What is Quality Assurance?

Quality Assurance (QA) is defined as; ‘the approach taken by a company or organisation to ensure the provision of the best possible services or products.’ 

QA is closely related to quality control, a process which focuses on the finished product and may entail testing of samples following production.

Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but QA is more closely focused on improving the processes used to produce the end result, rather than the result itself.  The processes to be considered in QA are design, planning, development, service and production.

Shewhart Cycle

One of the most popular QA tools in current use is the ‘Shewhart Cycle’.  This was first developed by Dr W Edwards-Deming, a 20th century US management consultant.  The four step cycle is based on a repetitive assessment process which ensures that the process is being improved and evaluated on a recurring basis.

Four Steps

  1. Plan:  Organize your objectives and decide on the processes or changes in existing methodologies which will be required to achieve the desired results.
  2. Do:  Here the processes are tested and developed.
  3. Check:  Monitor and evaluate the processes or changes to establish whether the results are as desired to achieve the predetermined objectives.
  4. Act:  Implement the actions necessary to ensure that the desired improvements or changes are implemented into the process.

The cycle can then be repeated with new processes and/or changes in an ongoing iteration.

The Shewhart Cycle is a very effective means of making sure that good QA is achieved because it constantly analyses the methods used to produce the end product or service and seeks out ways to make improvements.  Constant QA also ensures that the product or service is suitable for the current market and conditions.  As the cycle is repeated throughout the product’s lifetime, it continually improves the company’s efficiency through the refinement and the improvement of existing processes.

Attention to Detail

Good QA practice demands that attention to detail is present at every stage of the process.  Planning might include actually deciding upon the level of quality or quantifiable results that the company seeks to achieve; checking may entail testing to ensure that goals were met and acting could mean a complete redesign of the production process to improve minor flaws and thus improve efficiency.

Good Quality Assurance ensures that the customer is offered a product or service with the best possible materials, in the most comprehensive manner and to the highest standards.  The company’s ultimate goal is to exceed, rather than just match, customer expectations and Quality Assurance enables this to happen through a measurable and accountable process.

Image source:  Flickr

 

Alison Page

About Alison Page

Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies.

Alison Page