What is quality?
In its broadest sense, quality is a degree of excellence: the extent to which something is fit for its purpose, operates as per design and is delivered as promised.
In the narrow sense, product or service quality may be defined as:
- Conformance with requirement.
- Freedom from defects or contamination.
- Simply, a degree of customer satisfaction.
In quality management, we define quality as all the characteristics of a product or service that affect its ability to do its stated and implied functions. Several methods have evolved to achieve, sustain and improve quality, which are known as Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Control (QC) and Quality Improvement (QI) – collectively known as Quality Management (QM)
Quality Management (QM): Management system to direct and control an organisation with regard to quality (ISO 9000). This system consists of policy, objectives, processes, controls, resources and infrastructure for achieving Quality.
Quality Assurance (QA): Part of a quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled (ISO 9000). It is the prevention of quality problems through planned and systematic activities.
Quality control (QC): Part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements (ISO 9000). It is the employment of activities and techniques to achieve and maintain the quality of a product, process or service.
Quality Improvement (QI): Part of quality management focused on increasing the ability to fulfill quality requirements (ISO 9000). It is the application techniques to promote process improvement and performance excellence.
Quality is achieved through the chain of processes (management system), each of which has to be controlled and subject to continual improvement. However, the existence of good management system does not itself guarantee a quality product; this has to be accomplished via a combination of technical competence and, most importantly, adherence by all contributors to the processes.
Therefore, a true measure of acceptable quality is our shareholder satisfaction: delivering against expectations and maintaining safe operating assets is a fundamental expectation of our staff and shareholders. Therefore, quality is vital to the delivery of our business.
What quality is not?
We do not have quality if we knowingly deliver a product which is not fit for purpose and does not operate as per our design. But, quality is not about perfection and it is not purely a standard, a procedure or a measure. No amount of inspection changes the quality of a product or service.
What is the relationship between Quality and Value?
Value is not purely a price tag but a measure of the benefits derived from a product or service. A product which does not perform as intended may impact our Asset Integrity and Process Safety, which in turns may result in failure/ replacements, asset downtime, loss of revenue, possible injury to personnel and impact on our reputation. Alternatively, a product may well meet physical and functional requirements but may be overpriced when compared to others of the same class and grade, hence the use of price agreements and application of our vendor Product Group Service. But, in an effort to reduce costs, we sometimes forget that it is the quality of the complete transaction that counts. Delivering a product that is not “Fit for Purpose”, does not “Operate as per Design” or is not “Delivered as Promised” will not lead to satisfied shareholders.
Are our needs changing?
The needs and expectations of our shareholders are constantly changing: Awareness and application of new technology, legislation, enhanced oil recovery projects (new technical challenges), new suppliers and contractors, new competitor products and/ or services. All of this create new demands and demands turn in to challenges, therefore, it is vital we constantly strive to improve our ability to deliver a quality product and maintain safe assets.
In order to enhance project delivery and performance a number of changes have been implemented within:
The implementation of Code of Practice- 190: Quality management System for Project Delivery.
Establishing lateral learning’s via Lessons Learned workshops and quality alerts.
Development establishment / reporting of quality Key Quality Indicators.
Contractor engagement sessions.
Vendor assessments and quality input into tender evaluation process.
Quality training materials / presentations and the development and implementation of the Discipline Controls & Assurance Framework .
Alignment and effective planning / application of assurance systems including Quality Audits, Flawless Project Delivery.
Addressing long term sustainability within the quality function by initiating and developing quality assurance competence mapping and profile structures, including the implementation of Training plans and career development.
Do you have the sole responsibility for delivering quality?
One manager cannot achieve quality. All that a specialist manager, such as Quality Manager can do is enable others to achieve quality by providing leadership, training, tools, techniques and performance data. However, it is important for someone in the business with special knowledge and skills to provide leadership.
Who is responsible?
Achieving quality requirements is the responsibility of all personnel who have an impact on a particular quality out-put. We all have the ability to cause things to happen, from our Managing Director to the operators and personnel working on our projects and assets; every product, service, process, task, action and decision can either be acceptable or unacceptable. Hence, there is an intrinsic quality decision and impact in everything that we do. However an individual can only be responsible for doing something relative to quality. Hence a person can be responsible for:
Specifying quality requirements.
Achieving quality requirements.
Taking decisions that determining the quality of something.
A large amount of failures occur not because our standards, specifications, procedures or controlling documents were incorrect, but because decisions were taken to deviate and not apply.
How can we the employees make a difference to Quality?
Quality starts with top management expressing a firm commitment. They have a responsibility to ensure quality management becomes an integral part of our normal business activity by setting the quality policy, identifying the quality objectives, providing the infrastructure and resources (clearly defining roles & responsibilities), and motivating personnel to improve processes and systems.
As individuals we need to understand the requirements (ask for clarification if uncertain), apply as per requirements or seek deviations from approved technical authorities. If we see an action that is incorrect, raise the issue!
We can also learn from others by utilizing “best Practices”, “Value Improvement Processes” and sharing “Lessons Learned” and ideas, we should continually review our systems, processes and specification requirements against their suitability to deliver.