1. Why is Quality Assurance Important in Process Improvements?
In many projects or business areas, Quality Management is necessary to achieve consistent
quality and is used to help guide towards improved performance. There are several principles
that are by-products of good Quality Management, such as customer focus (needs), leadership
and direction, people involvement, continual improvement of objectives, and effective decision-
making. One component of Quality management is Quality Assurance. Since process
improvement projects are initiated to increase to efficiency, it is necessary to assure quality does
not “slip” when the change is implemented. Quality Assurance is a process driven methodology
that is used to make sure customer expectations are met. The following is an attempt to show
what quality assurance is, how it is applied in a process improvement initiative, and why it
should be used.
By definition, quality assurance is the process of verifying or determining whether products or
services (processes) meet or exceed customer expectations. Since it is a methodology, it is a
process-driven approach with steps to help define and attain goals of any process change or
improvement. The quality assurance process considers the design (requirements), development
approach used, possible production issues, and quality of service of any process change. Quality
Assurance determines if a process is "Fit for the purpose" (the product/process should be suitable
for the intended purpose), and "Right first time" (mistakes should be eliminated).
OK, so now we know what it is! However, what does a quality assurance process typically look
A typical quality assurance process may include (usually coincides with the development effort):
• Testing of previous processes (base lining, regression).
• Develop plan to improve (to include: identify bottle necks, and causes to problems).
• Design item to be changed to include improvements and requirements.
• Review new item and improvements with stakeholders.
• Test of the new item and assure it meets requirements.
• Implement into production and monitor the improvements.
A very popular tool that is used to determine quality assurance is the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle,
developed by Walter Shewhart (a.k.a Shehart Cycle). This was later taken up Dr. W. Edwards
Deming who effectively promoted Quality Management in the 1950s, and is commonly know as
the “Demining Wheel.” The significance of the PDCA is that it both emphasizes and
demonstrates that improvement initiatives must start with careful planning, result in effective
action, and move on again to careful planning in a continuous cycle.
The four steps for quality assurance of a process improvement within the PDCA model are:
• Plan - Establish objectives and processes required to deliver the desired results.
• Do - Implement the process developed.
2. • Check - Monitor and evaluate the implemented process by testing the results against the
• Act - Apply actions necessary for improvement if the results require changes.
The PDCA cycle is affective method for quality assurance because it analyzes existing processes
used to provide services. The goal to using the PDCA cycle is to ensure quality is inherent in
every component of a process. Quality Assurance is necessary to determine that steps used in the
process are appropriate for the time and conditions (do they meet the customer needs). The
beauty of the PDCA cycle is that it can be repeated throughout the lifetime of a process to make
improvements and increase efficiency!
So, how can the PDCA be used for Quality Assurance of a process improvement?
Planning, for example, could include investigation into the quality of the raw materials used in
manufacturing, the actual assembly, or the inspection processes used. The Checking step could
include customer feedback, surveys, or other marketing vehicles to determine if customer needs
are being exceeded and why they are or are not. Acting could mean a total revision in the
manufacturing process in order to correct a technical or cosmetic flaw.
Quality assurance in process improvement initiatives verifies that any process changes,
regardless if it is new or evolved, is produced and offered with the best possible materials, in the
most comprehensive way, with the highest standards. The goal of Quality Assurance in process
improvement initiatives is to exceed customer expectations in a measurable and accountable