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Quality Remix: More on Quality - Independence

December 21, 2009
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Why would a company want a poorly functioning QA (quality assurance) department?

Companies make money by selling parts or assemblies they manufacture. If the parts do not meet the QA requirements they cannot be sold as is, they must be repaired, reworked, or scrapped and replaced. None of these are attractive options as they represent unplanned expenditures and can impact manufacturing and delivery schedules.

In the Aerospace industry, these parts may be large complex composite structures that may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps even millions of dollars. If defects are found in a part, repairing the part might take several hundred man-hours and tie up an autoclave, inspection equipment and critical personnel. Required processes include composite processing, inspection, NDT, QA buyoff, QA rejection reporting, and MRB (Material Review Board) activity.

This extensive process can easily cost 20% or more of the value of the part, and this is more than the profit margin on the cost of the part. In addition to the added cost, the time required for repair may delay the delivery of a critical major assembly or even an airplane. Depending on the terms of the contract, this may result in financial penalties.

Company executives get positive reviews and bonuses for meeting production schedules and making profits. Executives don’t appreciate QA problems causing expenditures and delays that affect their income.

For these reasons, QA must be independent of manufacturing and production. When quality is located under manufacturing or production engineering in the organization chart, there is at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

QA should never be managed or overseen by an executive whose financial rewards can be negatively impacted by QA problems. If they are, there is always the possibility that QA problems will be suppressed either by the executive or his subordinates who don’t want to displease him, since their own career and raises depend on it. Most people recognize that displeasing one’s boss is not good for one’s career.

Some unethical quality managers are more committed to making sure that quality issues do not impact manufacturing rates or schedules than making sure that parts meet quality (qngineering) requirements.

Some people have the courage and commitment to quality to do what is right even when management pressures them to find a way to show it good, when they know it is not.

…Unfortunately some do not.

More on Quality in February.
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QA Independance

Daniel Crowley
December 21, 2009
Douglas, I completly agree with you, QA must be independent in an organization. Usually it is in most manufacturing companies I've been with, but not so with software houses. And it is evident as software industry's quality is so poor, with a COQ above 50-70%. Normally QA (which is really testing only) is under the Development VP. This industry need a Chief Quality Officer (CQO) to oversee the organization's quality. Daniel Crowley, CCP QATips.com

QA Independance

December 22, 2009
Douglas, I partially agree and disagree with the concept of independent QA in any organization. Modern manufacturing is applying lean concept & flat organization structure. Where in people are empowered to produce quality products from start, when we adopt such a phenomenon then separate QA will only hold back the product to be delivered. QA should independently report to Plant Head where in he functionally work with production to deliver quality product.

QA independence

Doug Burleigh
December 22, 2009
Cyril I worked in a "lean" environment and that was where I saw the worst problems. It still comes down to a commitment to quality by all those involved. And those involved may not even understand the quality issues, so they focus on keeping things moving. Quality needs to be "Job one" unless failure is acceptable.

Keeping QA independent of Production

Charles Blair
January 7, 2010
I have had first hand experiance and have suffered for it. Not once but twice. The last time when people who supported QA retired we found ourselves once more under the control of the production department and my last protests cost me plenty. The company also practiced crisis managment which made things worst. When I was terminated I was a Certifed ASQ Auditor and I believe this helped in the end because they could not use the excuse I was not qualified. The excuse was that I did not fit the new owners profile of young and dynamic but I still got a good settlement package. The rest of the good people left in my department were fired or changed companies less then 2 years after I did. Working under a conflict of interest can cause post tramatic stress syndrome in some people and anyone working under a conflict of interest should find a new job before becomming ill.

RE: Quality Remix: More on Quality - Independence

Steve Rosemergy
January 15, 2010
Douglas, Ultimately, yes that is where you want to be once your organizational practices are institutionalized and moving toward standardization and optimization. However, at inception, having an independent voice can prove to be problematic - especially for the messenger. I'm sure you've heard the term "dead right". How soon an independent voice of objectivity can be put in place really depends on the appetite and ability of the organization to respond to problems and improvement opportunity. Careful consideration of what is said versus what is done is an important factor to evaluate when considering where an "independent voice" can initially reside. In organizations where there are few independent objective voices, providing feedback on process or product QA is sometimes best started within the organization or business unit under review. In such cases a more collaborative approach to QA with small incremental changes built upon what is already done (and recognition of existing best practices) is essential. Your biggest hurdles are not with the practitioners, rather with the mid-level and senior managers. Interestingly, your biggest opponents in the beginning generally have the most to offer (in spite of their negativity) and can end up being your biggest champions to getting your endpoint and the transition toward objective independence. I hope you find this helpful, Steve Rosemergy

