Quality Control for Dummies book cover

Quality Control for Dummies

By: Larry Webber and Michael Wallace Published: 03-27-2012

So you’ve been asked to lead a quality control initiative? Or maybe you’ve been assigned to a quality team. Perhaps you’re a CEO whose main concern is to make your company faster, more efficient, and less expensive. Whatever your role is, quality control is a critical concept in every industry and profession.

Quality Control For Dummies is the straightforward, easy guide to improving your company’s quality. It covers all of today’s available options and provides expert techniques for introducing quality methods to your company, collecting data, designing quality processes, and more. This hands-on guide gives you all the tools you’ll ever need to enhance your company’s quality, including:

  • Understanding the importance of quality standards
  • Putting fundamental quality control methods to use
  • Listening to your customer about quality issues
  • Whipping quality control into shape with Lean
  • Working with value stream mapping
  • Focusing on the 5S method
  • Supplement a process with Kanban
  • Fixing tough problems with Six Sigma
  • Using QFD to win customers over
  • Improving you company with TOC

This invaluable reference is written from an unbiased viewpoint, giving you all the facts about each theory with no fuzzy coverings. It also includes steps for incorporating quality into a new product and Web sites packed with quality control tips and techniques. With Quality Control For Dummies, you’ll be able to speed up production, eliminate waste, and save money!

Articles From Quality Control for Dummies

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11 results
Quality Control For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 04-12-2022

Without quality control, your organization can't survive for long. Successfully implementing, maintaining, and evaluating quality control standards is critical whether you're seeking ISO certification or just keeping up with customer needs. When implementing a quality control process, you'll likely face resistance from people within the organization. By staying vigilant and addressing potential problems early, however, your organization can function at a high level.

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Highlighting the Principles behind the Theory of Constraints

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a comprehensive technique for identifying and managing an organization's constraints for obtaining maximum output from a process (or throughput). The TOC says that a traditional approach of optimizing individual processes only occasionally helps throughput. For years, companies have spent large amounts of money to improve their processes. They have eliminated waste, shrunk inventories, and so on, but these improvements haven't delivered a corresponding quantity of savings. The disconnect occurs because the companies focused on speeding up individual processes to become more efficient, often with no overall improvement in throughput. Why optimize a process to produce a product or deliver a service faster or more efficiently if its output will just pile up further down the chain next to a constraint? The key to improving throughput is to manage the constraint that prevents maximum process throughput. Much of a company's internal friction is between departments and processes. As measurements and improvements are applied to one process at a time — often confined to the same department — no one is looking at the "touch points" where products and responsibility move into someone else's hands. The TOC has a big-picture approach to quality that encompasses problems occurring between processes. The TOC aims to identify and resolve internal conflicts — often between policies. You need to make sure that the result of resolved conflicts is a win-win situation for all involved parties; if you use the TOC to bludgeon processes and managers, you'll see it quickly fade away. Concentrate on throughput upfront Most companies measure their production or service processes individually. They look at how efficiently orders are received or how promptly bills are paid. They encourage managers who oversee their processes to optimize them through improvement tools, outside advisors, and even cost reductions, and give rewards for jobs well done. However, each isolated improvement may have a negative effect on another process. Many companies don't rate improvement by how much they improve output of the facility to the customer; they rate only on how much faster one individual process works, and they emphasize only the cost-cutting benefits of improving quality. The TOC's global view perceives improving the speed of individual processes as a waste of time and money. If the accounts-payable process isn't constraining the speed of throughput, why spend time and money to improve it? Although cutting costs provides an immediate bottom-line impact, it can go only so far in quality improvement. After all, costs can drop only to zero. Lean processes, Six Sigma, and the Theory of Constraints all have different ideas of the nature of waste: Lean's emphasis on process flow stipulates that waste is anything that doesn't add value. Six Sigma fights waste in the form of variation in a process or its inputs. The TOC defines waste as a constraint on a system's throughput. The TOC focuses first on increasing income, as its potential is unlimited. (Of course, income has an upper limit, but how many companies have fully exploited and dominated their own markets?) Cutting costs is a secondary priority. The TOC uses throughput, inventory, and operating expense as measures to guide company decisions: Throughput is the rate at which the company's processes create cash for the company through sales of its products or services. Inventory is an investment in tooling, labor, materials, and any other items needed to create goods for sale. Operating expense is the cash spent to convert inventory into throughput. The biggest gains from the TOC technique come from increasing throughput. After that, companies should pay attention first to inventory and last to operating expense. This hierarchy conflicts with the traditional quality concerns of first cutting inventory and labor to improve profits. Don't overfeed the process! If you find that a constraint limits the throughput of an important process in your organization, it doesn't make sense for you to improve upstream processes to run faster. Doing so just creates piles of work-in-process material at the bottleneck. The TOC refers to this problem as overfeeding the process. Implementation of the TOC (combined with Lean processes) reduces the rate of upstream processes to keep the constraint supplied without piling up excess work. As you consolidate and then shrink the work-in-process materials, workers can see that the amount of inventory on hand isn't related to the facility's output. People are funny creatures. If they have jobs like printing paychecks, counting nails, or whatever, and they can work so fast as to pile up work ahead of a constraint, they quickly learn to slow down and soak up the time. The maxim that "work expands to fill the time allotted" is true. What this means for your organization is that a constraint may not always be obvious if the behavior of other links in the operating chain disguises it. Look at the entire process from end to end to identify areas that may be walking slowly — adding non-value-added steps — to soak up the excess time. This review also brings out any "near constraints" that you can address.

