What is QA (Quality Assurance), anyway? Well, it’s easy. Just sit there and say no to everything. Or, these days you can just google it and in 5 minutes you’ll know everything, of course it’s easy!
But, that’s simplifying way too much and this blog article would be over in one sentence. In the interest of keeping everyone’s attention, I’ll keep this as short as possible and add as much value (+ interesting analogies) as I can so no one falls asleep in class.
Here it goes…
As quality control specialists, we each have a personal viewpoint and without getting technical, going into graphs and metrics, mine is about questioning what’s in front of you….and at times, being the voice of reason.
It’s about confirming specs, caring about the product and having a sense of responsibility. The goal is to be proactive enough to predict if something may cause a problem…or when a problem does comes up, it can be stopped.
We operate efficiently to avoid wasting time, and more importantly, the customer isn’t inconvenienced.
It is in everyone’s best interest to know that QA is working for all parties.
But, why bother with QA at all? When parts are bought new and sold new, what is the point?
The point is, we need to make sure that new items weren’t packed poorly or damaged. (Or for sake of example, that the new Ferrari you just bought isn’t really a Chevy with a different sticker on the back.)
After all, who wants a reputation for repeatedly selling bad, or low quality, or even the wrong product.
We have to be aware that Human Error is always there. It would be a nice world where every thing in the supply chain worked the way it was supposed to, right?
QA understands that it’s never that easy, so we like to work towards filtering out the other persons’ errors. A great way is standardization. We follow the same QA process for each part (inspect, review, pack, etc.), repeatedly checking and questioning ourselves.
We don’t know if the person that sent us a part was having a bad day, if they were being yelled at, if they had a flat tire on the way to work, or maybe are they were just too distracted to notice when 3 instead of 8 parts go into a package.
Simple mistakes cost a lot to resolve.
The receiving inspector will place it on “hold” because the QTY is wrong, the sales person goes back to the vendor, the vendor has to check with their people, someone has to find what’s missing and repack, reship, re-document. The list of people now involved becomes an army, and all of it becomes a complete waste of resources because of a distraction.
Think of similar issues but at the other end of the chain. For example, an Aircraft Mechanic could be repairing an aircraft with 300 people on board, and the parts they thought they had are missing, or defective. People are late for their vacation, kids crying, missed connections, missed meetings, etc.
Instead of a few people doing a little extra work and being inconvenienced. You are now dealing with something critical, perhaps life threatening, (we never know, this is the future scenario we are trying to avoid).
If you’re the passenger when that something goes wrong, will you then be more secure knowing everyone has their own kind of QA system in place? Would you be hoping that the mechanic didn’t have a bad day when he fixed your aircraft, and that they had high ethical quality standards? That they will check and recheck themselves even when others are pressuring them?
Ultimately, we all want the perfect thing.
Quality is a long boring subject to most, but we’d all be in a much worse place without it.
Now the funny part, during my research for this blog article, I came across this anecdote at:
I hope you find it amusing.
How True is This Story?
Once upon a time an American aerospace company and the Japanese decided to have a competitive boat race on the Tennessee river. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance. On race day, they both felt ready and certain they would win.
The Japanese won by a mile!
Afterwards, the American team became very discouraged by the loss and morale sagged. Corporate management decided that the reason for crushing defeat had to be found. A continuous measurable improvement team was set up to investigate the problem and recommend appropriate corrective action. Their conclusion:
The problem was that the Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering; whereas, the American team had one person rowing and eight people steering. The American corporate steering committee immediately hired a consulting firm to do a study on the management structure.
After some time and millions of dollars, the consulting firm concluded that: too many people were steering and not enough were rowing.
To prevent losing to the Japanese again the next year. The team’s management structure was totally reorganized to four steering managers, three area steering managers, one staff steering manager, and a new performance system for the person rowing the boat.
The next year the Japanese won by two miles.
Humiliated, the American corporation laid off the rower for poor performance, sold the paddles, canceled all capital investments. For new equipment, halted development of a new canoe, gave a “High Performance” award to the consulting firm. Then they distributed the money saved as bonuses to the senior executives.