QA Independence

David Kersley
January 17, 2010
I concur that the QA process needs an independent reporting relationship to senior management. That said, it is through collaborative engagement with line crews that quality can most effectively be improved: those in the process are the ones who can best improve it, with assistance via independent and objective facilitation.

Is QA Rhetoric

Keshav Raj
January 21, 2010
I fully agree with the views stated. Regretably many companies have lofted statements on QA, while on ground it remains a rhetoric. QA as an independent function is mandatory to ensure compliance. An unbiased QA reporting will ensure long term success and brand building. However, short term financial goals is what most production/operation executives strive for. I am convinced that long term Quality consciousness helps bottom lines & brand equity besides improving operational efficiency. Do we have case for CQOs???

QA or QM

Petrus Mincevski
January 25, 2010
I partial agree with previous discussion. One thing is clear : Non quality costs money, but quality costs money, too. But we should make clear dinstinction between the both categories. QA must be independent division or department with strong material and human (competented) resources in continuity. But around all companies processes or of the whole company as overall proces, must be managed by Quality System Manager of the level of Quality management System. We don`t forget that QA, QC, QP and QI are parts of Quality Management in the organization.

Quality Independence - A barrier to integrated operations

February 19, 2010
If processes are validated and audited regularly the 'QA' acronym is somewhat of a misnomer. Qualty assurance is often associated with Insurance. When you say, 'QA requirements', don't you mean Customer requirements? I realize that QC and QA has become a somewhat bloated entity unto itself, but we really do need to keep operational segments in their proper context... if only to maintain a lean environment. We serve the customer, not the 'QA' Departments. Building interior 'us and them' barriers in any organization is a recipe for corporate failure. If operational processes are properly designed around customers needs, then ALL employees can be trained and instructed around what is acceptable and what is not. The old fashioned QA or QC function is obsolete if each person in the organization is given the title, 'customers representative'. If processes are validated and audited regularly through the task, procedure and process sequences, the customer can realistically consider the product as meeting their requirements.

Organizational Leadership Will Make or Break It

Don Duggins
April 1, 2010
As a business owner and professional in the quality field for about 17 years now, my opinion is that quality is not a function that should be viewed as the sole responsibility of a separate department or group. However, the problem is that historically leadership has often measured Production Managers (PM) and similar roles with an over emphasis on throughput. This over emphasis provided temptation for PMs to cheat in order to get high throughput numbers, even at the risk of poor quality. As a result, quality personnel reporting to PMs were often neutered in their ability to influence a more customer focused behavior. Elevating the quality function to a senior level, separate from production was aimed at addressing this issue. In some instances, this separation of functions opened the door for quality improvement, given that quality managers were now unfettered. However, often this separation led to a greater dis-ownership for quality by production personnel, because they mistakenly saw the prevention of defects as solely being the responsibility of the "quality guys". Moreover, because quality was indeed now unfettered, there was a tendency for finger pointing and blaming of production, which led to increased conflicts between manufacturing and quality personnel. This internal tension and stress is not always necessary and can often be avoided. All this said, my experience is that senior level management sets the tone for this in terms of the goals they set, how they measure success, and how they exercise accountability. In the initial phases of a business, the operator has responsibility for making products and ensuring they meet specification. It is a similar point of view for on time delivery. However, as the business grows, quality assurance and control becomes more complex. Documented procedures become more critical as variability must be minimized and systemic controls must be in place to ensure quality planning takes place even from the early stages of design. This alone may suggest separate, specialized resources to help carry out certain functions - but it doesn't have to. In certain industries, regulatory requirements mandate separation of quality and production functions. So, until that changes, as I say sometimes "it is what it is". In other cases, organization leaders have the leeway to build cross collaboration and integration of quality and production as they see fit - as long as it works. I personally prefer to build an organization that has collateral responsibilities in quality and production, and treats quality as just as important as making a sale or paying the payroll.

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