Quality Blog

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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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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