In business, quality has a pragmatic definition, meaning that something is of standard or superior levels as compared with customer expectations. Without parameters, quality has no specific meaning in a business context. That is why quality assurance is vital to the success of your business. Defining what quality means to your business and your customers allow you to quantify a service or product and apply a value.
Quality Control, which means quality management with the end goal of fulfilling quality requirements, was the result of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of mass production. This was mostly focused on engineering requirements in final products, however, as manufacturing processes became more complex, quality developed into a discipline for controlling process variation as a means of producing quality products.
In the 1950s the quality profession expanded to include quality assurance and quality auditing. Public health and safety industries were the driving force behind the standardisation of quality measures.
Importance of Audit and Inspection
“The auditor may use inspection techniques as an evaluation tool, but the audit should not be involved in carrying out any verification activities leading to the actual acceptance or rejection of a product or service. An audit should be involved with the evaluation of the process and controls covering the production and verification activities.” wrote Charles Mill in The Quality Audit: A Management Evaluation Tool (McGraw-Hill, 1988).
Auditing and inspection are the metrics that help us to measure the level of quality of a product or service. These management systems allow businesses to assess various aspects of the production of a product or service to determine its quality.
However, ‘quality’ is defined by the expectations of the customer. Are the standards of quality monitored or achieved in any real way? Is the measure quality in the degree that a product is reliable, maintainable, or sustainable the best metric for quality?
Quality assurance can be defined as “part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.” The confidence provided by quality assurance is twofold – internally to management and externally to customers, government agencies, regulators, certifiers, and third parties. An alternate definition is “all the planned and systematic activities implemented within the quality system that can be demonstrated to provide confidence that a product or service will fulfil requirements for quality.” (asq.org, April, 2019)
Quality assurance is the systematic auditing of a service or product to ensure that it meets certain standards that have been developed in house based on the expectations of external factors. Assessment of quality is a basic component of any business activity that is to remain sustainable and relevant.
Quality assurance needs to follow systems, have a method and structure in place to determine if a product or service meets expectations. While most businesses who produce software, hardware or other mass-produced products, smaller businesses often fail to measure their quality of service or interaction.
Understanding that quality is more than a tangible and countable asset to a business is paramount to creating and sustaining SOPs for regular QA testing. Without investigating the quality of a business, it is hard to develop the next steps for growth.