What Does Quality Assurance (QA) Mean?
Quality assurance (QA) is the process of verifying whether a product meets required specifications and customer expectations.
The goal of QA is to identify and prevent defects or inconsistencies, ensure the final product or service is of high quality. The process includes:
- Developing and implementing quality standards and procedures.
- Communicating with stakeholders to ensure that quality standards are met.
- Conducting inspections, tests and audits.
- Using data to identify and analyze defects and issues.
- Continually monitoring and improving the quality of the product or service.
- Creating and maintaining documentation for all of the above.
Techopedia Explains Quality Assurance (QA)
QA involves tracking and resolving deficiencies prior to a product or service's release. When QA requires too many iterations, it can cause production delays.
Quality Assurance Frameworks.
Various methodologies and frameworks may be used to improve QA, including:
ISO 9000: This international standard for quality management provides a framework for organizations that need to include regulatory requirements as part of their QA.
Six Sigma: This is a data-driven approach to quality assurance that uses statistical analysis to identify and eliminate defects in a process.
Total Quality Management (TQM): This framework emphasizes the involvement of all employees in the quality improvement process and the use of data and statistical analysis to identify and eliminate defects.
CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration): This framework provides a set of guidelines for improving the processes of an organization, focusing on the development and maintenance of products and services.
ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library): This framework provides a set of best practices for managing IT services, focusing on the alignment of IT services with the needs of the business.
SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability dEtermination) : This is a framework for assessing and improving the processes used in software development and maintenance.
Agile: This is a framework for software development that emphasizes flexibility, collaboration and customer involvement, which allows for a continuous quality improvement.
Lean: This framework focuses on eliminating waste and increasing efficiency. Although this framework has its roots in manufacturing, a lean approach to improving quality has been adopted by many other industries, including software development and IT services.
How is Quality Assurance Measured?
Measurability is the key to QA. There are several ways to measure the quality of a product or service, including:
Inspection: This involves physically examining the product or trying out the service to ensure it meets specified requirements and standards.
Testing: This involves conducting different types of tests to evaluate the performance, reliability and safety of a product or service.
Statistical Process Control (SPC): This involves using data and statistical analysis to monitor and control a process in order to identify any variations or abnormalities.
Customer satisfaction surveys: This involves collecting feedback from customers about their experiences with the product or service to gain valuable insights into its quality.
Return rate and warranty claims: A high return rate or a high number of warranty claims can indicate a problem with the product or service's quality.
Use of metrics such as defects per unit (DPU): Metrics can provide a quantitative measure of the quality of a product or service. DPU, for example, measures the number of defects per unit produced and is useful for tracking the effectiveness of a quality assurance program over time.
Benchmarking: Comparing a product or service to others in the same industry can provide a measure of its quality.
History of Quality Assurance
The history of quality assurance can be traced back to the early 20th century, when the industrial revolution led to an exponential increase in the production of goods.
One of the earliest examples of quality assurance was the establishment of the Inspection of Munitions in the United Kingdom during World War I. This initiative was set up to improve the quality of weapons and ammunition produced by the British government and prevent defects and failures that could impact the war effort.
In the 1920s, American engineer and statistician Walter A. Shewhart developed the concept of statistical process control, a method for monitoring and controlling the quality of a manufacturing process. This laid the foundation for modern quality control techniques and was later developed by W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran, who are considered the "fathers of quality control."
In the 1930s, Dr. W. Edwards Deming was invited to Japan by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) to teach statistical process control and quality management techniques to Japanese industry. His teachings played a significant role in Japan's post-war economic recovery and the development of the country's manufacturing industry.
In the 1950s and 1960s, quality assurance became an important aspect of the aerospace industry, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) requiring that contractors implement formal quality assurance programs.
In the 1980s, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed the ISO 9000 series of standards for quality management, which provided a framework for organizations to implement quality management systems.
Today, quality assurance is a critical component of many industries, and is used in a variety of fields, including software development, healthcare, finance, and manufacturing. Many organizations implement quality management systems based on ISO 9000 standards, and quality assurance practices are continuously evolving to meet the changing needs of the business world.