Designing a quality-assurance (QA) process is a skill that both small and large companies, whether just starting or well established, need to have. And it is no light task. The process may not be perfect once you have it designed and may not ever be perfect. With changing customer and client needs, both the product (or service) and the QA process are ever evolving. The process must include within itself the ability to change and the plan of how to change. Once the process is established, if you've done it properly, it will be easier to change than create anew, and you'll find that the results for your customers will justify the extra commitment to the QA process at the beginning.
Things You'll Need
- End Product, Process, or Service
- Writing (or typing) utensils
Define your end product. Even for simple objects, the specifications need to be exact. If you do not know what you want as a result, you cannot ask someone to perform a QA check to assure that you have it.
Your end product may be a chair. Your specifications might include that it have four legs, a seat, a back, and two armrests. You might add that the color needs to be within a certain range, no glue may be visible, the legs must be exactly the same length and the finish must be smooth, and that the percent of acceptable variation on any of these items is x%. Be as specific as possible.
Your end product may instead be a service. That means that you need to have a detailed definition of "good service." It may also be beneficial to define grades of service, such as unacceptable, barely acceptable, average, good, excellent. Categories for defining the service might include time for a customer to be served, greeting the customer, upselling the customer, and customer satisfaction. Each category could be measured by if and how well the employee performed and therefore what grade (good, unacceptable, etc.) they have for the QA check.
For example, if an employee greets the customer, she might receive a rating of average for "greeting the customer." However, if she opens the door and offers a beverage to the customer, she might receive a rating of "excellent" in that same category.
Decide at what point in the production of the product or service a QA check should be performed--at the end or at every step? How many QA points does your product or service need?
For instance, a company that develops online courses has three different QA processes. The writer creates the subject material, and then someone QAs that material. Next, a system expert puts all of the material into an online course format, and someone QAs that. Finally, the internal development department QAs everything in the course to ensure that it is both complete and functional.
Define each QA point. This is the exact same process as Step 1, but if you have decided that you want your product QAed twice (once in the middle of production and once at the end), then you need to know what the product should be for the people QAing at both points. You already have your end-product definition, so if you only want it checked once more between start and finish, then you only have one more definition to create.
Going back to our chair example. If you decide that you want a QA check after the legs have been attached (because if the legs aren't the same length, then there's no point wasting the money to finish the chair), then you need a definition of four legs, a seat and a back, and each leg needs to be the same length.
Create this definition for each QA point in the production process.
Create a checklist for each point in the QA process. This checklist only needs to be as complicated as your definition of what your product should look like at each QA point. Keep it simple; design your checklists so the QA people can make a mark if each item meets the requirement. The checklist might also include a place to mark who or which machine made the original product (for later comparison and evaluation); whether a variance is acceptable (and what the variance was); issues that the QA person fixed (if she is allowed to do so); and what issues still need to be resolved before the product or service can move on to the next step.
Returning to the online-courses example: If the subject matter has been created, but the QA person decides that the content does not follow the learning objectives, then the process stops till the writer has produced a revision.
Add safety measures.
Going back to the online-courses example: After a writer has revised the material for a second time, the material goes again to the QA person, and if it still does not meet standards, the process does not continue until it does. Another measure to help assure accuracy is to not pay the writer until the materials have been both created and approved. Different measures such as second QAs and performance-based payment can be put into place in your QA process to help ensure quality products and prevent extra expenditures.
Train your employees so they are aware of the QA process. Share your detailed definition. All producers and QA people need to know the requirements for the product as well as knowing what will be inspected by a QA person.
During this training, you will want to show the QA people exactly how to perform and use the checklist. They also will need to know if they are to do this on every product or only on one of every 10 or 100.
Test your QA process. It may look great on paper but still notl work effectively in practice. Before implementing the QA process for all products and services, test on a set of products. If a QA is to be performed on one out of every 10 products, produce 10 products, and then go to see if the QA person performed a QA on one of those products. Check to ensure that she completed the checklist appropriately and then check the product to ensure that the product matches the information written on the checklist.
Perform random checks. Once you are sure that the QA people are using the checklist correctly and performing the QA checks when and how they are supposed to, you cannot abandon the process. Set a time or number of products for which the QA process is to be checked. Perhaps each QA person is to be checked once every month to ensure continued QA accuracy. This is an extra measure to ensure that the QA people are not becoming lax and allowing lower-quality products to slip through.
Write the procedure for every step in the process. Remember to define the product at each QA point, specify each QA point, attach the checklists as addenda to the procedure, define the necessary training and training length, specify how the QA individuals will be checked, and be sure to include what will happen if a certain number of products or services do not pass QA inspections.
Tips & Warnings
- Don't forget to let your QA people know what to do with completed checklists, and what to do with products or services that did not pass the QA check.
- It also helps to have defined procedures for what will happen to employees who are producing, but not passing the QA checks.
- Do not pigeonhole yourself, department or company with your QA procedures. While it is important to be very specific, don't forget to give yourself some leeway. For instance, if each QA person is to be checked once a month, you might want to phrase it in the procedure as "...at least once per month, and at random as deemed necessary by the management team." This gives leeway so that the employees cannot claim that "I've already been checked this month, and you can only check me once a month." So be sure that there are some caveats in your process.
- Photo Credit stamp with -quality- word image by air from Fotolia.com product defined image by Christopher Walker from Fotolia.com checklist of the public health service image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com Kreuz image by Michael S. Schwarzer from Fotolia.com write image by Adam Borkowski from Fotolia.com
What Is Quality Assurance in Health Care?
Anyone who works in the health care industry can attest to the regulations and mandates that permeate the system. Due to the...
Quality Assurance Policies & Procedures
A quality assurance program is a system of policies and procedures designed to continually improve specific business processes. While most popular in...
Quality Processes & Procedures
In business, quality is a subjective term that typically means that a product or service meets its end users' expectations. Managing quality...
How to Manage Production With Quality Control
How do I Write a Quality Control/Quality Assurance Plan? ... ISO Control of Records Procedures; Modern Methods for Quality Control & Improvement;
How to Write an Internal Audit Plan
Audit planning is a process that ... Example of Audit Procedures. ... Internal audit software tools are used to assist auditors and...
Define Quality Assurance Audit
A quality assurance audit is a process conducted by either an internal or external auditor that helps to ensure an organization's systems...
The Differences in Quality Control and Quality Assurance
The terms "quality control" and "quality assurance" are not synonymous. There is a distinct difference between them both in meaning and purpose....
How to Write a Quality Report
Most organizations require their employees to know how to write certain types of reports. For example, quality assurance professionals should know how...
Quality Policies & Procedures
Policies and procedures outline the guidelines that employees must follow when performing their jobs. The goal of these procedures is to create...
How to Develop a Quality Assurance Plan
The importance of quality assurance in software testing cannot be emphasized enough. This required step in the software development process requires knowledge...
How To Develop a Quality Management System
How To Develop a Quality Management System. ... How to Develop a Quality Assurance Plan. ... This required step in the software...
How to Write Quality Procedures
How to Write Quality Procedures. ... How to Write a Quality Control/Quality Assurance Plan for Construction. Introducing a quality control or quality...
ISO Quality Procedures
Quality Processes & Procedures. In business, quality is a subjective term that typically means that a product or service meets its end...
How to Write an ISO 9001 Quality System Procedure
Organizations that are ISO 9001 certified adhere to an international standard of business procedures that give them credibility and legitimacy. Earning ISO...
How to Write an Effective QA Test Plan
A QA procedure can be as simple as clicking buttons on the computer and seeing what happens, ... How to Write an...