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What Is Quality Improvement? The Ultimate Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Quality Improvement

If your business is successful today, you still face continuous competitive challenges from other established businesses in your industry and from disruptive companies who are bringing tomorrow’s innovation to your shared market. The only solution is to maintain a vigorous focus on providing your customers or clients with the best products, services, or experiences possible. This means rejecting stagnancy. You can’t stay still in today’s fast-moving business environment without falling behind. Moving forward is the only way to thrive, and that’s why quality improvement is an important part of Total Quality Management.

What is Quality Improvement?

Of the four elements in Total Quality Management, quality planning encompasses identifying appropriate quality standards and how to meet them; quality assurance involves monitoring the process of producing deliverables; quality control is the system for assessing and maintaining standards in finished products or delivered services. What is the fourth part— quality improvement?

Quality Improvement Definition

Quality improvement is a focus on improving production or delivery processes to address the needs of customers and enhance the quality of the results. It consists of eliminating any processes that aren’t working optimally and replacing them with new and better ones.

Quality Improvement Process Guidelines

A truly effective quality improvement process, while it will vary from organization to organization, should incorporate these general concepts:

  • Improvement should be based on measurable data. Solutions should be metrics-driven and objective, rather than subjective or based on “gut instinct.” Data pertinent to your processes and operations needs to be collected, tracked, analyzed, interpreted and acted upon.
  • The process should also, however, consider input from everyone involved — internal and external teams and customers. Everyone on your team should be continually asking “Can we do it better?”
  • Solutions should focus on problems in processes, not people. Even when human error is involved, thinking should be around how to prevent or eliminate the potential for human error, not who was at fault.
  • Small, frequent incremental changes are generally easier to implement and more effective than infrequent major overhauls. In other words, don’t wait and let problems pile up before solving them.
  • Improvements can involve any or all of the following: higher quality products, better customer service, increased efficiency, greater safety, higher revenues, or more responsible environmental and community stewardship.
  • The process should be transparent, with regular meetings and applicable training. After improvements are implemented, wins and losses should be clearly communicated.

Quality Improvement Process Steps

Most quality improvement processes will follow these ten steps:

  1. Identify issues. Analyze their background and context. Interpret related data.
  2. Research and develop possible strategies to resolve the issue.
  3. Choose specific solutions to implement.
  4. Define measurement methods to determine the success or failure of potential solutions.
  5. Build an implementation team.
  6. Prepare a written plan.
  7. Train all stakeholders on how to implement the plan.
  8. Implement, measure, make changes.
  9. Make changes to the changes until the results meet your goals.
  10. Communicate successes.

The Importance of Continuous Quality Improvement

We’ve already mentioned two reasons why continuous quality improvement is important. Without continuing improvement, your organization runs the risk of falling behind the competition. Also, continuous small changes are easier to digest and tend to be more effective than major and unsettling reorganizations.

On-going quality improvement can also help your organization:

  • Reduce costly and time-consuming errors and defects
  • Increase staff as well as customer satisfaction
  • Build a culture of quality and optimism
  • Become progressively smarter about your own processes

Quality improvement models and tools

Organizations choose quality improvement models and tools based on their specific processes and goals. Here are some methodologies in use today:

  • Total Quality Improvement (TQM): Emphasizes organization-wide commitment to quality and improvement
  • Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI): Operates on the principle that opportunities for improvement exist throughout an organization
  • Clinical Process Improvement (CPI): Addresses the complexities and challenges in modern healthcare
  • Rapid-Cycle Quality Improvement: Focuses on quick integration of changes
  • ISO 9000: Certifies that an organization has an industry-recognized quality plan
  • Six Sigma: Strives to decrease variation, based on data analysis
  • Toyota Production System or Lean: Emphasizes the elimination of waste and non-value-added processes
  • Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA): Promotes small changes and rapid adaptations
  • 5S or Everything in Its Place: Employs principles focused on making the workplace safe and efficient
  • Human Factors (HFE): Applies data on human capabilities/limitations to the design of products, tools, and processes

Technology That Drives Data That Drives Results

Design a quality plan, implement, assess and test, continually improve... 

If you’re ready to set up an effective and agile quality management program based on those steps, a unified cloud-based application like Veeva’s QualityOne can help you make that happen — faster and at less total cost. 

QualityOne is intuitive and easy to use, unlike cumbersome on-premise legacy programs, so your staff will be able to easily and effectively use it to manage document control, training, quality processes, and HSE events.

  • Reduce the cost of quality management
  • Quickly and easily find and fix quality issues
  • Access your files & dashboards from any device
  • Visualize all product or quality data in one system
  • Ensure your suppliers meet your quality standards
  • Be audit-ready, anytime an auditor calls

LEARN MORE ABOUT VEEVA'S QUALITYONE