Product Quality Assurance PQA

Product Quality Assurance (AQP) is a crucial step to ensure the excellence of the products you manufacture or acquire from your suppliers. This approach is key to minimizing the risks associated with defects, non-conformities, returns, complaints, but also additional costs and delivery delays. Adopting AQP also means committing to fully satisfy your customers by offering them products that go beyond their expectations, thus strengthening their loyalty to your brand.

What is AQP Product Quality Assurance ?

Product Quality Assurance (AQP) refers to a set of procedures to ensure that products, whether manufactured or acquired, meet the criteria set by customers, current standards and regulations in place. AQP encompasses all phases of a product’s life cycle : from design to delivery, including development, production, quality control, storage and distribution.

This process is based on key principles such as planning, prevention, anomaly detection, correction and continuous improvement. It requires the establishment of a quality management system, including a quality assurance plan, a product configuration plan, traceability, products measurement and quality control tools, problem solving techniques, as well as conducting internal and external audits and project reviews, as well as product validation and qualification.

The goal of the AQP is to satisfy and retain customers by providing them with high quality, reliable, safe, effective products and in line with their expectations. This approach also aims to reduce the costs associated with defects, non-conformities, product returns, claims, production losses, penalties and disputes. Ultimately, it plays a crucial role in improving brand image, competitiveness and innovation within the company.

The AQP is a collaborative process involving all participants in the product value chain, including contractors, suppliers, subcontractors, distributors and after-sales service. To be effective, it requires close collaboration, transparent communication and accountability from each stakeholder.

The main benefits of AQP for your company

AQP transcends mere legal or contractual obligations to become an essential strategic lever for your business. The adoption of the QPA opens the door to a myriad of notable benefits :

Improve customer satisfaction and loyalty

By ensuring the quality and reliability of your products, you meet the expectations of your customers, who are now more demanding and better informed. This translates into an enriched user experience, consolidating their trust and loyalty to your brand. At the same time, this reduces the risk of losing customers due to defects or non-conformities, thus avoiding complaints, returns and potential disputes.

Reduce costs and risks

Preventing or minimizing quality concerns avoids costs and risks associated with defects, non-conformities, touch-ups, production losses, product recalls, penalties, or legal actions. This increases the efficiency of using your resources, reducing the waste of raw materials, energy and time, thus improving your profitability and competitive position.

Strengthen brand image, reputation and value

By offering superior quality products, you improve the image, reputation and perceived value of your brand by customers, partners, suppliers and even competitors. This allows you to stand out on the market, offering unique, innovative and high-performance products. You also benefit from increased awareness and visibility thanks to favorable word of mouth, recommendations and positive testimonials.

Driving innovation and growth

The commitment to quality that is always improving promotes innovation and creativity within your company. This encourages your teams to look for innovative solutions, consider new ideas and experiment with new methods. You thus strengthen your ability to adapt to market changes and customer expectations, while respecting the standards and regulations in force. This creates new opportunities for development, whether by launching new products, conquering new markets, or retaining your current customer base.

Which organizations offer Product Quality Assurance ?

Product Quality Assurance (AQP) is available from a variety of organizations, which vary by industry, type of product or target market. These entities are responsible for defining quality standards, criteria and methods, as well as for awarding certifications, labels or quality marks.

These organizations fall into several categories, including :

International bodies

These international bodies develop globally recognised quality standards that are cross-cutting across all sectors and applicable in all countries. They play a role in facilitating international trade and ensuring the compatibility of products around the world. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), with the famous ISO 9001 standard on quality management system, is the most illustrious example.

There are also organizations dedicated to specific sectors, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) for the quality of health products, or the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) for nuclear products.

National bodies

These bodies establish country-specific quality standards, taking into account cultural, regulatory and economic particularities. They ensure product compliance with national standards and protect local consumers.

In France, for example, the French Standards Association (AFNOR) issues quality certifications based on ISO standards or other dedicated standards. Other sector-oriented bodies include the National Agency for the Safety of Medicinal Products and Health Products (ANSM) for Pharmaceutical Products and the National Agency for the Safety of Food, Environment and Labour (ANSES) for food products.

Private bodies

Private organizations offer voluntary quality standards based on company or network specific criteria. Their goal is to promote products or services, stand out from the competition and retain customers.

This includes labels such as the Label Rouge or the Label Bio, guarantees of superior quality or respect for the environment for agricultural products. There are also quality marks such as NF or CE, ensuring quality and safety of industrial products.

What are the key steps to implement Product Quality Assurance ?

Implementing Product Quality Assurance (EQA) requires a well-structured and methodical process. The following are essential steps :

1. Define quality standards

This critical step is to establish quality standards based on customer needs, regulations and industry best practices. It is essential to specify product characteristics, performance, functionality and acceptance criteria.

Identify risks, possible variations and identify key indicators that will measure quality.

2. Quality Assurance Planning

This is followed by detailed planning of quality assurance activities. This includes defining objectives, allocating responsibilities, allocating resources, and setting deadlines and budgets. The drafting of a detailed quality assurance plan is necessary, covering the processes, procedures, tools and methodologies to be adopted.

It is also essential to provide for control, verification, validation and audit procedures.

3. Implement Quality Control

Quality control then takes over, with the implementation of predefined standards, plans and procedures. This includes testing, inspections and qualitative measurements throughout the product life cycle.

It is imperative that results, data and evidence of compliance with established quality standards are recorded accurately.

4. Evaluate and analyze results

Finally, it is necessary to evaluate and analyze the results obtained from the quality control, comparing the real performances to the predefined expectations. It is important to identify deviations, anomalies, defects and non-conformities of products, while identifying their causes, consequences and potential impacts on quality.

