Metrics in Lean – Part 6 – Productivity of a Quality Assurance department

Response to a question in the IndustryWeek manufacturing network on LinkedIn:

For metrics of quality itself, see Metrics in Lean- Part 2 , but you specifically asked about the productivity of your Quality Assurance (QA) department, meaning that you are interested in its efficiency rather than its effectiveness. It is a legitimate concern, as long as you don’t pursue efficiency at the expense of effectiveness, which is common but not in the best interest of the organization as a whole.

What is the job of the QA department? I can think of several functions it should have:

  1. Assuring compliance with external mandates. If you have customers that require you to be ISO-9001 certified, the QA department is responsible for making sure you are.
  2. Training the production work force in in-process quality management, including the use of go/no-go gauges, response to quality alarms, problem-solving, and mistake-proofing.
  3. Auditing the quality practices in all operations.
  4. Monitoring the quality of incoming materials and working with suppliers as needed to enhance it.
  5. Leading the response to quality problem reports from customers, including immediate countermeasures and root cause analysis.

For each task you want to do it for, identify a measure of volume, such as the number of quality problem reports (QPR) per period. Then find a practical way to measure the resources consumed by this task. For example, it may not be practical to track accurately the number of hours technicians spend on a QPR, but you know how many people withing the department are dedicated to, or involved with, QPRs. Then the number of QPRs per technician per period can measure the productivity or efficiency of the department at this task.