QUALITY (adjective):degree of excellence; superiority in kind
--- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
In a competitive market, there is precious little that differentiates your company's products from those of a rival company. So what can you do to beat out your competitors and have your product achieve pole position in the market? Simply give your customers quality products/services, and assure them of top-notch quality.
By backing up your value proposition with the quality metric, you can assure your customers that the products you provide are of better quality, and will not cause any problems whatsoever for the foreseeable future. And to this end, companies employ a quality assurance officer to check out all the products once, before they go into the market for sale.
There are standard checks laid down for quality assurance of a product or service. There are industry-approved quality testing techniques and methodologies which make quality check easy and accurate. An analytical study of the results of these testing techniques should be done to assess a product's quality. This is ensured by a quality assurance engineer.
Role and General Duties
A quality assurance officer, put in simple words, ensures quality. Maintaining the already set high standards of a product or service is his primary responsibility. Improving on those standards through innovation is another task. Several quality control measures exist; the quality assurance officer is in charge of implementing them.
In several organizations, he is also responsible for over-viewing sales statistics, and interacting with customers/dealers to find out if a possible drop in sales is due to dwindling quality of the product or service.
In a batch manufacturing unit, a quality assurance officer needs to examine the entire process to spot any slip-up. In such units, quality of the products or services is not the only thing he is responsible for. Quality of the equipment that is involved in the manufacturing of these products and services also needs to be reviewed periodically. He can only look after the quality of a product/service/process/equipment, but the handling these is in the hands of the general employees. Hence, he has to ensure that the definition of quality is understood well by all the employees. It is important that the employees themselves first understand the importance and meaning of quality. Only then will they put in a dedicated effort to improve the quality of the product. So, communication of the definition of quality is also an important task.
A quality in-charge cannot valuate the quality of a product or a service until he doesn't use it himself under various circumstances. All products coming off the production line must be tested and checked if they meet the set standards. Depending upon the company policy, defective pieces will either be mended or chucked out altogether. For example, a software quality assurance engineer's job entails that the person performs the function of software testing on all the programs and applications, and whatever products/services they provide to the people beforehand on various platforms and innumerable permutations and combinations for inputs.
Interaction with Management
This is a very crucial part in a quality assurance officer's job profile. He interacts with the senior management officials to give them a periodical review of the product's quality statistics. In case he needs a modification in the testing methodologies, he needs to inform the senior management first.
Interaction with Customers
He needs to stay in touch with the customers to gauge customers' satisfaction with his organization's products or services. Negative response from customers should be promptly conveyed to the senior management and employees, so that an overhaul of the product can happen with immediate effect, if necessary. Positive feedback from the customer should be greeted as a shot of success, but a quality assurance officer needs to improvise all the time. New testing methodologies should be implemented, old equipment should be phased out, and present products should be worked on and bettered in an innovative manner. Customer interaction also includes surveying a sample size of end users with changed products, and looking to modify and commence. For example, a quality head at a tea manufacturing company will ask his tasters to innovate on various tea flavors fused with fruit and flower flavorings, and offer them to a sample audience. This sample audience is very small in size, and can be chosen from various backgrounds, age groups, and locations. Their reaction to the flavored teas will act as a general indication to the product's acceptability across a wider audience. If a certain innovation or modification doesn't work, the quality assurance engineer, apart from innovating better, should also improve the quality of processing and offering. Although many organizations these days appoint a separate community manager or sales head to do the above jobs, a quality assurance officer still needs to be involved in the overall process.
Quality assessment and testing techniques are changed or introduced regularly. A quality assurance officer should attend such product launches, seminars, and workshops, to maintain his technical knowledge. He should learn and grow to keep up with the rapidly improving standards of quality around the world.
To Sum Up
Today, a lot of emphasis is laid, and will continue to be laid, on the pursuit of perfection, to improve quality. Ideally, businesses are heading towards a zero-defect world. In achieving this perfection, a quality assurance officer will play a crucial part, directly or indirectly.