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Quality knowledge base - article QA-0006
Updated on 05-01-2017

Quality Improvement (QI)

Quality Improvement (QI) is not just a method, but a systematic approach to improve the performance and effectiveness of the organization, such as the effectiveness of the existing Quality Management System (QMS). An unchanged system will never improve by itself, external impact is necessary in order to enhance it. Unambiguous, evidence-based and transparent actions and interventions are needed to increase effectiveness in any kind of system, process, or complex operation.
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Key Features
Plenty of previously developed models and trends exist, depending on industry sectors. Some examples:
Of course all models highly overlap each other, and the basic fundamentals are the same. In the end the final goal is always the same: to do it better compared to the previous state (e.g. lean processes, increased quality level, more effective operation).
Improvement can be a simple process improvement, but even a company-wide strategic change, that enhances quality and effectiveness.
Quality Improvement (QI) gives feedback to Quality Planning (QP) through the lessons learned process, by sharing the experiences, information, data, methods, technologies and using them during the planning of the next product or service. It can lead to the improvement of product- or process design.
Quality Management
Diagram about the Juran trilogy (Source: Joseph M. Juran - Juran's Quality Handbook)
Quality- and process improvement approach is used in many sectors. ISO 9001 and the automotive-specific IATF 16949:2016 are also emphasizing continual improvement, and the PDCA methodology, but the need of improvement has been reflected in many other standards or specifications covering various industries, such as:
  • Healthcare (ISO/TS 22367:2008: Medical laboratories -- Reduction of error through risk management and continual improvement)
  • IT Management (ISO/IEC 15504-4:2004: Information technology - Process assessment - Part 4: Guidance on use for process improvement and process capability determination)
  • IT Management (ISO/IEC TR 33014:2013: Information technology -- Process assessment -- Guide for process improvement)
  • Industry-independent (ISO 13053-1:2011: Quantitative methods in process improvement -- Six Sigma -- Part 1: DMAIC methodology)
Source:;; Joseph M. Juran - Juran's Quality Handbook
Quality improvement must be proactive and continuous, and it must be realistic. Before deciding about an improvement – let it be a simple process improvement, or a complex system enhancement – consider whether this improvement is life-like, and achievable. Many decision makers initiate quality improvements, which only exist on paper, and will never be living, because of unrealistic execution.
Try to make it simple and lean. Changing something to more simply is already a success and a real improvement. Identify process gaps, and also redundant processes, that are not necessary, and can be eliminated. Cutting weight off the organization helps reducing failures and unnecessary effort (that energy should be used somewhere else).
Use best practices from your organization (department to department), or share and adapt ideas on industry-wide workshops, conventions. It is a general misunderstanding, that competitors only balk each other.
The IATF 16949:2016 - and the preceding ISO/TS 16949:2009 - order the certified companies to maintain continual improvement in manufacturing processes, related to reduced variation in process parameters, and product characteristics.
  • In the quality technical literature, QI usually means Quality Improvement.
  • Related to QI, the phrase continual improvement is used frequently. Continual improvement is equal to continuous improvement.
  • Various quality improvement models exist, such as TQM, PDCA or 6Sigma principles
  • QI should be proactive and continuous, even when things go right
  • Make is simple and lean … by doing so, it is already a huge improvement!
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