Quality assurance is based on setting agreed quality standards at all stages in the production of a good or service in order to ensure that customers’ satisfaction is achieved. It does not just focus on the finished product. This approach often involves self-checking by workers of their own output against these agreed quality standards.
The key differences between the two methods are that, quality assurance: a.puts much more emphasis on prevention of poor quality by designing products for easy fault-free manufacture, rather than inspecting for poor-quality products – ‘getting it right first time’ b.stresses the need for workers to get it right the first time and reduces the chances of faulty products occurring or expensive reworking of faulty goods c.establishes quality standards and targets for each stage of the production process – for both goods and services d.Checks components, materials and services bought into the business at the point of arrival or delivery – not at the end of the production process by which stage much time and many resources may have been wasted.
The quality-assurance department will need to consider all areas of the fi rm. Agreed standards must be established at all stages of the process from initial product idea to it finally reaching the consumer: •Product design – will the product meet the expectations of consumers? •Quality of inputs – quality must not be let down by bought-in components. Suppliers will have to accept and keep to strict quality standards. •Production quality – this can be assured by total quality management (TQM) and emphasizing with workers that quality levels must not drop below pre-set standards.
•Delivery systems – customers need goods and services delivered at times convenient to them. The punctuality and reliability of delivery systems must be monitored. •Customer service including after-sales service – continued customer satisfaction will depend on the quality of contact with consumers after purchase. For example: Nissan car factories have predetermined quality standards set and checked at each stage of the assembly of vehicles – by the workers accountable for them. First Direct, a European telephone banking organisation, sets limits on waiting times for calls to be answered, average times to be taken for meeting each customer’s requests and assurance standards to monitor that customer requests have been acted on correctly.
Quality assurance has the following advantages:
i.It makes everyone responsible for quality – this can be a form of job enrichment. ii.Self-checking and making efforts to improve quality increases motivation. iii.The system can be used to ‘trace back’ quality problems to the stage of the production process where a problem might have been occurring. iv.It reduces the need for expensive final inspection and correction or reworking of faulty products. v.To gain accreditation for quality awards − these can give a business real status or kudos. The most widely recognized quality award within the European Union is ISO 9000.
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