PDCA, is an acronym for Plan Do Check Act, or, sometimes, Plan Do Check Adjust.
The 4-step PDCA process is a cycle process that should be in continuous motion and remain fluid throughout the life of any project with the objective of always improving.
Its purpose is to assist your team to solve problems more effectively and in a structured way, and is formulated to spur continuous improvement.
The PDCA cycle
Let’s have a look at the four steps in the PDCA cycle that are an important part of the quality assurance plan structure:
The planning stage outlines what needs to be done, for example, identifying the core problem which needs to be solved, what are the resources required, what shortage of resource is there, what is the best solution with the available resources, the project goals and objectives.
This stage is where the planned steps get implemented. It is best to implement actions in small steps as there are always unexpected problems during the implementation stage.
One of the most important stages is the check stage. You need to audit and measure every aspect of the implemented actions to ensure everything is in accordance with the plan. However, this is also the stage where any problems identified with the corrective actions can be resolved.
If everything has gone to plan and the initial problem has been eliminated, this is the stage where the plan can be fulfilled, and the newly implemented actions can become the new SOP or process or methodology.
A PDCA Cycle Example In Practice
Here’s an example of a real situation where an importer would use the PDCA process to investigate and solve a quality issue occurring in the factory:
Some products have scratches on the surface when they are shipped from factory A. There is a suspicion that people on the assembly line throw them. But, instead of addressing that directly, what if a structured approach were followed?
Someone collects information on the scratches (what proportion, where they are on the products, etc…). He/she goes on-site to observe the products along with the manufacturing processes.
He/she notices that most scratches appear after the products are stamped and before they are assembled.
The hypothesis about the root cause is “the products’ main source of scratches is the way they are stacked up in containers and transported to the assembly lines”.
A discussion with the internal logistics team leads to a proposed countermeasure (see below).
Instead of stacking the parts directly in contact with each other in containers, some thermoformed (blister-style) trays are made and the stamping operators place the parts in those trays.
This is done on a small scale first.
The products are checked again for scratches. Very clear improvement is noted. The hypothesis and the countermeasure are validated. (Otherwise, go back to PLAN.)
Standardize the new way of collecting and transporting the parts. And look for similar situations where this learning can also be applied.
How PDCA forms the basis for an effective quality assurance plan?
PDCA is also the basis for a successful Quality Assurance Plan (QAP). The QA Plan should include:
- Roles and responsibilities
- Tasks and schedules
It will also link to other project plans.
As with most effective processes, the QAP should also be capable of continuously improving product quality.