By its simplest definition, evolution is any process of formation or growth. And just like quality assurance and process improvement in manufacturing is prevalent in a host of markets and applications—automotive, medical and aerospace, just to name a few—the idea of evolution touches a variety of businesses, institutions, disciplines and society at large.

In sociology and economics, evolution is said to be a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development. In some areas, it is cause and effect, a product or result of something. For instance, space exploration is said to be “the evolution of decades of research.” In the development and production of tools and machinery, evolution is “a motion incomplete in itself, but combining with coordinated motions to produce a single action.”

However, probably most recognized and most spoken of in terms of biology, the concept of evolution is “a change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection and genetic drift.”

While controversial, in biology, the theory of evolution posits that all life on Earth originated and evolved from a “universal common ancestor” billions of years ago. Charles Darwin was the first to form the argument for evolution with his theory on Natural Selection, supported by three observations about populations:

More offspring are produced than can possibly survive. 

Traits vary among individuals, leading to differential rates of survival and reproduction, and

Trait differences are heritable.

In essence, those possessing stronger and better-adapted traits to a particular environment will survive over those that do not. These traits will continue to thrive in the environment through the offspring of these better-suited members of the population. This is why natural selection is known as the adaptive cause of evolution. Mutation and genetic drift are the non-adaptive causes of evolution that complete the list of the processes of evolution described earlier. While still only a theory, and again, controversial, the scientific argument for evolution has been strengthened over the past half-century with the discovery of DNA and continuing study and discovery in the field of genetics.

This month, Quality will attempt to strengthen the argument for evolution as it pertains to quality assurance and the improvement of the manufacturing process. Learn more about the evolution of the efficiency and accuracy of dimensional metrology and its growing use of system integration with our measurement feature, “The Trend toward System Integration” by Pat Nugent. Also, see how technologies from the digital inspection market are evolving to aid in the development and quality control in the manufacture of photovoltaics with Dale Deering, Brad Finney and Dr. Xing-Fei He’s test & inspection article, “NIR Line-Scan Imaging—A Technology With Much More to Offer.”

As always, enjoy and thanks for reading!