5. Corrective and preventive actions

The fifth phase concerns the implementation of corrective and preventive actions. This step addresses detected quality issues by providing effective solutions. It involves correcting errors, repairing non-conformities, reducing variances and preventing their repetition.

A fundamental aspect of this step is to assess the effectiveness of the measures implemented to ensure the achievement of quality objectives.

6. Communication and monitoring

The sixth stage focuses on communication and monitoring of results and quality assurance measures, involving all concerned. This includes sharing quality information, data, observations and reports.

It is also essential to collect feedback, suggestions and recommendations from customers, suppliers, partners and auditors. Importantly, it is necessary to maintain regular monitoring and work for a constant improvement of the quality of the products.

How much does an AQP cost ?

The price of a Product Quality Assurance (EQA) depends on a multitude of criteria, such as the field of activity, the type of product, the level of quality required, the complexity of the initiative, the volume of suppliers participating and the duration of the assurance process. Thus, there is no standard cost for QPA; however, an estimate based on the following factors may be considered :

The cost of certification

Quality certification by a recognized entity (such as ISO, AFNOR, or similar) involves a variety of costs covering auditing, issuing and maintaining certification. These costs depend mainly on the selected certification entity, the scope of the certification, the number of sites to be audited and the duration of the certification, among others. For example, getting ISO 9001 certified can cost between 5,000 and 20,000 euros.

The cost of implementation

La mise en place d'une AQP nécessite l'allocation de ressources humaines, matérielles et financières. Il est essentiel d'affecter du personnel qualifié pour diriger le projet, accomplir les tâches d'assurance qualité et superviser le contrôle et l'amélioration de produits.

Investments will also be needed in equipment, software, tools and methodologies for quality measurement and verification. In addition, expenses related to training, documentation, communication and monitoring of the QPA must be anticipated.

In general, the cost of implementing the QPA can represent 5 to 15% of the project’s turnover.

The cost of optimization

The AQP is a dynamic and constantly improving approach. This means that fees handled by optimizing the quality of the products must be provided, including feedback from customers, suppliers, partners and auditors. These costs also include the adjustments needed to meet market changes, customer demands, standards and regulations.

Optimization can cost between 1% and 5% of project revenue.

Ultimately, the cost of an AQP can fluctuate between 10,000 and 100,000 euros or more, depending on the specifics of the project. It is essential to emphasize that investing in a QPA is generally beneficial, reducing the costs and risks associated with quality issues, while improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How long does it take to get this Product Quality Assurance ?

Obtaining a Product Quality Assurance (AQP) can vary depending on a multitude of factors, including the type of product, the sector of activity, the level of quality sought, the complexity of the project, the number of suppliers involved and the availability of resources, among others. Given these variables, there is no fixed duration for obtaining a QPA. However, here are some key elements to estimate the time required :

The duration of the certification

Quality certification, according to the standards of respected organizations such as ISO or AFNOR, involves several steps : application, audit, verdict and follow-up. This procedure can vary from a few weeks to several months, depending on the certification body, the scope of the certification, the number of locations to be audited and the validity period of the certification. For example, obtaining ISO 9001 certification can take 3-6 months.

The duration of the implementation

The implementation of the QPA, requiring the application of specific standards, plans and procedures, can span from a few months to several years. This depends on the type of product, the sector of activity, the desired level of quality, the project itself, the number of suppliers and the availability of resources. For example, this period can vary from 2 to 5 years in the pharmaceutical sector.

The duration of the optimization

The AQP approach is not static but part of a continuous improvement process. It is therefore essential to provide an indeterminate duration for the optimization of the product quality, taking into account the feedback, suggestions and recommendations of customers, suppliers, partners and auditors. This step involves a constant adaptation of the AQP to market trends, customer requirements, and current standards and regulations.

Quality optimization is a long-term commitment that requires monitoring, reassessment and regular updating of the QPA.

The time required to set up a QPA can range from a few weeks to several years or more, depending on the circumstances. It is important to note that the AQP represents a long-term investment, aimed at ensuring the quality and reliability of products, as well as strengthening customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Is there a renewal to be done regarding AQP Product Quality Assurance ?

Product Quality Assurance (AQP) is an ongoing process rather than a one-off process. The renewal of the AQP varies according to several criteria such as the type of product, the sector of activity, the level of quality requested, the complexity of the project, the number of suppliers involved and the availability of resources. There is no fixed frequency for this renewal, but several elements must be considered :

The renewal of the certification

Obtaining a quality certification (for example, ISO, AFNOR etc.) implies its renewal at intervals generally of 3 years. This step requires an audit ensuring compliance with quality standards, the maintenance and improvement of the quality management system, the address of non-conformities or corrective actions and the consideration of customer feedback, suppliers, partners and auditors. The cost associated with renewal varies depending on the certification body, the scope of the certification, the number of sites audited and the duration of the certification.

The renewal of the implementation

Renewing the QPA involves the deployment of quality assurance activities in accordance with established standards, plans and procedures. This can involve every product life cycle, any significant change, capacity increase, or production transfer. Recording results and quality data at every step is essential. Renewal of implementation may represent 5-15% of project revenue.

The renewal of optimization

Continuously optimizing quality involves the implementation of corrective and preventive actions in the face of identified quality defects, the adjustment of the AQP to market developments and customer needs, as well as the regular review and update of the AQP. These optimization efforts can cost between 1 and 5% of project revenue.

In summary, the frequency of QPA renewal can vary from a few months to several years, depending on each situation. It is important to emphasize that AQP is a long-term investment that ensures the quality and reliability of products, thus contributing to the increase in customer satisfaction and loyalty.