By Engr. M. Awais, QC Inspector, Universal Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd.
Quality is a word usually defined as the finished state of a product/object. To assess quality of any product, several tools are used to relate to its finishing. We can assume that every product is made to certain data or detail and when it is finished; its conformity to the design specifications is called quality. For Example, to assess quality of a pen, we need to able to evaluate its finishing as required by the production specifications and see to it that all features of the product lay within permissible limits of the specification e.g. dimensions, contours, material used, performance…etc.
For any quality based assessment words like specification, standard & codes play a vital role. Before we understand what these stand for, we need to understand who can write these. Once we understand the origin of these terms, we can very well understand purpose and level of authority that these words have in QA/QC of engineering.
Specifications are details or data used to describe a product’s initial or final form. Anyone can write specification i.e. from a technician to top management. Details that describe the physical & chemical parameters of an object can be tagged as specifications. Specifications are widely used by every facility from manufacturer to end-user to help understand the functioning of that specific object. It is also used as scale to evaluate the performance of the product but it may or may not be a standard or code. A specification is only validated by that specific facility/group of people/Technician who has devised those. A specification may or may not have any legal importance or recognition.
Standards are those specifications that have been recognized by certain authorities which have gained national or international standing is quality assessment. Such organizations evaluate products against given specification or data sheets and validate those as to confirm its conformity. Any specification gains the status of Standard when it had been evaluated, validated and recognized by concerned authorities. We all have heard of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineering), its purpose is to validate specifications from producers and approve those as standard after thorough evaluation so that production can be done without further evaluation since the specification will be recognized as standard for future production, till further amendment is approved for the same. A standard take in to the effect as soon as it has been recognized by any of the relating authorities like ASME, ANSI, ASTM, TWI…etc. A standard has certain legal authority but it depends on the user or region where those are being implemented. Standards are devised by organizations that have attained status of international recognition through testing, test procedure development and validation of such procedures through continuous evaluation of test products. Such organizations are rule makers in terms of quality assessment e.g. BS EN ISO 10204 is a standard for material conformity to requisite specifications & tests are conducted as per given directives of this standard to evaluate the product.
Codes are those standards that have been recognized as norms for international application and conformity. Just like standard, codes are also recognized after thorough testing and evaluation of standards that are already approved for production. Once a standard has been approved as a code, it takes effect immediately and it is then considered legal requirement for that specific region. If a certain code is required for a certain product, then products made as per the given code will be approved for production & use. Such an example is ASME Code IX, where pressure vessels need to have conformity as per given codes for production. No vessel that is deviating from the codes is considered legally usable or producible since it would have collateral or fatal threats associated to its use. Codes are mostly implemented internationally and have thorough legal standing in any region where these are being implemented.
For QA/QC Professionals, it is of vital importance to have professional integrity while considering standards & codes. Any lenient behavior can be catastrophic in nature. If something is out of the norm, then it’s the duty of quality professionals to report against the quality of the product rather than the technician or professional working on that specific product since teamwork is also important. Following are four important duties of any QA/QC Professional:
• Integrity with Diplomacy
• Effective Communication with Attention to Detail
• Motivated & Self-Driven
• Team Member & Team Leader
It is the duty of every QA/QC professional to support rightward thinking among the team and emphasize on the finished quality, codes compliance, safety & environmental laws as a social responsibility. By conforming the process to specifications by strict quality control provides basis for optimized production and better financial outcomes.
QA/QC Professional have to go through several types of documents with their day to day work. The documents regarding quality can mainly be divided in following types as per BS EN ISO 10204::
• Type 2.1: Document which states the quality of a product as produced to a certain specification but no test was conducted to check quality of the product. (Declaration of Compliance as per Order Specification)
• Type 2.2: Document that states the quality of the product as produced by manufacturer and it is validated by manufacturer with non-specific quality testing and its compliance to specifications with manufacturer’s general quality control. (Test Report with Non-Specific Results, stating State of the Art Production as per Order Specifications)
• Type 3.1: Document that states the quality of the product as produced by manufacturer and it is validated by third party inspection firm with standardized quality testing independent of the manufacturer but appointed by manufacturer. (Inspection Report with Specific Results, validated by third party inspection arranged by manufacturer)
• Type 3.2: Document that states the quality of the product as produced by manufacturer and it is validated by third party inspection with standardized quality testing independent of the manufacturer and appointed by consumer. (Inspection Report with Specific Results, validated by third party inspection arranged by consumer)
As a conclusion, job of QA/QC Professionals is not just to take some tools and do analysis (that’s for technicians to do) instead they have to see to it that all processes are following given directives and production is done as per specifications and any standard that needs to be met at the end of the production process.
Repeatability in engineering is of the greatest essence because unlike scientists developing a process in lab, engineers have to develop processes with enormous repeatability factors. Repeatability is the most crucial element of uncertainty. A process might work perfectly for 1000 times but might not achieve the same results on 1001st turn. This uncertainty can cause more issues for engineering teams than one can imagine. This is the very reason standards are made as to minimize the uncertainty as much as possible and get high repeatability factor. In short, standards & codes in quality assessment play the most vital role by optimizing the process towards maximum repeatability and minimal uncertainty to achieve highest quality and reducing capital.
Houle, M., (1996). Practicle Guide to ASME Section IX, 1st Edition, Casti Publications, Canada
Failure Analysis and Preventation (2002), Vol 11, ASM Handbook, ASM International, USA
Juran, J. M., Godfrey A. B. (2010). Juran’s Quality Handbook, 6th Edition, McGrawHill, India