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The Role of Quality Assurance in Manufacturing

Production Management, Quality Management
December 7, 2021
Quality Assurance in Manufacturing

What’s your quality management system like?

It’s a simple question, but the answer can be complicated. Most manufacturers say they have a system in place, but what does that really entail? After all, some quality systems are based on manual, rudimentary processes while others leverage automated, cutting-edge innovations.

Regardless of the level of sophistication, any quality management system needs to address quality assurance (QA) on some level.

What’s the Difference Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?

Let’s address the first question on your mind. Quality assurance consists of the protocols, processes, and procedures that ensure quality requirements get fulfilled. Quality control is the monitoring, testing, and inspection tasks that must be done to accurately perform the quality assurance processes.

When people think of quality functions within manufacturing, they often think of technicians in a lab or on the production line monitoring a sample. Or they may conjure up images of people weighing and measuring products or checking gauges and logging numbers on a clipboard.

But quality assurance focuses on the manufacturing process and how quality control tasks need to be planned and executed. QA also involves designing those tasks into repeatable processes so that production meets the specifications for each unit produced.

Benefits of Quality Assurance in Manufacturing

There are many benefits of a well-designed manufacturing quality assurance plan. These include:

Better Process Control

Many people think of process control and process improvement when it comes to manufacturing. But it’s just as important to include quality assurance in improvement process thinking. Good QA processes work in parallel with SOPs to provide infrastructure and a framework for the "why" of a task. They provide checks and balances for those in production. And they make it easier to incorporate practices for regulatory compliance into the mainstream production process.

Improved Culture

Because QA processes are taught as part of production training, they help develop a culture of improvement. This means both managers and employees receive more in-depth training and understand the company's core focus on delivering quality. Operators aren't just making widgets. They’re making widgets with an understanding of why the production process needs to be conducted in a certain way and what the outcome must be.

Reduced Costs

Because QA puts a company's quality mission into the same process analysis and improvement mechanisms as production processes, it links them to the same benefits. Optimized processes mean lower costs because accountability, measurement, process changes, and other variables are designed to uncover problems quickly, reducing scrap and increasing uptime.

Why Software Helps Quality Assurance in Manufacturing

Most manufacturers have some computer technology like an MRP platform to assist in their production process. But strangely, many run QA systems apart from this software. This practice silos the data and unnecessarily increases the likelihood of human error.

Industry experts agree that an MRP, MES, or ERP system should incorporate a QA system - it only makes sense. By building a QA system into the processes controlled by these platforms, QA processes are streamlined alongside production processes. Software platforms also include robust reporting and provide a way to monitor vendor quality as material arrives. These functions are done in real-time, allowing the QA system to leverage the platform's analytical capabilities for deeper insights.

Finding Solutions for Integrating QA into Manufacturing

Ready to kick your quality assurance system into overdrive? Starting to shop around for the right solution?

Then take a quick look at the Plex Quality Management System. It’s a cloud-based, closed-loop digital record of quality for manufacturers that standardizes and automates quality documentation, processes, and measurements. In addition to providing robust reporting and improving compliance, the solution also drives repeatable and predictable QA results every time.

Whether you’d like to chat about quality or want to learn how Plex can systemize your QA program with state-of-the-art software, reach out to us here.

About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.