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Applying Fundamental Quality Control Concepts

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Your organization can implement several fundamental quality control processes to ensure that you produce or deliver a high-quality product or service. The following sections present the information you need to determine how you can integrate quality control processes into your organization. Introducing quality control to your business The introduction of a quality control process into an organization can be a major shock to its system. The following components are crucial if you want to lessen the shock and gain acceptance within your organization: Advertise acceptance of the program from important stakeholders within your organization. Give communication power to a sponsor who can articulate the need for change and who has the political power to gain compliance when required. Communicate the reasons for the change and the benefits it will bring to everyone in the organization. Train employees in the new ways of the organization. You want workers doing the right things consistently because success helps to gain support. Like most other changes, quality control is best introduced in small bits. One way to do this is to create a pilot project that allows you to make a small change to a small part of your process to see the change's effect. If the results are good, you can implement the change on a wider basis; if the change is bad, you've limited the damage done. Listening to your customers An important concept in quality control is listening to the customer; we call this listening to the voice of the customer (the VOC). Although this task seems pretty simple (can't you just ask?!), you may find that your customers don't know exactly what they need, or they can't articulate their needs. The customer typically has three desires: They want it good. They want it fast. They want it cheap. Of course, in the real world, consumers seldom get all three, so you need to identify what's most important in your customers' buying decisions, and you need to make sure you satisfy those needs. You have several ways to hear the VOC: You can ask by handing out questionnaires, conducting interviews, reviewing complaints, holding focus groups, reviewing purchasing patterns, and interviewing field personnel. You can borrow good ideas from your competitors. Don't be afraid to use good ideas, no matter where you find them. You can use a good customer relationship management (CRM) system, which is a handy tool for gathering and analyzing data about customers. Measuring your quality The old management saying "You can't manage what you can't measure" rings especially true in quality control. A good measurement system helps you to know where you've been and where you're going. Customers typically require that you measure certain attributes of your product or service against their specifications. Your job is to determine what to measure, how to measure it, and when to measure it. Employee training is critical to ensure that everyone involved in your process measures the same specifications in the same way. You also need to collect data in a usable format so that you can analyze it to determine the effectiveness of your quality process. The effectiveness of your quality process is directly related to the quality of your data collection and analysis process. If you don't have good data, you can't make good decisions. Evaluating your quality The most common way to analyze the data you collect is to use statistics. Statistics serve many purposes within quality control: Statistics allow you to determine which processes or parts of processes are causing your company the most problems (by using the 80/20 rule — 80 percent of your problems are caused by 20 percent of what you do). You can use statistics for sampling so that you don't have to test 100 percent of the items you make. Statistics can help you spot relationships between the values you measure — even if the relationships aren't obvious. They also allow you to identify small variations in your process that can lead to big problems if you don't correct them. Although statistics can seem daunting, you can use many simple tools to greatly improve your quality — tools that don't require an advanced degree in statistics! Although much of statistics allows you to look back only at what has happened in the past, Statistical Process Control (SPC) allows you to identify problems before they can negatively impact the quality of your product or service. The basic idea behind SPC is that if you can spot a change in a process before it gets to the point of making bad products, you can fix the process before bad products hit the shelves.

