An investigation into the applications of database techniques to the quality assurance of manufacture.
The basic concept for this work is that, in a Total Quality environment, all data must
be considered to be quality data in order to achieve a truly informed process of
continuous quality improvement, throughout the whole range of organisational activity.
In order to establish the place of this concept in respect of current theory, a number of
quality control, quality assurance and Total Quality techniques and. strategies are
examined. In each case, an attempt is made to define the data support necessary to
ensure the best possible effectiveness in use. I'n some instances, IT tools are already
available; their applicability is investigated and their limitations are established, with
a view to future integration.
Another issue which must be considered is the location of existing quality data
throughout the many systems (both computerised and paper-based) which support the
various areas of organisational activity. Of particular importance are the questions of
which data is held, and how accessible it is for use in proble~ investigation and
improvement planning. The above surveys are drawn together to guide the construction of a set of aims and
objectives to be satisfied by an Integrated Quality System (lQS). These were then
formalised into a functional requirement for a: generic IQS in line with current Total
Quality theory. However, a theoretical system must, of necessity, be customised to suit
the needs and working practices of real organisations. Hence, the findings of a study
carried out at a manufacturing company by the members of the project team in which
the author worked were used to establish user requirements for an IQS. The two sets
of requirements, theoretical versus user, were then merged to provide a single, mutually
satisfactory, functional requirement.
In order to investigate the appropriateness of various aspects of the proposed I QS,
elements of the functional requirements were implemented in a laboratory prototype.
This prototype served a number of purposes:
a) to clarify the perceived desires of the test site users;
b) to investigate differences between vanous methods of eliciting software
specifications (both functional and related to the mode of use) from users in
terms of the final satisfaction achieved and the level of modification required
c) to establish some of the interface links which must be provided to merge IT
systems currently in use to achieve a truly integrated system for Total Quality support;
d) to consider the importance of certain "poor relation" quality related activities in
the light of integrated Total Quality.
The proposed IQS architecture is then revised in the light of the findings of the
prototype and a modified structure is suggested. The recently published results of other
researchers are considered and related to the modified IQS specification.