After our previous post on Quality Improvement Tools by Shewhart and Deming, here is the continuation explaining in-depth the remaining continuous process improvement tools. These tools can help accomplish purposes of our quality improvement techniques, with these tools alone or incorporated within software quality management systems.
1) Checklists or Check Sheets are forms used to record the frequency of specific events during a data collection period.
Description: A check sheet is a simple form that quality managers can use to collect data in an organized matter and easily convert it into useful information quickly.
When to use: Check sheets can be used for almost anything, from checking off defect occurances to counting and tracking expected occurances.
2) Affinity Diagram (Figure 4, left) facilitates organization and consideration of a group of ideas of a particular issue through a consensus decision within a team.
Description: Affinity diagrams are used to organize verbal information into some type of visual pattern, and starts with specific ideas to help work toward broad categories.
When to use: An affinity diagram can help organize and give structure to a list of factors that contribute to a problem, or identify key areas where improvement is most needed within an issue.
3) Cost of Quality is a methodology that allows an organization to determine potential cost savings when process improvements are implemented.
Description: Cost of Quality helps quality managers determine the extent to which an organization's resources are expended on activities preventing poor quality. Cost of Quality can also be assessed by viewing prevention costs, appraisal costs, internal and external failures.
When to use: Cost of Quality is an important communication tool that describe the long-term impact of quality effort within a specific organization. Once a quality cost system is established, it should dynamically have positive impacts on the organization's mission, objectives, and goals.
4) Benchmarking is an evaluation technique by which an organization can compare its performance of a specific process against best practices of a recognized industry leader in a comparable process.
Description: Benchmarking can be used in several different approaches to compare organization performance, including Competitive, Functional, Performance, Process, and Strategic.
When to use: Conducting a benchmarking evaluation can help an organization identify its own shortcomings and help to establish a baseline standard to measure its progress against when implementing a quality assurance program.
5) Brainstorming (pictured above) is a group process used to generate ideas within a group or team in a nonjudgmental environemnt.
Description: Team or group members are presented with an issue and are asked to be broad in their thinking about the issue at hand, and requested not to criticize the thoughts of others.
When to use: The purpose of brainstorming is to generate a great deal of ideas about a central issue, and team members can interact with each other to generate further ideas within a single brainstorming session.
6) Audits of a quality management system are carried out to ensure actual practices are conforming to the documented procedures within an organization.
Description: Audits are systematic and independant examinations that determine whether quality activities and related results comply with planned arrangements, and whether the arrangements are implemented effectively and are suitable to achieve desired objectives. Quality audits can be conducted manually, or more effectively with auditing software.
When to use: While audits should be conducted on a regular schedule, audits are for establishing facts rather than finding faults. They indicate necessary improvement and corrective actions, as well as determine whether processes are effective and whether responsibilities have been correctly assigned.
7) Control Charts (pictured right) are used to measure sequential or time-related process performance and variability, such as quality control in manufacturing.
Description: Control charts utilize a variety of concepts - a typical chart contains a centerline, which represents the average value of the quality characteristic corresponding to the in-control state of data represented. The upper and lower control limits are drawn above and below the centerline, which are chosen so that when a process that is seen as "in control" is graphed, the sampling points are seen as falling between them.
When to use: Control Charts may indicate an out-of-control condition, either when plotted points fall above or below the set control limits or when the points display some pattern of behavior.
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