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The aim of the study is to analyse the statement that “quality manuals are a waste of time, they take too long to prepare and don’t make any difference to the quality of the product” based on the Orbital Traction case study (Ai 8).
Orbital Traction is a company that manufactures high quality products using different quality manual standards that apply across each department of the company for quality assurance (Bronson & Merryman 2010). The purpose of a quality manual is to “satisfy a need, meet product specifications, and provide a service or product that is free of deficiencies” (Voss 2005, p.7).
To achieve the quality assurance goal at Orbital Traction, the quality assurance department is responsible for writing the quality manual that provides a framework for developing high quality products and services that are consisted with the standards of quality that are detailed in the quality manual (Bhuiyan & Alam 2005).
According to Bronson and Merryman (2010), a quality manual is mandatory for the purpose of complying with the standards of quality that are detailed in the ISO 9000 standard and control documents. However, it raises the question that is a quality manual a waste of time to write?
Costly in terms of resources
The quality assurance department at Orbital Traction invests time and money and other resources to develop quality manuals that provide a quality assurance framework for the company’s quality management system to ensure better service delivery.
Here, a quality management “system is maintained and continually improved through the use of the quality policy, quality objectives, internal and external audit results, analysis of data, corrective and preventive action and periodic management reviews” (Voss (2005, p.3).
Zeiler (2011) agree that the task of writing quality manuals is a complex process that requires inputs from different sources such as knowledgeable experts and well-skilled human resources. That allows the quality assurance department to keep abreast with the constant need to revise the quality policies, audit results, quality objectives and conduct management reviews for all the items in the quality manual.
A study by Zeiler (2011) shows a company develops quality manuals to monitor, verify, validate, inspect, and test the process requirements of a good quality product.
However, the need to write a new quality manual by the quality assurance department when Orbital Traction develops a new product is contradictory process because to develop a new product or service, the new product or service is introduced with a specifications document that provides details and standard measures of quality that are required of the product.
Now writing a new quality manual for the product or service of what already has been done requires additional resources and time to execute and the net results are the same document that already exists.
Quality Manual Analysis
The quality manual used in this case was written by the Orbital Traction Company.
Feng, Terziovski and Samson (2007) argue that a quality manual development process undergoes several steps such as identifying the specific processes applicable across different departments of the organisation, determining how the processes interact with each other, establishing the criteria for interaction of the processes, designing the processes, establishing control processes for each product development, establishing quality controls and monitoring measures, and creating processes for quality control and management (Antony 2004).
However, the details must be integrated into the product specifications document of product development once the quality manual has been developed, but the details might be discarded because the quality manual is a general document and new changes to product development have to be reflected into the quality manual when they occur.
That means the quality manual can either be discarded or reviewed to meet changes in product development, showing that the product specifications document is the source of the details in the quality manual and not vice versa, as it should be.
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According to Saaksvuori and Immonen (2005) “correctness, integrity, usability, reliability, and maintainability” (p.22) define the product quality metrics that are universal for any product that are generally defined in the quality manual and not the specific details of product development based on specific product quality metrics to ensure quality assurance.
However, innovation cannot be guaranteed if the quality manual does not stipulate new product development details in real time or if the details about a product are not consistent with the details in the quality manual. That denies skilled workers the opportunity to use their skills for innovation and look to the quality manual for each product development.
According to Edvardsson (2005), if a new product is to be developed, management must take time to audit results, review process performance and product conformance to quality standards, and review customer feedback about the quality of the resulting product. However, it takes a lot of time to write a quality manual that provides a framework for reviewing outputs and allocating resources for product development.
It is possible that by the time a product has been developed and put on the shelves using the guidelines of a new quality manual, the product will be obsolete and uncompetitive. A company is supposed to be dynamic in innovation and should always respond in real time to changing needs for new and high quality products to be competitive.
According to Hornecker (2010), a lot of time is not only spent to develop the quality manual for the new product, but resources are also committed to write the quality manual, limiting productivity and just in time responses.
In addition, by the time a quality manual becomes functional, the products developed using the quality manual will still be the same and uncompetitive in the market because the time they are brought to the shelves is behind schedule, which makes the product to be begins schedule.