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Quality Control Technique: Trimming Down with Lean Processes

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Lean processes are the latest diet craze in the world of quality control! Lean is a quality control technique you can use to identify and eliminate the flab in your company's processes. The "flab" is all the dead weight carried by a process without adding any value. The customer doesn't want to pay for dead weight, so why should you? Most company processes are wasteful in terms of time and materials, which often results in poorer quality to the customer — a concern for all businesses. Lean focuses on customer satisfaction and cost reduction. Proponents of the technique believe that every step in a process is an opportunity to make a mistake — to create a quality problem, in other words. The fewer steps you have in a process, the fewer chances for error you create and the better the quality in your final product or service. You can apply the Lean techniques in the following sections to all types of processes and in environments ranging from offices, to hospitals, to factories. In most cases, applying Lean concepts doesn't require an increase in capital costs — it simply reassigns people to more productive purposes. And, oh yes, Lean processes are much cheaper to operate. Value Stream Mapping People think in images, not in words, so giving them a picture of how something is done is often better than telling them about a process. After all, the quote is "Show me the money!" not "Tell me about the money!" Value Stream Mapping visually describes a production process in order to help workers locate waste within it. Waste is any activity that doesn't add value for the customer. Typically, eliminating waste involves reducing the amount of inventory sitting around and shortening the time it takes to deliver a product or service to the customer upon its order. The 5S method Work areas evolve along with the processes they support. As your organization implements new actions and tools, you must find a place for them "somewhere." Over time, clutter can slowly build as piles of excess materials or tools grow and gradually gum up the smooth flow of work. The 5S method is an essential tool for any quality initiative that seeks to clear up the flow of work. Five Ss describe five Japanese attributes required for a clean workplace: Seiri (organization) Seiton (neatness) Seiso (cleaning) Seiketsu (standardization) Shitsuke (discipline) Removing all the clutter from a process eliminates hidden inventories, frees floor space for productive use, improves the flow of materials through the workplace, reduces walk time, and shakes out unnecessary items for reuse elsewhere or landfill designation. Rapid Improvement Events No one knows a process like the workers who touch it every day. They know how the work should flow, they can identify obstacles that slow everyone down, and they deal with problems that never seem to go away. So, why not tap this source of institutional knowledge and turn it loose to fix the problems that vex workers day in and day out? A Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) is an intensive process-improvement activity, where over a few days a company's workers bone up on Lean techniques and rebuild their processes to incorporate its principles. The workers take apart their work areas, rearrange items, and reassemble the spaces for more efficient work. The improvements are immediate, and the workers have ownership of the process and feel motivated to further refine it. Lean Materials and Kanban A company's materials are essential for the organization to work well, but they also tie up a large part of a company's capital. And while the company does its business year in and year out, its materials are stolen, damaged, rotting, corroding, and losing value in many other ways. A key part of the Lean approach is to minimize the amount of materials (both incoming and finished goods) you have sitting around in your facility. (What do you know? This minimization is called Lean Materials.) Excess materials hide problems with purchasing, work scheduling, scrap rates, and so on. Eliminating these excess materials provides an immediate financial benefit to your company — if you eliminate correctly. You don't want to eliminate so thoroughly that you cause shortages. One method you can use to fix the problem of excess materials without causing shortages is Kanban. Kanban is a materials system controlled by the customer. When a consumer buys an item, action cascades back up the production line to make one more of that item.

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Considering the Pros and Cons of Rapid Improvement Events

