Proving quality: Tools that shape information

To quality professionals, the challenge “So prove it!” is far more than a school yard taunt, since their organizations must continually demonstrate to customers, board members, suppliers, associations, regulatory bodies, and others that their products or services indeed meet the quality standards that they espouse.

So how does an organization—even one that is following strict standards for its products—manage to show that it is indeed doing so? In an age when every advertisement and TV commercial touts product quality, the word has lost its meaning to many. Nonetheless, being able to demonstrate the meaning of quality in products and services is not only important, but often required.

This is where tools come in. Among those that are useful in offering proof of quality performance are:

  • Process behavior, Shewhart, or control charts
  • Statistical process control
  • Measurement systems analysis
  • Gage calibration management
  • Process capability analysis

Of course the specific tools that are important vary by industry and customer needs. Hospitals, for example, might want to analyze wait times in the Emergency Department. An ice cream manufacturer may measure the number of chocolate chips in its mint chocolate chip flavor. Each process may be different, but all demand attention to stable systems that produce quality products and services.

The type of proof that is required also depends upon the consumer of the information. If you manufacture automotive parts, your customer might require a Cpk with the part you ship. A quality auditor might require a calibration history for a gage, and an expectant mother might want to see how C-section rates at a local hospital compare to those nationwide.

Regulatory agencies, on the other hand, may want to know the condition of a measurement system. Calibration records for gages and other measurement devices demand the use of different tools from that of attendance records of employees. Among available tools, in brief:

  • Control charts, known as process behavior charts or Shewhart charts, demonstrate the predictability of a process by charting data to indicate its stability.
  • Statistical process control (SPC) is used to analyze and interpret data so that areas to improve become apparent.
  • Measurement systems analysis (MSA) is a method for determining if a measurement system is capable of measuring differences among the units produced by a process.
  • Gage calibration management is fundamental to doing good business in any organization that uses physical equipment to measure its product or service.
  • Capability analysis is a set of calculations used to assess whether a system is statistically able to meet a set of specifications or requirements.

PQ Systems utilizes statistical analysis in its own quest for quality. For specific application to software development, for example, “defects” become “bugs” in popular parlance, and the goal of the development team is to prevent these errors, rather than simply detecting them. Tools that assure consistent quality throughout the development process include:

  • Unit Testing
  • Coded UI Testing
  • Image Comparison Testing
  • Report Comparison Testing
  • Interactive Testing

While programmers and development team members find these tools essential to providing proof of quality, they clearly do not apply to other processes in the organization. Nonetheless, they represent PQ Systems’ consistent commitment to assuring customer satisfaction with high-quality software solutions.

To learn more about these tools that will help you understand your processes more clearly and communicate their quality in a way that will prove your performance, visit www.pqsystems.com.

2 thoughts on “Proving quality: Tools that shape information

  1. This is an interesting mix of terms, but I wish there were more discussion of why and how they are different. I know that space is limited, but behind those terms are some key questions.
    1. is my process changing? (process behavior charts/stability}
    2. if it is changing, why is it changing (SPC and a variety of other tools could be listed here)
    3. How much of the total variation is coming from my measurement methods? (I find many processes seem to skip this question or are unaware of its importance)
    4. Are my measurement tools consistent? This is a much lower question that the others in this list…more about compliance than anything else…assumes a lot of other work has already been completed… but still worth noting.
    5. Finally, how is my process in relation to the agreement to the customer specifications? Again, I find most people put too much focus on this issue. It is truly a compliance issue as well, instead of being a measure of improvement… I could really care less about where the capability number is today – rather I would be interested in if it is getting better over time.

    All in all… some interesting questions, and a foundation of any “QUALITY” effort.

    • Great comments. Thanks for getting the conversation started. Stay tuned for more on this topic in the February Quality eLine.

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