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The QA Conundrum: Understanding Quality Assurance in Thermoforming

ThermoFab QA CMMAh, yes. "Quality Assurance." QA. It's a term you no doubt have heard bantered about in the marketplace, by your vendors, and in your own hallways. But what does it really mean? Has it become a meaningless phrase, a term that all product manufacturers talk about--or at least talk around--but that has become overused, much like the terms "robust solution" or "teachable moment"?

We're going to talk about what QA really is, how to look for it and what questions to ask your thermoforming vendor, and what, exactly, our quality assurance promise is to our customers.

Ultimately, the customer (the true end user) decides if a product is "quality" or not. For us at ThermoFab and for you, that means your customers (end users) determine whether the part we thermoformed is quality.

Still, we can all takes steps to assure that what we're putting out there--from the custom thermoformed plastic enclosures to the final product itself--is the right quality. Which brings us to the next point.

What is a quality product?
A quality product meets a specific market's needs. It doesn't necessarily have to be expensive or even "high quality" to be a quality product. The market and the people in that market determine quality.

What's the difference between quality assurance and quality control?
We imagine you'll probably get different definitions depending on the source, but here's how we view it: QA and QC are different. We think this explanation from the Wikipedia page on quality assurance is accurate:

"Quality control emphasizes testing of products to uncover defects, and reporting to management who make the decision to allow or deny the release, whereas quality assurance attempts to improve and stabilize production, and associated processes, to avoid, or at least minimize, issues that led to the defects in the first place."

What's something that can hamper the production of a quality product that no one ever talks about?
What we're going to say might sound simple--even too simple--but the biggest thing that can hamper the production of a quality product is an unrealistic vision.

For example, perhaps you or someone in your company has sketched out or designed how you expect the product to look and function. Now what if you begin to talk it up and market this idea to people--upper management, marketing, sales, even potential customers--only to realize once you sit down with your manufacturing vendor that your original vision (i.e. your design) needs to be adjusted or tweaked?

Read more in our May eNewsletter: http://www.thermofab.com/newsletters/may-2010-thermoforming-quality-assurance/