Manufacturers need to ensure that they provide quality products to their end customers. Not only does this increase customer satisfaction, but it also enhances a manufacturing company’s reputation in their respective industry.
A defined quality assurance plan helps manufacturers bring this goal to fruition. A quality assurance plan sets out the standards, resources, and practices that personnel across the organization should use to ensure that the final product ticks all boxes spanning customer satisfaction and regulatory compliance.
However, in some instances, manufacturers might find that industry standards might not satisfy their business objectives due to complex manufacturing processes. Therefore, such manufacturers – for example, in the automotive industry – develop an advanced quality plan (advanced product quality planning) to ensure that they meet their superior quality standards.
Read on to learn how a quality assurance plan can help you improve production quality across your operations.
What is a Quality Assurance Plan?
Consistent quality is a sought-after factor in the vast majority of manufacturing operations. And with the advent of Industry 4.0, more quality requirements have sprung forth, necessitating manufacturers to develop more comprehensive quality management systems. As such, quality assurance plans have come to the fore.
A quality assurance plan is a document that highlights the standards a given manufactured product should adhere to. Furthermore, this plan also contains the practices that need to be executed to ensure that the product meets the set requirements.
Additionally, the quality assurance plan also outlines personnel responsible and the resources that will go into the manufacturing process so that the product never falls short of the standards set. Also, this plan sets out the quality control measures necessary to ensure that the product meets specifications.
In doing all this, the plan covers all aspects of production quality before an end-product is shipped and delivered to the customer.
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Difference between Quality Assurance and Quality Control
Although sometimes used interchangeably, quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) are quite distinct. However, both of these are features of the broader quality management system.
Quality assurance tends to be used more broadly and begins defining quality standards even before the manufacturing process kicks off. In other words, QA is integrated into the entire process to predict and prevent defective items from being produced.
On the other hand, quality control later identifies if any defective products have come off the line. As such, QC is seen as a last line of defense, ensuring that unsatisfactory and nonconforming products don’t make it into the customers’ hands.
Benefits of a Quality Assurance Plan
A quality assurance plan provides several benefits to manufacturing businesses.
Improved production efficiency: A quality assurance plan details the production process to ensure that all necessary standards are met. This includes identifying and preventing possible bottlenecks that may hamper production.
Additionally, a QA plan assigns responsibility to various individuals at different stages of production the production process. This ensures that all personnel know their specific duties and how to execute them.
Lower production costs: Because a QA plan examines the manufacturing processes even before production begins, it identifies areas of potential failure that can significantly impact manufacturing costs.
This allows the relevant personnel to execute preventive actions, ensuring that the line operates optimally when production kicks off.
Gaining and maintaining customer trust: Customers expect only the best when they purchase products from a business. Therefore, manufacturers need to ensure that their production processes provide customers with goods that meet their needs and exceed their expectations.
That’s where a well-thought-out quality assurance plan comes in. The program points out standards that products must adhere to before being put in the hands of customers. Consequently, manufacturers gain trust and repeat business from customers satisfied with their purchases.
Better work environment for employees: Quality assurance plans include employees in assessing the totality of a manufacturing operation. After all, operators are the ones actually doing the work and have direct input into the production processes.
As such, a QA plan insists on workers operating in ideal work conditions. The plan identifies potential work hazards and recommends relevant solutions. Consequently, satisfied employees are more motivated to execute their tasks, driving other quality assurance goals like efficient production and lower costs.
Compliance with regulations and standards: Manufacturers need to conform to various standards and regulations to compete favorably in the market. As discussed earlier, quality assurance plans allow businesses to comply with workplace and product safety regulations.
Furthermore, QA plans can outline industry standards governing the quality of raw materials used in product manufacturing. Using raw materials that meet these standards and specifications can be imperative for the business, allowing it to pass regulatory audits.
How to improve production quality
Manufacturers should consider the following steps to improve production quality.
Consider the customers’ needs: Quality assurance aims to prevent defects and other problems from cropping up in the production process. One way to ensure that the final product ticks all boxes is to incorporate the customer’s needs in the planning process.
With this in mind, manufacturers can design processes that ensure the customer gets exactly what they need.
Vet suppliers thoroughly: Even with top-notch production processes, a manufacturing business can struggle if it utilizes poor-quality raw materials.
As such, manufacturers need to extend their quality assurance plan to cover suppliers as well. It pays to conduct due diligence before taking on a supplier to ensure that they, too, comply with standards and regulations connected to the materials.
Develop a quality-centered culture: Because quality doesn’t start and end with the quality management department, it’s prudent for manufacturing businesses to involve all personnel in quality assurance efforts.
Therefore, top management should consult all departments to understand better how different areas can impact quality across the operations.
Continuous worker skill development: As quality standards evolve due to the constantly changing business environment, so do the skill requirements needed.
Consequently, manufacturers need to continuously upskill their employees so that the operation doesn’t lag when it comes to offering quality products.
Leveraging Quality 4.0: As the manufacturing landscape has changed due to Industry 4.0, so has the level of quality management required. Industries like automotive manufacturing have embraced smart factories, with many crafting an advanced quality plan to take advantage of Quality 4.0.
Connected devices collect data that is subjected to modern analytics to provide more comprehensive insights into quality management across the production cycle.
If you're interested in learning how Tulip can help improve your quality management practices, reach out to a member of our team today!
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