The official definition of the word “control” is: to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; or to adjust to a requirement. This definition fits perfectly with Quality’s May coverage as we talk about document control and discuss internal audits that help companies prepare for official audits under ISO standards.

Control should be familiar to all engineers from its roots in the scientific method. Scientific control deals with experimentation and is designed to minimize the effects of variables on, or independently of, the independent variable. This experimentation helps improve the reliability of the results of any process, often by comparing the controlled and the uncontrolled.

A traditional example lies in drug testing. Testing occurs by selecting subjects under controlled conditions—subjects of the same age, weight, health, and so on. This collection of subjects is split into two groups, one given an experimental drug (even more control), one not. Observation of the effect of the drug on these subjects will guide the scientists in determining what effect the drug has and whether it is successful in treating what it is designed to treat. Without a control group, the experiment cannot determine whether the drug improves the health of those given the drug more than those who were not.

The idea of control is not only discussed in the scientific community to help improve individual health, but people often talk about control as a way of improving our society. Many talk of gun-control laws as a way to curb the violence and crime on our streets. The use of control in this manner is the essence of an internal audit. As discussed in this month’s article by Michelle Bangert, “Take the Fear Out of Audits,” going through an internal audit can be viewed in much the same way as the scientific method described earlier. Taking the opportunity to observe processes and comparing them to industrial standards can help a company determine shortfalls, make improvements and get ever closer to the control of its process that leads to certification.

One of the keys to success in a process, whether for certification or not, is document control. As Bill Best describes in his feature, “Are Your Documents Under Control?,” a document management system used to consist of rows of file cabinets and a (hopefully) competent file clerk with the key to the locks on those file cabinets. Today, with the proliferation of automated processes, computers and electronic files, document control has been made more efficient and easier to navigate, but it is still indispensible, not only in complying to standards but in maintaining and improving the processes that keep a company strong.

So, check out these features and everything else Quality has to offer in this month’s issue.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!