Creating a Successful Quality Assurance Program
Quality Assurance is best defined as “a means to focus on the prevention of mistakes and/or defects during the manufacturing process that impact efficiency or quality that can impact profits.” Having a process in place to ensure you team adheres to the principles of a Quality Assurance Program will help you streamline your production and maintain high standards throughout the design to manufacturing process.
Whether you are a design/drafting firm, engineering specialist or wood product manufacturer, creating and implementing a Quality Assurance Program is a major undertaking. The quote from Theodore Roosevelt certainly applies when it comes to Quality Assurance Programs, “…Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain and difficulty…”. In the end, your company will reap the rewards when you take the time needed to define a Quality Assurance Program for your workforce.
A well designed Quality Assurance Program will help you effectively appraise how your internal technologies, processes and procedures are benefiting you.
In this article, we will discuss five key factors that make up a successful Quality Assurance Program.
Set Quality Goals for Your Business
As you define your goals, establish criteria to meet them. The standards, as you define them, will become the basis of your company’s Quality Assurance Program. Some examples of standards and criteria include reduction or elimination of:
- The number of errors related to engineering or order entry for each project
- The number and severity of defects related to manufacturing technology each week
- The number and severity of defects related to human factors in assembly or finishing for each product
- Bottlenecks associated with production workflow or supplies
Create Policies & Procedures
Well written and easy to follow procedural and policy documentation, in conjunction with your standards, will help motivate your team to follow your program. Consider using charts and graphs to explain the objectives. More importantly, be sure to keep the procedures simple, focusing on one goal at a time.
We’ve found it best to work with departmental leaders to define workflows and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that support your quality program. Then, train your staff to ensure the workflows are understood, implemented and meeting the needs of your business.
Establish & Incentivize a Quality Committee
Quality Assurance Programs are most successful when the participants are financially incentivized to deliver results you are looking for. Consider, creating a cross functional group, pulling from your staff to make up a diverse team. Provide freedom to the team to create and being encouraged to meet achievable goals for improvements little by little will inspire more and more improvement in time. Establish clear goals that can be measured.
Here are examples of the types of individuals who can participate successfully in the quality committee:
- Maintenance Technicians
- Machine Operators
- Purchasing Agents
- Product Assembly
- Shipping Dock Managers
- A trusted client or two
Monitor Key Performance Indicators
It is key to use information and data as the primary basis for measuring the relative success of your Quality Assurance initiatives. Focusing on quantitate measures that show clear results provide the foundation for developing and monitoring key performance indicators (KPI). Use a computer system or data logger where appropriate. Vary the samples taken to capture any variances in the inputs. Determine how often to capture data allowing for enough time for analysis and collect the information regularly.
A few examples of KPI are:
- Minutes Per Unit (MPU)
- Energy Per Unit (EPU)
- Number of Defects Per Unit
- Direct Labor Per Unit
- Excess & Obsolete Supply ($ or Units)
- Number of Damage Products Per Month
- Yield (SqFt/Month)
This is the most important and hardest step. Experiment with different innovations, allowing for modest failure. Implementing the change – companywide and in individual departments – based on insights learned will allow a Quality Assurance Program to be actionable.
Quality assurance never ends. Adopting a culture of continuous improvement is worth it and over time, participation in the processes outlined above can bleed over to other parts of your business where other improvements can be achieved.
A few tips for success:
- Baseline using time studies before you begin to implement insights so you can determine if they are working quickly.
- Videotaping is an important tool to analyze processes. However, this can make people work faster, skewing results.
- Use different batch sizes, product types and supplies in your data collection. This will help you identify patterns where possible failures may occur.
- Be sure to couple input from different levels in the organization prior to implementing a new insight to get buy-in before implementing the changes.
- Establish a KPI for each process and reward the team for measurable improvements.
- Make one change at a time, monitor and test before moving to a new change.
- Remember, people are the biggest variable in your analysis.