Quality Management Creates Quality Assurance
Cooks get to eat their mistakes, editors see theirs in print, and manufacturers hope to catch theirs before they get out the door. Quality assurance (QA) focuses on the system that produces good parts, while Quality control (QC) focuses on parts to catch remaining errors.
Of course, the better QA works, the less pressure is on QC.
Not surprisingly, PQA Certification is a fan of the Plan-Do-Check-Act engine underneath ISO 9001 and related standards.
The ISO focus is really a QA focus. It looks like this:
PLAN: Create a system of interrelated processes, all of which function together to produce outputs that meet requirements.
DO: Work the plan. The functions happen according to the plan.
CHECK: Ask, “What really happened?” Examine and measure the results, compare to the Plan.
ACT: With the results of the measurements, ask “What, if anything, needs to change?”
Let’s break that down some more:
PLAN: What are the steps, the resources required and the risks at each step, to produce outputs that meet requirements? What is required to acquire those resources? How do we identify, reduce, avoid, or insure for the risks? What are our responsibilities to clients, government, neighbors, employees and their families, and each other? How do we organize our resources like buildings, machines, raw materials, maintenance and utilities? How do we train, equip, motivate, lead, and provide safety for our most precious resource, people? How should each step actually work? How do we plan for each part of this interactive set of resources, processes, and people, to flow together smoothly?
DO: The system moves into action. Each process, event, resource, person, shows up and drops in what they are assigned to contribute. Something results, whether molasses or mining machines.
CHECK: Examine what actually occurred. How was the timing of each event? Did information flow as it was supposed to? Were raw materials ready on time/at station? Was identification correctly tracked? Was training adequate for the skills needed? Did the procedures work, and were they followed? If not, why? Did everyone have everything they needed everywhere along the way, to create ‘outputs that meet requirements’? And finally, did the outputs actually meet the requirements, at QC?
ACT: The Plan looked good, but the Check revealed some gaps in the Plan, and the Do created some don’ts. What were they? Why did it happen (not “who can we blame it on”)? What should the more complete – or simple – Plan look like? Complete the Act step by Rewriting that part of the plan, re-training, and re-preparing. And creating another improvement or two.
That’s real Quality Assurance: Creating a system that will create good products and services, consistently.