Integral Logistics Management — Operations Management and Supply Chain Management Within and Across Companies

18.2.6 Quality Assurance — Improve Phase, Part 2

Intended learning outcomes: Identify changing definitions of terms over time in quality assurance and quality management.

Quality assurance as it was used originally corresponds to today’s term quality inspection (see Section 18.2.4).

Use of the term quality assurance — like use of the term quality management — has changed over time as shown in Figure

Fig.          Changing definitions of terms over time (Source: [Verb98]).

  • Up until 1987, the term quality assurance was used as generic term for all activities with regard to quality.
  • After 1987, the term quality management was introduced as the wider term. Quality assurance was now used for concrete quality management system demonstration.
Quality assurance can be understood today as active risk management for the purpose of reducing the probability of quality defects and of mitigating the consequences of defects (passive risk management would be insuring or covering against risk).[note 1802]

Quality assurance as defined today first of all involves quality inspection to determine whether the quality targets for the individual quality characteristics are actually met. Such inspection measures include:

  • Tests of incoming goods to ensure that procured goods are free of defects
  • Supplier ratings, based on delivery quality
  • Design reviews during the R&D process
  • Early warning systems that detect defects in new products at an early stage
  • Testing of administrative processes, in particular of completeness of information and delivery reliability

In an analogy, the task in the second part of the Improve phase in the Six Sigma method is implementation of one or more of the solutions found. There must then be a check providing statistical evidence that the solutions are achieving the desired results.

For the quality assurance step, all of the tools used in quality control (see Section 18.2.4) are available. For quality assurance of organizations or of complex sequences of processes — especially whole business processes — evaluation methods in the form of assessments stand in the foreground. Assessments are used in the evaluation of the quality management system itself. They will be discussed in connection with TQM models in Section 18.3.

As for any type of organization, quality assurance, or the Improve phase, must also not be simply a control mechanism; the point is to enable and motivate people appropriately to deliver defect-free products and processes. The focus today is usually on self-inspection. To avoid unnecessary slowing down of the value-adding processes, quality tasks, as far as possible, should be carried out by the same persons who are also responsible for the operational added value. For this, they require training in the relevant quality techniques.

To complement self-inspection, third parties (superiors, other internal parties, or external parties) conduct suitable inspections. The task of a company-wide post for quality is to advise the persons accountable for producing the goods and services as to selection of the quality assurance tools and, in difficult cases, to take on an advising and coordinating function in the quality assurance process.

The deliverables of the Improve phase can be reviewed and revisited as follows:

  • Have sufficient solutions been generated in the first part of this step?
  • Were the solutions tested, and has the best solution been selected based on these tests?
  • For the selected solution, were target processes and cost-benefit analysis drawn up?
  • Was a plan drawn up for introducing the selected solution?

Course section 18.2: Subsections and their intended learning outcomes

  • 18.2 Quality Management Tasks at the Operations Level

    Intended learning outcomes: Produce an overview on the Deming Cycle (PDCA Cycle) and the Shewhart Cycle as well as the Six Sigma Phases. Present the phases of quality planning, control, assurance, and activation of the Deming Cycle. Describe the Six-Sigma phases of define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. Differentiate between continual improvement and reengineering.

  • 18.2.1 The Deming Cycle (PDCA Cycle) and the Shewhart Cycle

    Intended learning outcomes: Produce an overview on The Shewhart cycle developed in statistical quality control. Present the Deming cycle. Describe quality management tasks in the Deming cycle.

  • 18.2.2 The Six Sigma Phases

    Intended learning outcomes: Present DMAIC, the Six Sigma phases. Describe the tasks in the Six Sigma phases. Differentiate between DMAIC, RDMAIC, DMAICT, and DMADV.

  • 18.2.3 Quality Planning — Define Phase

    Intended learning outcomes: Identify the cause of differences between stakeholders’ expectations and actual product or process characteristics. Explain quality function deployment – the house of Quality and 10 steps of implementation. Describe the SIPOC diagram and the CTQ matrix.

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