You must have heard of the term quality engineering. If not, this article gives you a chance to learn more about this subject, what it is and what it entails. The true definition of quality engineering lies in defining the two terms that constitute it: quality and engineering.
Before we delve deeper into this subject, you need to ask yourself, is this a branch of engineering or a means of production? Do people pursue a quality engineering course, or is it a type of engineering that any organization can choose to opt into?
This article looks at quality engineering; its definition, what it constitutes and any other information you may find worthy. Let’s delve deeper into this subject.
What is Quality Engineering?
We cannot discuss quality engineering if we do not know what it means. It is made up of two words; quality and engineering, all with distinct meanings.
In quality management, quality is defined as ‘the fitness for use. This can either be in reference to a product or service, which can either be superior or inferior. The product or service can also fail to meet the required quality standards.
On the other hand, engineering can be defined as working artfully to bring something into existence. Once it has been brought into existence, it can either be incorporated into a service or a process. What then is quality engineering? It can be defined as a file where solutions are made to meet the required standards.
Therefore, this type of production focuses on coming up with goods and services designed and developed to meet or even exceed what consumers expect. Quality engineering thus encompasses all the activities aimed at analyzing a good’s design and development and ensuring that it is of the proper standards. It also identifies and reduces any waste encountered in production to come up with a final product that the end-user will love.
It is also worth noting that this is a relatively new approach to coming up with products that has been necessitated by changing times and growing market demands. It ensures that the products designed are of excellent quality and follow stringent quality checks at every phase of production.
It, therefore, assumes that everyone involved in the different stages of product development has a vast responsibility of ensuring that the product is of superior quality in the respective phase. It leverages individual and collective responsibility.
Quality engineering further assumes that if everyone at all levels of production shows the required level of responsibility, then the final product will of excellent quality since all the issues that may limit these will always be attended to at the right time.
Under this model, quality maintenance of a product does not halt during the completion of the product. If further stretches, taking into account all the information obtained from all the stages of development to ensure that the next products are even better than the previous ones.
Therefore, this type of engineering is not only concerned with the quality of a product but also the processes involved in its development. Consequently, it aligns with Six Sigma, which aims to ensure that the production processes focus on value and not just the end product while also reducing wastes.
However, the main question derives from this is, how is waste minimized in quality engineering? Simple. This is done by reducing any cost that results from defects. Remember, Six Sigma aims at reducing defects in the final product that reaches the end-user by offering a better way of process management.
This type of engineering rides on the belief that waiting to identify defects at the last point when the product is just about to be released is costly and should be avoided. This explains why it demands that everybody at every production level be responsible for the product at the respective level.
What Does Quality Engineering Mean in Software Development?
Now that we have covered the general meaning of quality engineering, it is only fitting that we look at what this type of engineering means in regards to software development. In software development, it is generally linked to the test-driven methodology, popularly known as TDD.
This methodology assumes that developers must write the test that the code should pass before writing it. This is then followed by test execution, which is expected to fail because the application code has not yet been written.
The test is then re-run once the code has been written to gauge whether it passes the test or not. From this explanation, it is straightforward that the TDD methodology meets the requisites of quality engineering. This type of engineering can also be linked to DevOps and agile processes, which we have covered in our previous articles.
The former combines software development and IT operations while removing silos and facilitating developments as well as ensuring that the security teams work smoothly. In this case, silos refer to a situation where the two departments, i.e., software development and IT operations, do not share information and goals.
We should look at agile processes now that we have covered DevOps. Agile methodologies show the capability to do things efficiently and faster by attending to issues as they happen in the entire development process.
We should note that software development quality engineering has its fair share of goals. It aims to timely identify issues as they occur and come up with solutions by brainstorming all the possible corrective actions.
Qualitative engineering in software development also aims to determine the metrics and standards used to ensure quality as well as develop suitable tests for different problems. Other goals include collecting and analyzing data, brainstorming possible solutions and performing oversight and the control of processes.
Lastly, it aims at making follow-ups to make sure that all the issues are resolved.
Difference Between Quality Engineering and Quality Assurance
It is easy to confuse these two, given that quality assurance is also aimed at ensuring that the products and services produced meet or even exceed the expected standards. Before the advent of quality engineering, companies and businesses had a quality assurance team to ensure that the produced products meet the required standards before passing them onto the users. This team detected any faults in the product and dictated the changes that should be made.
