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Quality - quality control

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

Quality control is the more traditional way that businesses have used to manage quality. Quality control is concerned with checking and reviewing work that has been done. But is this the best way for a business to manage quality?


Under traditional quality control, inspection of products and services (checking to make sure that what's being produced is meeting the required standard) takes place during and at the end of the operations process.

There are three main points during the production process when inspection is performed:

1 When raw materials are received prior to entering production
2 Whilst products are going through the production process
3 When products are finished - inspection or testing takes place before products are despatched to customers


The problem with this sort of inspection is that it doesn't work very well!

There are several problems with inspection under traditional quality control:

1 The inspection process does not add any "value". If there were any guarantees that no defective output would be produced, then there would be no need for an inspection process in the first place!
2 Inspection is costly, in terms of both tangible and intangible costs. For example, materials, labour, time, employee morale, customer goodwill, lost sales
3 It is sometimes done too late in the production process. This often results in defective or non-acceptable goods actually being received by the customer
4 It is usually done by the wrong people - e.g. by a separate "quality control inspection team" rather than by the workers themselves
5 Inspection is often not compatible with more modern production techniques (e.g. "Just in Time Manufacturing") which do not allow time for much (if any) inspection.
6 Working capital is tied up in stocks which cannot be sold
7 There is often disagreement as to what constitutes a "quality product". For example, to meet quotas, inspectors may approve goods that don't meet 100% conformance, giving the message to workers that it doesn't matter if their work is a bit sloppy. Or one quality control inspector may follow different procedures from another, or use different measurements.

As a result of the above problems, many businesses have focused their efforts on improving quality by implementing quality management techniques - which emphasise the role of quality assurance. As Deming (a "quality guru") wrote:

"Inspection with the aim of finding the bad ones and throwing them out is too late, ineffective, costly. Quality comes not from inspection but from improvement of the process."




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