The Ultimate Guide to Quality Assurance
The futurist Ray Kurzweil wrote in 2001 that “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” We are little more than a fifth of the way through this century, and it’s already unlikely that anyone is doubting his prediction. Accelerating advancements and increasing expectations have put the focus on agility and made this an exciting time to be involved in quality management. Exciting and challenging.
Customers dissatisfied with the quality of products or services have every opportunity to leave and no lack of innovative, industry-disrupting competitors eager to scoop them up. Supply chains are stretched across the globe, and product and service offerings are evolving in the blink of an eye. Through it all, quality remains fundamental. Poor quality = poor business performance.
Today, effective Quality Management Systems are essential for success in many industries, and quality assurance is one of the critical components of such a system.
What Is Quality Assurance?
Quality assurance is one of the four components of Total Quality Management (TQM), which also includes quality planning, quality control, and quality improvement.
Quality Assurance Definition
Quality assurance is the proactive development and monitoring of processes to ensure quality in an organization's output; i.e. to prevent defects in products or avoid problems in delivering services.
Although quality control and quality assurance are sometimes discussed as if they mean the same thing, quality control is actually the reactive process that finds defects or problems after they occur and triggers corrective (or rejection) actions.
The better your quality assurance system, the fewer problems your quality control process should find, and preventing problems is always a more efficient use of time and resources than dealing with them after they occur.
The Quality Assurance Process
The quality assurance processes differ from industry to industry, because quality standards are often specific to the products or services being offered.
For example, a company that produces health supplements will have requirements related to the purity and efficacy of their active pharmaceutical ingredients and their production methods, while a lawnmower manufacturer will be focused on mechanical reliability, and durability plus customer preferences in the finish, color, etc.
In addition to product design and production, a quality assurance system may be concerned with other important business processes such as customer support, technical support, and delivery logistics.
The Importance of Quality Assurance
The primary importance of a quality assurance system is that it improves and streamlines the production and delivery of high-quality goods and services. It can prevent costly and time-consuming problems and emergencies. However, it also has important secondary effects.
Ensuring a consistent level of quality in your products and services will help you give your customers consistently positive experiences and build your company’s reputation for reliability and integrity. A focused quality assurance program tells your customers you are willing to go above and beyond to meet their needs and keep them safe. These are important ways to create customer trust, a critical quality for success in any market because it leads to brand loyalty — a valuable competitive edge.
Effective quality assurance is also important for internal reasons. Companies have been shown to be more successful when their workforce buys into their mission. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, highly engaged workforces and business units drive 21% greater profitability. When employees believe they are participating in the creation of a high-quality, dependable product or service that brings real value to consumers or other businesses, their morale is better and they are more likely to do their best work in support of the company’s goals.
What Industries Does Quality Assurance Apply To?
Quality assurance is important whether companies produce raw materials or physical products, but it is essential when those materials and products have consumer safety consequences. This includes industries such as:
- Consumer goods
- Food and beverage
- Specialty Chemicals
- Crop Sciences
- Life Sciences
However, quality assurance can also be important for a range of other businesses, including companies in software, finance, media and publishing, information services, and more.
Quality Assurance Software
Managing quality in a constantly evolving marketplace with changing rules and regulations is complex. Quality assurance software can help you implement an effective process and maintain and improve it over time. The benefits can include:
- Easier management of your quality processes through unification in a single location
- Improved, real-time visibility into all activities by all stakeholders
- Real-time collaboration across your organization
- Consistent compliance across your supply chain
How to Create a Quality Assurance Plan
You need one critical step before quality assurance in a total Quality Management System and that is quality planning. In this initial stage, your organization needs to specify your quality objectives. You should identify your strategic goals, prioritize critical success factors, research industry requirements and regulations, identify your customer base, and get specific feedback from that base on what “quality” means to them.
Once you have defined your important quality objectives, here are the steps to creating a quality assurance plan to reach and maintain them:
- Define the measurable results that are acceptable for each of your quality objectives.
- Design processes that will enable you to achieve these results.
- Set clear policies and procedures for each department.
- Define roles and responsibilities.
- Select quality management software.
- Implement your plan.
- Analyze the results.
- Make adjustments as needed.
These last two steps are ongoing. Quality assurance is not a one-time event. Businesses should look to continually improve their assurance processes in order to deliver more consistent, higher-quality products or services.
Quality Assurance Certification
Although not a requirement, becoming ISO 9001 certified for Quality Management Systems can increase your organization’s credibility by showing customers that its products and services meet quality standards. There are over one million large and small ISO 9001 certified companies and organizations in over 170 countries. It is the world’s most recognized Quality Management standard, offering guidance on customer focus, leadership, employee engagement, process approach, evidence-based decision making, continual improvement, and supplier relationship management.
Ensure Compliance and Agility in Your Quality Assurance Program with a Modern Cloud-Based Digital Solution
If you’re ready to modernize your quality assurance program to stay competitive in this fast-changing market, a unified cloud-based application like Veeva’s QualityOne can make it possible to get more done — 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