Part Three – Quality Control Slips When You’re Driving Too Fast

One of the biggest purchases Americans make is their car, and these days you want to ensure your money goes into buying the best you can afford – particularly when it comes to reliability and safety.

But lately it doesn’t seem like that’s as simple as it once was. Increasingly owners are receiving letters and notices to bring their newly purchased vehicle back to the shop because of a system-wide recall. Good that it’s been caught, but it does raise the question: where’s the quality control?

What is Quality Control

You will find quality assurance and control measures in all kinds of businesses – from manufacturing to health care. And improvements can be made at virtually every stage of the business process. If you want to ensure quality, the first step is to assess all aspects of your business. Then move towards planning and implementing those stages, and finally and importantly, examine and assess the results.

This may seem laborious, but when you consider the long-term benefits, the payoffs are considerable.

Principles of Quality Control

Principles of quality control should be a subset of the company’s quality assurance program.

Quality Assurance programs outline the philosophy, structure and strategy required to improve the product and processes. Quality control focuses on finding the defects after they happen and before the product is released.

Quality Control is a structured process that is product oriented and focuses on defect identification to ensure that the product is satisfactory to both the customer and the business.

Reasons for Quality Control

Enforcing strict quality control leads to successful business. Quality control is the method used to catch mistakes and better assure customer satisfaction.  These mistakes can be costly and lead to product recalls, employee injury, and even lawsuits. Quality control can also help ensure financial certainty by helping establish a reliable pattern in productions, which leads to more accurate planning as well.

So the basic process is to have a defined set of processes and document them, test for conformance and audit for compliance.

Types of Quality Control

Quality Control monitors not only the product itself but it also looks at the way a product is produced, stored and transported. Quality control can sometimes be voluntary and other times it is mandated by federal or state regulations.

Internal quality controlis when a company mandates certain procedures to check their system. This can be routine equipment checks, peer to peer review of work completed, and checking standards and controls regularly.

External quality control is when data or samples are sent to a third party or outside business that is not affiliated with the company. A good example of this is in food production where samples are required to be sent to a lab to obtain Food and Administration labeling and approvals.

Proficiency testing quality control is done on a volunteer basis and in order to gain a specific accreditation.

Six Steps to Improve Your Quality Control

  1. Start by learning the basics on quality control and select the key ones that apply to your business.  It is easy to get bogged down in too many theories and methods so start simple.
  2. Establish and implement procedures for quality control. Document quality control procedures, define key tasks for every part of the operation and identify roles and responsibilities and be sure to keep it current.
  3. Employees are also a key part to quality control so training staff is important. They are responsible for adhering to the guidelines and an undertrained or misinformed employee can lead to serious production inadequacies or worse, like injury.
  4. Conduct analysis to determine strengths and weaknesses and to cut waste. Consider factors such as combining job functions, reducing material costs, and so on.
  5. Set benchmarks because we know “what gets measured get managed.”
  6. Lastly evaluate quality control processes and their effectiveness and make adjustments if benchmarks are not being met.

Seven Effective Quality Control Tools

There are a variety of tools that can be used to boost your quality. One tool may not capture all the information you need to have confidence in your product or service.

Experiment with any or all of these over a set period of time until you are able to determine for yourself which tools are most suitable to your business.

  1. Scatter diagrams are used to illustrate that a relationship exists between two variables and measure how strong it is.
  2. Check sheets are a simple form to collect and track data.
  3. Flow charts outline the steps in a process and can be simple to extremely complex.
  4. Cause and effect diagrams, also commonly referred to as fish bone diagrams, can be used to illustrate different causes to a problem.
  5. Pareto diagrams are commonly known as bar graphs and are a good way to show hierarchical data.
  6. Histogram is probably the most popular tool and shows how and if data changes dramatically.
  7. Control charts show data points for a process that occurs over time and if outside of limits.

Quality Drives Positive Results

When quality falters, it raises many questions. The consumer or client starts to question the brand, the price, and some cases whether even shortcuts are being taken in hopes no one will notice.

Quality Control gives you confidence, and helps your business increase revenue. It’s so much easier to offer a product at a higher price, when you can stand by it.

For more on Quality, see Part One and Part Two in this series.

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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Melissa Martin

Insight written by Melissa Martin

Quality Control Manager at Rand Group

Melissa Martin has spent 13 plus years focused on quality control management and the implementation of strategic initiatives. An expert at seeing organizational blind spots, she has helped companies improve their bottom line by streamlining business processes that eliminate revenue leakages and increase resource utilization.

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