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

All business processes start out operating perfectly (that's the plan, anyway). Over time, however, things change. Gradually, a simple process becomes more complex, and this complexity can breed inefficiency. Rapid Improvement Events aim to identify and remove the "extra" from processes and return them to efficiency. The events Train workers how to use tools and techniques to identify waste in a process and eliminate it. Set new expectations for process performance. Educate the workforce to "think Lean" (eliminating the flab in company processes). Over time, employees become intolerant of poor quality, poor communication, and poor process performance. Rapid Improvement Events can provide immediate benefits to a company, but an organization also has to keep an eye on the potential disadvantages, too. The pluses of RIEs You can point to several obvious advantages of Rapid Improvement Events when considering them for your quality process. With careful planning, all these benefits can be yours! Cost savings: Your company will save money through • Faster, streamlined process performance • Reduced labor costs • Improved quality through fewer errors • Less cash tied up in partially finished goods Energized workforce: Workers organize the work area, analyze the process, identify waste, and eliminate it. Employees' ideas solve the problem, so they "own" the solution. Immediate payback for improvements: This payback is often the result of streamlining labor and returning excess material for use elsewhere. Relatively inexpensive to conduct: An RIE has minimal paperwork and overhead. The minuses of RIEs Before your organization embarks on a program of Rapid Improvement Events, you need to consider these possible problem areas: Improvements are isolated to one area. To gain full benefit from Rapid Improvement Events, an organization must undertake a company-wide conversion to Lean processes. The process you seek to improve must be out of service for about a week. Consider working ahead to stockpile material to use during the event. RIEs may raise unmanageable worker expectations. Carefully set team member expectations so they'll know what to expect, and count on them to spread those expectations to others in the organization. Process changes focus on what's possible within the event's duration. RIEs make a process run faster and more error-free; however, if the process was making poorly designed parts to start with, it will now make them faster. RIEs are based on the premise that the product or service created is the optimal product desired by the customer. If the process output specifications are for poorly designed parts or services, then the team will create the poor design faster and more efficiently. However, it won't improve customer satisfaction.

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Implementing Quality Control Standards: How to Overcome Organizational Reluctance

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Many people in the organization will see the introduction of a quality control process as an unwelcome change. Overcoming reluctance to a new quality control process calls for clear and consistent communication, and a constant eye on the "big picture." Here are some tips on how to rally the support of the willing, ease the fears of the reluctant, and overcome the obstacles put up by the unwilling. Monitor and manage the risks as your project progresses. Believe in your goal, and focus on the benefits that quality will bring to your organization. Don't go it alone; find support from the quality sponsor or other experts in your organization. Remain rational when you face challenges. Keep everything in perspective. Break down any obstacles into manageable pieces.

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How to Improve Quality Control through Customer Feedback

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Customer feedback is one of the most important resources for improving an organization's quality control. If you're serious about quality control, you can't assume that you know what the customer wants, and you can't wait for them to tell you. Actively seeking customer input ensures that you know exactly what the customer wants, which is the only way to keep your organization in business. Your organization exists to provide for the needs of your customers. Use these tips to devise a feedback survey that reveals your customers' needs: Define your objectives; know what you hope to accomplish before you begin. Think about how you'll analyze the data you gather; consider your objectives as well as time and budget restraints. Use good questions that fit within your objectives and data-analysis method. Keep the data-collection process simple to minimize errors. Use an unrelated party to collect data to prevent bias. Train your data collectors to ensure consistency and accuracy. Perform a trial run to work out any bugs in the collection process. Make any modifications necessary and gather more information from a larger customer population.

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How to Get Your Quality Control Project Back on Track

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Of course you expect your quality-control project to succeed, but things rarely go as smoothly as planned. Even the best-laid plans sometimes run into problems. Be ready for trouble and use the following tips to get your quality project back on track. Review your goals and focus on what's really important. Evaluate where your project stands — look at what you've achieved and where the project truly has problems. Get professional help from an outside expert. Learn from your mistakes by preventing them in the future. Determine your minimum acceptable goals; you may have to scale back the project.

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How to Obtain ISO Certification to Demonstrate Quality Control Standards

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Meeting ISO (International Organization for Standardization) quality standards ensures customers that you'll provide quality product. ISO standards are the most recognized quality standards — after all, the organization's members consist of the national standards organizations of 150 countries. Follow these ISO quality standards, which provide a common language for companies to trade across the globe: Get commitment from top management to ensure success. Train all employees on the basics of quality. Prepare your quality policy manual. Document operating procedures. Perform an internal audit. Select an ISO certification agency to use. Have the certification agency perform the audit. If you pass the audit, congratulations! If you don't pass the audit, take necessary corrective action and repeat the audit.

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How to Measure Your Current Quality Control Process

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Careful measurement is key to managing your quality control processes. Use the following steps to ensure that you measure the right quality-control factors in the right way. Determine what to measure (the items or processes you decide to measure are called metrics). Determine your measurement process by selecting the best process for your needs. Define exactly how you’ll use the selected measurement process. Train your employees on the proper measurement process. Perform gauge repeatability and reproducibility (R&R) tests to determine measurement variation. Perform the measurements and compare to customer specifications. Confirm the quality of your data with compare-and-review checks and the help of a computer. Make sense of your data with coding and different data charts.

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