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Misconception Of Quality Assurance
Many may think that quality assurance (QA) is the same with quality control (QC). QC is a business process, just like sales and production. In meeting customer's expectation, QC is merely in charge of the product quality. On the contrary, QA is to answer for process quality involving product quality, on time delivery, design requirement etc. QC may stay idle after they have done all the product checking but QA will not have idle time at all because there is always something to improve. If anybody wants to associate QA with inspection, then QA is to inspect documentation. QA is not a business process. QA oversees all business processes from supplier's quality to customer's enquiry and from product realization further to after sales service. If QA is called to handle routine operation work for a business process, then
a) there is a conflict of interest as QA can map the business process in his favor.
b) QA cannot audit the work that he or she is involved with.
c) QA's abilities (flowcharting, root cause investigation etc) will be under utilized.
d) QA cannot be away doing audit, benchmarking, training etc. Operational work requires a person to be available all the time or else the operation will be affected. If a type of work makes QA unable to be away even for a few days or else operation will have problem, then that work is definitely not QA's.
QA

Some unrelated things that QA is often called to do:
1) occupational safety (safety officer or human resource manager)
2) selling manufacturing scraps (production supervisor)
3) buying office accessories (secretary)
4) producing, signing, scanning and keeping testing / product certificate (quality control, clerk)
5) product costing (sales admin)
6) environmental work (environmental officer or facility manager)
7) report business performance to HQ (finance executive)
8) collect materials to make marketing presentation bundle (sales admin or marketing)
9) collect data to answer customer's questionnaire (sales admin or marketing).
10) register customer complaints and tell customer that the company has received the complaint. Coordinate to solve the complaint. Complaint follow-up should be done by after sales service department instead. Every company must have a after sales service department. QA's role in customer complaints is to find out and eliminate the root cause of the complaint.

For customer complaint, QA's long-term goal is to ensure the staffing of after sales service is minimum by minimizing customer complaints. It is good that QA is made aware about customer complaint. That can be achieved by letting QA create an overview complaint list and do analysis (categorizing, root cause investigation). QA may take the ownership at the initial stage of a complaint. Once
a) it is clear that who will follow up complaint and
b) the root cause has been identified,
then QA passes the ownership to the identified person to follow up and close the complaint.

quality

A QC inspector should not personally rework the defect the he detects because his time is to be used to detect defects. Likewise, QA person should not personally carry out the rectification after he detects a flaw in the process. His time is to be used to detect more flaws. The rectification should be carried out by respective departments.

The consequence of the above distraction is QA cannot improve processes and the manufacturing still suffers loss. And QA may be seen by others as not keeping responsibility of improving processes although he is asked to focus on superior's urgent non-QA work. His superior likes him because he solves most of the superior's urgent problems. But when the blame has come, even the superior cannot help it because it is a visible fact that processes have not improved. Or actually the superior is asked to leave too because of no manufacturing improvement. QA person should request to change his title if he is called to do non-QA work. If the superior wants QA to do non-QA work, then the superior should not have a employment position for QA anyway.

In the organization structure, QA should not report under any business process owner, for example production manager. QA should report under the person who oversees all business processes. In fact, QA can assist the person in charge in the company to set the departmental roles for all business processes.

QA is to install order and logic, plus to minimize grey area and barriers of communication in all daily operations. QA is like a doctor making the processes healthy. One of the strength that a QA person should have is being able to detect mistake in almost everything he or she sees. Staff turnover should have minimum impact on the system. The target of QA is actually to improve the processes until QA people are not needed anymore. The target for QA is usually qualitative than quantitative. QA leads the team towards meeting customer's expectation. QA work is system-oriented. When the system is correct, then it can easily be certified with ISO 9001. Some QA tasks:
a) Be in charge in anything related to ISO 9001 and six sigma.
b) Draw flowcharts for all business processes and maintain them.
c) Lead KPI collection.
d) Question people and also Answer people in the matter of operational improvement.
Posted: 2007-11-28; updated: 2009-11-09 by Ong Seng Aun.
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