Why is Quality Planning Necessary?
Quality Planning is required for any projects where recognized local, national or international standards are required in order to achieve your project goal. It is a crucial process which is considered during the Project Plan evaluation process and is necessary to develop the overall project management plan. Quality Planning must be practiced along with other key planning processes.
Without a proper Quality Plan, companies run the risk of making mistakes; one of which can be the failure to allow for costs or added delays required to ensure a quality standard is met. For example, an electronic product may require adherence to the IPC 610 standard (a workmanship standard for electronic assemblies). As this standard requires inspection tasks, both time and cost allowance must be made for the additional processes necessary. This can include additional work areas and of course additional time is necessary for inspection (this affects your hourly production volume).
In addition, some standards may require materials to be changed. The additional costs involved need to be budgeted for in client quotations, or you could find yourself with little or no profit margins. As my quality associates keep pointing out (non-quality managers can sometimes complain about perceived issues raised by their quality team), quality is a crucial part of any operational structure. I guess we all have to admit that Quality is a necessary evil, along with Human Resources and year-end tax returns.
The techniques discussed here are not an extensive list but are an overview of the possibilities available. It is crucial to implement a future proof planning strategy, that identifies risks at the beginning of a project or can be easily adapted as new criteria arise.
Quality Planning – A Logical Approach
A structured approach is necessary when forming a Quality Plan and the plan must consider all related processes within the project scope. A suggested method is :
1. Identify all regulations and standards that are necessary to satisfy client or internal company standards. These can include ISO 9000 QM standards or be specific to a client location (for example, specific material or environmental standards for a particular industry or location).
2. Gather all existing process documentation (including procedures, work instructions, inspection sheets)that can be used in this project and identify where updates or new structure are required. The company Quality Policy will outline the overall Quality objectives and show inter-related process flows between departments. It may need to be updated if client expectations exceed the boundaries of the quality policy or where new processes are required. Some clients may have specific logistics requirements that require new layouts or investment in software, storage areas, etc. If a formal Quality Policy does not exist, then one must be created.
3. Define your Project Scope Statement. This will document the project objectives, timelines, etc., and will define client requirements, volumes and acceptance criteria for all parties. Cost, time and resources are all defined in this document. Unreasonable expectations from a client can be identified at an early stage as a full risk assessment is carried out. Technical issues are identified and any other potential problems can be costed for.
4. Ensure your Project Plan is updated to reflect the findings from the Quality Plan. With all PM tasks, close interaction with all involved parties is essential.
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Quality Planning – Tools and Techniques
While there are a multitude of tools and techiques used in the Quality Planning area, I will concentrate on the most common ones; the ones that make or break a project’s viability.
1. The use of cost-benefit analysis will highlight the costs associated with introducing new processes and will also indicate where savings can be made. Improved quality will mean less customer returns or complaints.
2. Benchmarking can use previous similar projects as an indicator of potential problem areas, providing possible inspiration for improvement.
3. Use statistical analysis (for example, DOE – Design of Experiments) to identify areas that may impact on process deliverables. During sample production, statistical analysis can identify areas where actual production is less than that expected from timing analysis. The causes can be many, from equipment or workspace layout issues to lazy workers. Indentifying the areas in advance allows improvements to be made in advance of full production.
4. How much will quality improvement cost, and also what are the savings involved?
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Quality Planning – Conclusion
A successful Quality Planning Exercise will outline clearly all results from the use of the aforementioned tools and techniques and should be accurately represented in the following areas.
1. The Quality Management Plan. This describes how the project team will utilize the company Quality Policy and is directly linked to the Project Management Plan. The Quality Plan will address all areas relating to QC (Quality Control), QA (Quality Assurance) and of course, continuous improvement for all processes relating to the project.
2. Quality Metrics must be defined for all areas. AQL (Acceptable Quality Level), failure rates, reliability testing and many other areas relating to QA and QC are defined.
3. Checklists are created to ensure ongoing quality and are performed through the use of Audits or other regular inspection activities. Audits can be in-process, internal or an external consultant may be used to carry out unbiased process and quality audits. Negative results from Audits follow a corrective action or root cause analysis process, and are resolved according to scale of problem or time pressures involved. If a minor issue, a typical response type is defined internally.
4. Record the quality goals of the project and establish a baseline, falling below this baseline will trigger immediate action, up to and including shutting down production.
5. The Process Improvement Plan must be updated to reflect all ongoing changes and all related documents are updated according to the current Change Control Process. Timeframes for completion will vary depending on the costs of implementation (perhaps existing stock will be used up first)and other factors.
From this article, you will appreciate that quality planning is indeed an essential part of Quality Management and encompasses a myriad of processes (unmentioned ones include New Product Introduction and FMEA) which are essential parts of the overall project management agenda.
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