Quality Assurance Training
Businesses implement processes and procedures to ensure that their products meet the industry, regulatory, and company’s quality requirements. The overall process is called quality management, and it has two components - Quality assurance (QA), which looks at the quality system, and quality control, which addresses specific aspects of quality. An effective quality assurance program improves customer satisfaction, lowers costs, and improves operational efficiency.
The quality assurance team needs to have specific skills that ensure quality such as:
- A knowledge of the applicable regulations, regulatory bodies, standards, and laws
- Testing standards
- Conducting audits
- Information systems
Besides, different industries have different quality assurance needs. Therefore, the team needs training in the skills needed specifically for those industries. For instance, while both general manufacturing and food processing companies need to do quality assurance of the input and the output, the checks and tests needed would be vastly different. Therefore, the quality assurance team employees will need the skills specific to the industry they are working in.
Depending on the need, training can be of three types:
- Short-term courses
- Tester training
What is Quality Assurance Training?
To be a part of the quality assurance team, an individual does not need to have long years of experience. Training and a keen eye are enough to get them an entry. For beginners, the training would include topics such as
- Foundational knowledge of regulatory bodies
- Basic standard protocols and procedures
For senior levels, it could mean a holistic view of quality, scheduling tests and audits, following up on findings, providing inputs for quality strategy and so on. Therefore, their training will be an add-on to their managerial skills, to reinforce the quality management aspect.
To ensure that the QA team has the requisite skills to implement and enforce quality management SOPs across the organization, training becomes a key enabler. Quality assurance training helps the team remain on top of their jobs with updated information on the latest quality requirements and company policies and procedures.
The first step to quality assurance training, though, is to understand the company’s quality goals so that the appropriate training can be designed and delivered to the team. These goals could include the following:
- Customer expectations: This keeps changing, and the product design, features, and service mechanisms may change. The customers could be internal or external, employees, community, regulatory bodies, etc. Therefore, having a clear understanding becomes critical for success and setting the QA training goals
- SOPs: The SOPs or standard operating procedures are developed and defined based on customer expectations and delineate the steps to meet them. This encompasses SOPs for QA.
- Continuous Improvement: Quality management is not a one-time event but needs continuous improvement. Therefore, the feedback from the QA activities needs to be implemented and potential risks mitigated.
- Monitoring and Tracking: The QA team also needs to be able to measure and assess the effectiveness of the recommended changes and implement mid-course corrections in case outcomes do not match expectations.
The second step is to conduct a gap analysis and identify which skills or knowledge are required. This will help design the training curriculum.
The third step in quality assurance training is to arrive at the best delivery mechanism. Some courses may be best delivered online, some in person. Planning, coordinating, and scheduling the training, especially in-person training, is critical to minimize disruption to work and achieve the objectives.
Finally, metrics to measure the effectiveness of the training programs, the impact on the employees who have undergone the training, and the outcomes are critical. Feedback must also be gathered for continuous improvement of the training program itself.
The quality assurance training must also be documented as it is a regulatory requirement, especially in very stringently regulated industries such as life sciences. The documentation serves to demonstrate compliance.
Core Components of Quality Assurance Training
The key components of the QA training program include:
- Standards and Codes: This is a critical requirement for the QA team members as it impacts quality and compliance. The quality assurance training must introduce the relevant standards and codes for their line of work, the applicable standards such as ISO, ASME, etc., and how to enforce them.
- Statistical Process Control (SPC): Quality management requires using Statistical Process Control (SPC) SPC techniques for monitoring and controlling the quality of manufacturing processes. There are different quality management frameworks, such as Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma. The quality assurance training familiarizes the trainee with these frameworks, and the tools help measure and monitor effectiveness.
- Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Techniques: Materials and inputs or structures need to be tested without any damage being caused to them. This is called the Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) technique and includes a variety of processes relevant to each industry. Training in these techniques and interpreting the results of these tests will be part of the training.
- Calibrating Measuring Equipment: Measurement accuracy is critical to ensure quality in manufacturing. Therefore, understanding the different measuring equipment used in the process and keeping them calibrated is an important part of the quality assurance training to ensure reliable and accurate measurements.
- Inspection and Testing: Products need to be inspected and tested at various stages during the development lifecycle. This is essential to assess whether they conform to the internal and external quality standards. Therefore, QA training must include topics related to inspection and testing procedures such as pressure testing, visual inspection, and dimensional inspection.
- Document Control and Recordkeeping: Document control and record keeping are aid in ensuring the consistency of manufacturing processes and the conformance of products meet to the applicable quality standards. The quality assurance training program must equip the trainees with skills to implement document control and recordkeeping procedures such as creating and managing documentation and maintaining accurate records.
- Root Cause Analysis and CAPA: Quality is not just about identifying and reacting to problems but also proactively preventing the occurrence/recurrence. This is possible it’s important to identify the root cause and take corrective action to prevent the issue from happening again. In a QA QC course, students will learn about root cause analysis techniques and how to develop and implement corrective action plans.
- Workplace Safety: Safety also plays a critical role in quality management. Learning about the different hazards associated with the different jobs, how to identify them, and how implementing controls is part of the training. The quality and correct usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) is also essential.
- Communication and Collaboration: Quality Assurance is a team activity. It involves not only the QA personnel and the quality team as a whole but also working with different functions to ensure they implement the quality recommendations and create a culture of quality. Therefore, quality assurance training must provide training on effective communication and interpersonal skills.
Why Is Quality Assurance Training Required?
Quality is a regulatory requirement. It is essential for customer satisfaction. Continuous improvement of the quality of processes increases operational efficiency. This helps lower manufacturing costs, optimize resource utilization, and improve compliance. Non-compliance can lead to warnings and rejections, affecting brand reputation, and hindering growth.
Implementing quality assurance processes correctly also helps improve the overall quality culture of the organization. A well-trained quality assurance personnel ensures that the observations and recommendations are implemented for continuous quality improvement. They understand the importance of quality in the organization and periodically schedule audits and inspections to identify and mitigate risks promptly.
All regulatory standards and bodies recommend a risk-based approach. Quality Assurance helps to identify risks and mitigate them. This helps with the continuous improvement of processes by reducing quality-related risks.
Given the importance of QA training, it is essential to understand the gaps and provide focused and customized training. This helps equip staff with the skills needed to fill the gaps and ensure compliance, quality, and performance.
Automating training management can enable businesses to ensure that the QA personnel have the right skills at the right time. It helps personalize training and deliver them in the optimal format to maximize benefits. It also enables tracking of training delivered and the outcomes.