Today, all serious business know that in order to succeed and outperform the competition, there must be processes set in place to ensure that the business is providing quality in its product and service provision. This is where quality assurance comes into the picture.
Definition of Quality Assurance
According the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), quality assurance refers to a set of planned actions that are systematically carried out to instill confidence that an entity has fulfilled requirements for quality. These actions come in the form of processes where they are measurable, and can determine quality in a given context. In short, quality assurance defines how a business will meet the requirements of their customers in a systematic way.
Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control
The first thing that comes to mind is that quality assurance sounds like quality control. They are not the same. We can think of quality control as a subset of quality assurance. While quality control is product/service-focused, quality assurance is process-focused. Quality control is akin to running checks on products in order to monitor their quality, while quality assurance is developing processes that includes the determination of the requirements for the checks that the quality control stage will have to do and also include the process to manage the competence (i.e. knowledge, experience and skills) of personnel and understanding, documenting and communicating customer requirements.
The Corner Stone for Quality Assurance: Quality Management Systems
In order to achieve quality assurance, the organization needs to develop and deploy a quality management system. Today, the most popular approach to quality management systems is ISO 9001:2015. ISO audits have to be carried out to ascertain that a business has met the requirements of the standard for effectiveness of the quality management system. In this case, we can say that you have achieved quality assurance certification when your quality management system passes the ISO audit. Quality management systems can serve many purposes, including:
Assessment and control of Cost of Poor Quality
Process improvement in term of:
Life cycle cost of product and services,
Delivery accuracy and/or cycle times
Features that match explicit or implied customer expectations
Formulating organization-wide direction
Assesment and management of risks
Certification of the Quality Management System
Pursuing and maintaining certification of the Quality Management Systems helps to drive the effectiveness of the quality assurance process by features that include:
Third party assessments: evaluation from a different perspective by professionals that can help calibrate the practices and processes across the industry.
Involvement of executive management: there are several requirements in the standard that drive exposure of quality related performance information to executive. One of those process is the Management Review Meeting.
The first step to get quality assurance certification is to set up the quality management system. Because the setup stage involves the most legwork done, this stage is best handled if you work with a professional who provides quality management consulting, and has experience with setting up quality management systems. Not only do you get full assistance on definition and documentation of processes, you will also benefit from facilitation and implementation expertise that can accelerate the learning curve of your organization.
Once your quality management system is implemented, your business will need to send an application to an accredited certification body (for example, TUV Management Service). The certification body will then do a document review of your quality management system, and next conduct an on-site certification audit before your business earns the quality assurance certification. Note that periodic surveillance audits will be conducted after your business achieved the certification to prove evidence of continued conformance.
About the Author: Luis Suarez helps companies improve profitability and reduce risks by means of pragmatic application of quality management tools. Actively searches for opportunities to improve processes to design, produce and deliver high value products or services. He resides in Texas.