Quality assurance is an important aspect of quality management, which plays a crucial role in any business. SHEQ MANAGEMENT takes a look at how to prevent product defects through quality assurance

According to the Global Quality Management 2018 Market Research Report, the global quality management market is expected to grow by more than US$ 24 billion (R339 billion) between 2018 and 2025. More companies are realising the benefits of implementing quality-management systems as a method of lowering costs.

Effective quality-management systems can, ultimately, prevent defects, recalls and customer complaints, and assist in maintaining the reputation of an organisation. These systems include quality planning, assurance, control and improvements.

The Global Quality Management Report states: “Quality management is focused on product and service quality, as well as on the means to achieve it. It therefore uses quality assurance and control of processes and products to achieve more consistent quality.”

Quality assurance and quality control are often used interchangeably, even though each refers to a different aspect of quality management. The latter is concerned with detection, while the former focuses on prevention. Quality assurance aims to provide management and customers with the confidence that quality expectations will be met.

Testing a product in a laboratory is an example of quality control. Implementing strict health and safety procedures for employees to avoid food contamination in the food and beverage industry is an example of quality assurance.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), quality assurance includes systems for documentation, standard operating procedures, quality control samples and external quality assessment schemes. The goal is to put systems in place to ensure that the production line runs effectively with minimal quality deviations.

Brett Arthur, senior consultant for Dialog IT, an information technology service company in Australia, notes: “Quality assurance planning activities are quality plans, inspection and test plans, the selection of defect tracking tools and the training of people in the selected methods and processes. Its purpose is to prevent defects from entering the solution in the first place.”

He believes that communication is the most important part of quality assurance: “Part of any risk-mitigation strategy is clear communication of both the risks and associated remedies to the team involved in the project.” Employee training in health and safety is a good approach to communicating processes and their importance to workers.

Industries are vastly different and each company will have its own specific challenges in terms of quality assurance.

Organisations such as SGS assist companies to establish quality-management systems, provide assessments and assist with legal compliance. The ISO 9001:2015 is the internationally recognised standard for quality management.

Prevention is always better than reacting to an incident, or defect. With the correct quality assurance and management system, companies can save on recall costs and save face with customers who can enjoy a product of high quality.

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