“Inspection of a process with a view to improving its quality is not the most effective solution. Rather the process should have quality designed into it.”
As the demands of customers increase, so too does the demand for high quality products and services. Quality has always been at the forefront of a business; however, it is required more than ever in today’s growing and competitive market (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016).
So why should a process have quality designed into it? To understand the importance of the above statement, one must first comprehend what is meant by the term quality and why the need for quality is now more than ever an important aspect in the development of a process.
What is Quality?
Depending on the intended user, the term quality may have a different meaning. For example, in a manufacturing industry, quality is described simply as ensuring the product is fit for purpose and works as intended. Similarly, a person’s satisfaction on receiving a product or service can also be descried as the quality of said product or service (Chandrupatla, 2009). Or, ever thought that quality could purely be no wastage? Whatever one’s take is on quality, in everyday life, quality simply boils down to ensuring a product or service meets the requirements of the target audience, thus providing customer satisfaction (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016).
Why is Quality Important?
Subsequently, why is need for quality an important aspect in the development of a process or service? In simple terms, for most business’ quality is about doing the process right, first time and maintaining that set standard of quality for the complete lifecycle of the process or service. How many times have we as customers criticized or applauded the quality of a product or service that we have received? Rather than describing our experiences of an excellent quality of service we have received, we are nine times out of ten more likely to complain about a time when the standard of quality was somewhat lacking or completely non-existent. Therefore, it is critical that a business strives to achieve and maintain a high level of quality and subsequently keep the intended users satisfied.
The Birth of Quality
Aspects of quality can be traced back to as early as the 19th century, when work completed by apprentices in manufacturing industries, were examined and evaluated by a skilled workforce to ensure a high standard of quality was met in the end process; leading to the birth of the Industrial Revolution (ASQ, 2018b). It is believed that quality practices such as Quality Management Systems, were introduced into manufacturing in the early 20th century. While the focus of quality was still very much geared towards the end process, a more stringent approach to inspection at all stages of development of the process was applied (Quality Management System, no date).
Figure 1 shows the developments in the quality management system that took place during the 20th century.
Figure 1: Evolution of Quality Control (Timane, 2018).
From the 1900s to Today….
The work of Deming and Juran paved the way forward in quality systems, however in recent years, the need to continuously improve, maintain and manage quality has grown (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016 and ASQ, 2018a). This has been achieved by developing a rigorous quality management system by way of four main aspects; Inspection, Quality Control, Quality Assurance and Total Quality Management.
Inspection can be defined as examination, measurement, testing, gauging and comparison of material or items, to ensure the product or service is of good quality and that it meets specific requirements of the intended users (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016). Although one would assume that inspection of a product or service would be the critical factor for improving its quality, it can be argued that to successfully implement quality within a product or service, the product or service should be designed with quality at the forefront.
Inspection vs Prevention
Inspection is ensuring a defect does not reach the customer, whereas prevention is ensuring the defect does not reach the process (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016). So, which is better? While some may suggest that inspection should be the critical factor, in that customer confidence will not be lost, this can lead to increased costs and remakes. Therefore, it has been suggested that prevention is key. Preventing the issue from arising in the first place will ensure there is no need to rework and will guarantee that costs will remain low.
Quality Control (QC)
Quality control can be defined as operational techniques and activities that are used to fulfil given requirements for quality (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016). In the manufacturing industry, QC is one of the most important aspects of the quality system. It is key to detect an issue with a product during the initial manufacturing stage or prior to it reaching the intended customer, rather than allowing the product to reach the intended user. Failure to pick up non-conforming products at the initial stages of manufacture or once they reach the intended customer are likely to lead to remakes, retests, recertification’s, etc. (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016).
Quality Assurance (QA)
Quality assurance is defined as the planned activities that are implemented within the quality system, to provide verification that the product or service will fulfil the quality requirements set out (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016). While there is often some misperception between Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA), simply put, QC is primarily fulfilling quality requirements, whereas QA is guaranteeing these quality requirements will be fulfilled (ASQ, 2018c).
Total Quality Management (TQM)
Total Quality Management is defined simply as ensuring all participants within an organisation produce products that are fit for purpose and ideally exceed customers’ expectations (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016). In todays world, customers requirements for quality products and services have increased. In order for an organisation to keep their customers satisfied, it is essential that they adapt to meet the needs of the intended users. As customers now have a greater choice when selecting a particular product or service, the need to maintain the highest level of quality is a critical component for any organisation (Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele, 2016). As the saying goes “Happy wife, happy life.” This is the exact same theory for a business and their customers!
