with the experience and insight to help you grow using management Standards. We will help you improve your business, rather than just comply with the Standards.
Charter4 - We partner with you to help you grow using management Standards. [Article Name: The Biggest Mistakes with ISO 9001]