However, in quality engineering, all the professionals involved in production ensure that the products or services are of the right quality at all production levels. Therefore, it does not focus on the final product but believes that once everyone ensures that the product is of the right quality at their ranks, the final product will automatically meet or exceed the set standards.
It is also worth noting that quality assurance carries lots of shortcomings. What happens if the fault identified by the quality assurance team demands that the product should be redesigned? It means that the company will require more time and resources, which will most probably lead to delays and failure to satisfy the end-users, who are the customers.
It is, therefore, accurate to say that quality engineering came to solve the inefficiencies of quality assurance. It rides on the assumption that the development teams understand the requirements and standards that the final product should meet. This means that they will knowingly test the product during its development to ensure that the end-product does not come short of what is expected.
Indeed, these two subjects have the same goal: to ensure that products are of the highest or expected quality. However, the difference comes in in the following instances:
- Whereas quality engineering mainly aims to maintain the right quality of a product at all production levels, quality assurance is primarily interested in maintaining the quality of the finished product. It does not care about the different stages of production.
- Quality engineering calls for collaboration in developing a product by dictating that all the teams responsible for product development should be mindful of the right quality. In contrast, in quality assurance, this is left for the quality assurance team to ensure that the final product is of the right quality.
- Quality assurance only views quality as a top-down approach, whereas quality engineering sees it as both top-down and bottom-up effort. By this, we mean that it follows the assumption that whatever happens during production is responsible for the final product.
- Quality engineering is based on agility and flexibility as it aims to ensure that everything is both agile and flexible, whereas quality assurance tends to look only at the bigger picture, which in this case is the final product.
- Quality engineering ensures that the proper testing tools for each development stage are available. In contrast, quality assurance only has one approach to ensuring that goods are of the right quality.
Methodologies and Tools for Quality Engineering
Implementation of quality engineering requires resources, time and commitment, which can make it an uphill task. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that one has the right tools. In this part of the article, we will look at some of the standard methodologies and tools that you can furnish your development teams with. Let’s dive right into these:
- A Quality Management System
Any organization that wants to maintain quality in its products and services must have a quality management system. This ensures that the organization has formalized all the processes and documentation required in assuring quality production. It is also a sign of quality objectives and lays down the people responsible for meeting these objectives.
Most companies use the ISO 9000 family, which is one of the widely used standards in quality management. It can be used by any organization, regardless of the industry.
- Statistical Process Control
This offers the teams an industry-standard methodology for controlling and measuring the quality of end products in the development and manufacturing processes. It leverages quality data which is obtained from product measurement.
It determines the control and specific limits. What does this mean? When the process moves following the design, the data is retained within the control limits. On the other hand, the data remaining in the specification limits is a sign that what the client needs is being met.
However, when the data falls outside these limits, it is a sign that something needs fixing. This explains why you need to have statistical process control when implementing quality engineering.
- Problem-solving tools
For quality engineering to be successful, there must be tools to solve the problems identified in every development stage. Even though we will not delve deeper into these, we hope that you will know where to start by mentioning them.
You should have a check sheet that collects and stores data in real-time. Also, have a cause and effect diagram to identify the responsible factors for a given result. You further need a control chart that monitors processes, ensuring that they are under control and do not need any change.
Other tools include a histogram for categorizing data, a Pareto chart for identifying the most critical factors from a set; a scatter plot for comparing two variables and stratified sampling, which group different population segments to study them.
- Advanced Product Quality Planning
This tool improves communication between the supply chain management and the customers hence facilitating and managing changes in the existing processes and products, as dictated by quality engineering.
It helps those responsible for developing a given product understand what parts of their products are functional and those that they should improve. It also saves costs by weeding out elements that do not appeal to users.
Quality Engineering Example
A classic example of quality engineering can be in the processing of milk. A milk company that adheres to quality engineering will ensure that all the processes that go into milk production meet the required standards. This will begin with the transportation of the milk to the plant, which will be done promptly. The milk will then be handled in a way that meets the required health standards and effectively separated from bacteria before being heated to the proper standards. Remember, every level must be done perfectly. The milk shall then be passed in the steel pipes through pasteurization before being homogenized to eliminate as many fats as possible from it. This should meet the required standards or possibly exceed them.
The final process is packaging into containers, which should be made to impress the consumers. These containers must also be stamped with the dates and lines of the product. Data should then be collected to be used for the betterment of future developments.
Every company should employ quality engineering in the production of its goods and services. It ensures that the final products meet or exceed industry standards and save the company from having a quality assurance team.