Building Quality into the Process
Building quality into a process should be at the forefront of any organisation. Ensuring quality is a built-in process will ensure unnecessary rework and in turn unnecessary wastage (Lean-Manufacturing-Junction.com, 2014). Velaction (2018) describes the two principles of Poka-yokes and how it helps to ensure quality is built into the process. Initially any defects should be detected and eliminated at the source. While some organisations wait until the end of the process to inspect the product, which could lead to unnecessary rework and additional costs which were not factored into the initial process, the idea of “mistake proofing”, by means of developing a rigorous system at every step of the process is believed to be the best solution for ensuring quality is at the centre of every process (Velaction, 2018).
Figure 2: Build Quality into Process (Velaction, 2018)
Requirements for Quality
Initially inspection of a process was seen as a way to improve its quality, however as the demands from customers increase, so too does the demand for a higher quality product or service. As a result, it has been determined that a process should have quality designed into it. According to Dale, Bamford and Van Der Wiele (2016) there are a number of key aspects that should be considered when building quality into a process. It is key that both management and employees actively participate in each of these, to ensure the standard of quality built into a process is that of the highest and will continuously grow to meet customer demands.
Establish a set of goals or targets
Goals are essential in any industry to ensure a process is developed to the highest quality standard possible. It is important to ensure consistency is maintained, from start to finish, safeguarding that the process is completed the same way every time. In order to operate efficiently, productively and deliver and exceed the expectations of the workplace, it is essential that all those involved in quality work to the specific set of goals or targets laid out by the company.
Highlight mistakes and continuously strive for improvements
While most of us do not like to admit to making a mistake, it is important to highlight and rectify any mistakes made or observed during the development of a process. This ties in with the Poka-yokes principle, that is it better to highlight a defect at any stage of the manufacturing process rather than leaving it until the process has been completed. The need to continuously review and improve a process is now more than ever imperative. To achieve this, it is essential that a level of quality is established by which the future improvement can be assessed (CEBOS, 2018). The words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Brainy Quote, 2018) are a prime example of highlighting mistakes and the need for continuous improvement.
“It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong.”
In many organisations, quality awareness is achieved by a quality vision, quality mission and a quality policy. It is essential that each of these give the intended user, the sense of awareness as to why quality is important. Similar to highlighting mistakes or non-confirming products, any updates to quality standards should be highlighted to all employees. Awareness should be at the forefront of any organisation. At the end of the day, if you are aware of it, take care of it.
Have the right attitude
Quality is everyone’s responsibility. The pharmaceutical industry for example is ultimately responsible for the lives of others. Therefore, it is essential that the employees maintain the highest standard of quality when manufacturing a product. Hearing a success story from a customer who uses a product that you have manufactured is an inspiring reminder of how important that line of work is.
In today’s world, employers depend on the skills of their employees to increase improvements in quality (Motwani, Frahm, and Kathawala. 1994). Training should not be considered as a chore. Like continuous improvement practices, training should be maintained and reassessed at regular intervals. Training may take on many forms, however it is crucial for every organisation to ensure that the process of continuous improvement is emphasised and sustained by each of the employees. In addition, each one of us, no matter our line of work, should feel competent to think on our feet and resolve an issue before it escalates. This can be achieved by providing regular refresher training sessions and or establishing a system by which feedback can be given to the employee.
While each of the above aspects play a significant role in ensuring quality is built into a process, training is ultimately the final piece of the puzzle. Through training, each employee can deliver the highest level of quality required for their role.
Quality, no matter what a person’s interpretation of the term, is a fundamental aspect of any organisation. Quality as an overall is essentially an assurance that a product or service has been developed to a set of standards, and ultimately will satisfy the needs of the customer. Without an effective quality system in place, it is more likely for a non-conforming product or service to reach the customer, which will no doubt result in unnecessary rework and additional costs for a company.
During the early 19th century, inspection was seen to be the most effective measure of detecting non-conforming products or services and in turn improving their quality. Nowadays, as the demand from customers increase, so too does the need to continuously improve, maintain and manage quality. As a result, it has been noted that building a process around quality will ultimately benefit both the company and the customer.
Quality is everyone’s responsibility!