When using a quality manual, the product development procedures undergo constant planning and budgeting processes that entail the ‘planning of product realization phase’, which is according to the statement that “organization shall plan and develop the processes needed for product realization.
Planning of product realization shall be consistent with the requirements of the other processes of the quality management system” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.4).
However, an assessment of Orbital Traction shows that the planning process entails the company establishing quality objectives under specific product development requirements. Here, the quality manual’s “planning process involves establishing processes, creating product specific documents, and assigning resources for the development of the product” (Kinicki & Williams 2010, p.34).
Another statement on product realization that creates a conflict at the Orbital tracts quality assurance department is that the “required verification, validation, monitoring, inspection and test activities specific to the product and the criteria for product acceptance” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.6) should provide guidelines on the creation and use of a quality manual.
Orbital Traction has product development specifications and standards (Green 2005). The above statement recommends that, a quality manual should be written to specify the required “verification and validation” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.6) of a product. Here, the statement stops short of stating the validation and verification procedures and the outcome from those procedures.
However, the statement does not elaborate how the monitoring tests should be done, but specifies that the procedures should be consistent with the criteria for “product acceptance” (Das, Paul & Swierczek 2008, p.17).
However, those details are already specified in the product development manual that shows that more time is taken to write the statements that already exist in other product specification documents (Schmenner & Tatikonda 2005).
Another duplication of what already exists is expressed in the statement that “records need to provide evidence that the realization processes and resulting product meet product requirements” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.7). The statement is a repetition of what already is in product specifications document and writing a quality manual based on the statement is clear violation of the principle of repeatability.
How else can a product be developed without the required documentation? The statement continues to state that “the output of this planning shall be in a form that is suitable for the organization’s method of operations” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.8). One is made to conclude that the task of writing a quality manual is a waste of time while the final product remains the same (Heese, Cattani, Ferrer, Gilland & Roth 2005).
The question is, how does the final product remain the same and yet the quality manual has been used to guide in development process and procedures and to make recommendations for meeting the quality standards?
Design and development
The procedures and requirements for the design and development of products are in accordance with the ISO 1900 requirements enshrined in the statement, which states that “the outputs of design and development shall be provided in a form that enables verification against the design and development input and shall be approved prior to release” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.11).
Here, the summarized statement asserts that the final product shall comply with requirements such that “the input requirements” should be detailed in the quality manual. Appropriate information “for purchasing, production and service provision, and references for product acceptance criteria” (Bayazit 2003, p.34) should be detailed in the quality manual (Edvardsson 2005).
However, when comparing the quality manual with the quality assurance and quality management procedures and the product specifications document, it reveals that more details are contained in the quality assurance and product specifications documents (Devadasan, Goshteeswaran & Gokulachandran 2005).
Other issues such as “product quality reviews and the control of design and development changes are demonstrated in the statement” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.9), which says that the “design and development changes shall be identified and records maintained” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.9).
The changes shall be reviewed, verified and validated as appropriate and approved before implementation” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.9). The statement further says that “the review of design and development changes shall include evaluation of the effect of the changes on constituent parts and product already delivered” (Jang & Lin, 2008, p.9). A critical analysis of the statement shows that the same statements are repeated again and again.
The position of quality manual at Orbital Traction
In context of the arguments by Grieves (2006), Orbital Traction has a quality manual that spans the whole product realization and development processes and procedures. The requirements for product specifications are written in the quality manual for the product developers to comply with. According to (Ai 12), the manual complied with the ISO 9001: 2008 standard requirements on quality manuals.
ISO 9001: 2008 sets standards for companies to develop and use their own quality manuals for quality management.
It is important to ensure that when developing a product, skilled manpower should be left to innovate and develop products that are consistent with changes in demand. Typically, Orbital Traction’s manual is a duplication of the ISO 9000 requirements, the quality management framework, the quality assurance requirements and product specifications manual (Ai 12).
In conclusion, quality manuals are a waste of time because companies such as Orbital Traction use quality manuals as a standard that provides guidelines for product development and project implementation. Orbital Traction invests time and money and other resources to develop quality manuals that provide a quality assurance framework for product development and service delivery.
Writing quality manuals is a complex process that requires the input of different resources such as knowledgeable and skilled human resources, who have to be paid for the service delivered and other inputs they make for what has already been written, which is a waste of time.
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