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"You can't solve a problem on the same level you created it."
"A person starts to live when he can live outside himself."

- A. Einstein

 

 

 

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QUALITY ASSURANCE

 

Quality assurance refers to measures with which both a customer as well as other interested parties (stakeholders) are convinced of the fact that the requirements pertaining to products are met (i.e. external confidence achieved) and that the organization has reasonable abilities for that. The essence of good quality assurance is an effective communication.

Quality assurance has to be grounded in the actual practices of systematic quality management which have been created on the basis of the company's business requirements.

Criticism from many instances has been voiced at the fact that the formal implementation of the ISO 9000 standards has overemphasized or been too deeply entrenched in quality assurance. In practice this means that only ISO 9001 standard is used and emphasis is in the third party certification. In quality assurance between two parties the most natural and sound approach is to utilize bilateral quality assurance agreements and related quality assurance plans, for which ISO 9000 provides general guidelines, too.

Certification refers to indicating with a certificate that a product or business activity is in accordance with a specific requirement (standard or specification). Primarily a certificate relates to a product and through this also the activities determined to guarantee the product features. Certifications concerning product quality assurance typically have the ISO 9000 series quality assurance model (ISO 9001) as a reference standard. This kind of certification does not ensure the product quality or efficient business performance of a company, but it is used for the purposes of quality assurance, that is, to display confidence in the fact that the products which are being produced meet the stated requirements.

Certification can be done by the company itself (first-party certification or self-certification), by the second party (customers), or by a third party (a service company specializing in certifying services). The most genuine and natural way to proceed is self-certification combined with self-declaration, which has lately gained interest due to various flaws associated with third-party certifying. However, self-certification always requires a strong personal commitment to quality management from the top management of the company. This is why certifying done by an external third party can be a sign of weak quality of management. Certifications made by customers are especially recommended, and a company should strive towards certifications made by their key reference customers. With regard to third-party certifications - should this become oblicatory or necessary in the light of marketing efforts - it is worthwhile to restrict them to questions pertaining to safety, health, environmental protection, and product liability. Serious criticism has been directed at certifications made by third parties due to the fact that these often entail an emphasis on the business objectives of the company doing the certifying. This means commercialization of the certification.

One cannot distinguish oneself from competitors by leaning on general third party certifications. On the other hand, product features which take customers into account as well as product and quality assurance agreements do offer an opportunity to provide distinct competitiveness to the customer. This is also the way in which the ISO 9000 standards guide one to proceed. The certification is not the only way - and never the strongest - to realize quality assurance. There are also other options based on the innovative and unique solutions of advanced organizations and clearly reflecting the needs of a customer. New information and communication technology (ICT and e-Business) offers very new challenging means also for quality assurance (e.g. e-Certificate).


Juhani Anttila