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Quality Management Dictionary

Quality Management Dictionary
In this glossary we collected more than 200 common quality terms from different documentary sources including books, periodicals, websites and quality experts.
The definitions contained herein should not be construed as replacing definitions and texts published by official bodies. They are provided here only for information in order to familiarize work teams with the language of quality that they will have to appropriate and master.


Accessibility is an attribute of statistics describing the set of conditions and modalities by which users can obtain data.
According to the European Statistics Code of Practice, European statistics should be presented in a clear and

Acceptable Quality Level (AQL)

is the worst tolerable process average (mean) in percentage or ratio that is still considered acceptable


Accuracy is an attribute of statistics measuring the closeness of estimates to the unknown true values, European statistics must accurately and
reliably portray reality.


A process, function or task that occurs over time and has recognizable results. Activities combine to form business processes


a scale which measures how close an employee's ?ersonal needs are to the organization's needs.

Approved Material

Approved Materials are materials governed either by industry standard specifications (e.g., SAE, ASTM, DIN, ISO) or by customer specifications.


An evaluation process including a document review, an on-site audit and an analysis and report. Customers may also include a self-assessment, internal audit results and other materials in the assessment.

Assignable Cause

The cause of variation in a process which have a source that is identified, and can be eventually eliminated.


A periodic inspection to ensure that a process is ?onforming to its specifications.


A product or service's ability to perform its intended function at a given time and under appropriate conditions. It can be expressed by the ratio operative time/total time where operative time is the time that it is functioning or ready to function.

Average chart (X-bar chart)

is a type of Shewhart control chart that is used to monitor the arithmetic means of successive samples of constant size, n. This type of control chart is used for characteristics that can be measured on a continuous scale, such as weight, temperature, thickness etc.

Average outgoing quality (AOQ)

The average outgoing quality is the average defective or defect rate in released lot assuming rejected lots are 100% inspected and all defectives/defects are removed. The outgoing quality is better than the incoming quality as a result of the 100% inspection of rejected lots. AOQ(p) = p x OC(p) where p is the defective/defect rate.

The AOQ curve initially increases as more defectives/defects are produced, more are released. As more and more lots are rejected, 100% inspections become more common and the AOQ curve starts to decrease as a result. The maximum value of the AOQ curve is called the Average Outgoing Quality Level (AOQL).

Balanced scorecard

The balanced scorecard is a strategic planning and management system that is used extensively in business and industry, government, and nonprofit organizations worldwide to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external
communications, and monitor organization performance against strategic goals. The balanced scorecard has evolved from its early use as a simple performance measurement framework to a full strategic planning and management system. The "new" balanced scorecard transforms an organization's strategic plan from an attractive but passive document into the "marching orders" for the organization on a daily basis. It provides a framework that not only provides performance measurements, but helps planners identify what should be done and measured. It enables executives to truly execute their strategies.

Baldrige Award

Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award: An annual award given to a United States company that excels in quality management and quality achievement.

Bar chart

A chart that compares different groups of data to each other through the use of bars that represent each group. Bar charts can be simple, in which each group of data consists of a single type of data, or grouped or stacked, in which the groups of data are broken down into internal categories


A specification or product that has been formally reviewed and agreed upon, that serves as the basis for further development, and that can be changed only through formal change control procedures.


Benchmarking is a methodology that is used to search for best practices. Benchmarking can be applied to strategies, policies, operations, processes, products, and organizational structures. By finding and adopting best practices you can improve your organization's overall performance.
Best practices can be found either within your own organization or within other organizations. It usually means identifying organizations that are doing something in the best possible way and then trying to emulate how they do it.
There are at least two types of external benchmarking: competitive benchmarking and generic benchmarking. Competitive benchmarking involves comparing how you do things with how your competitors do things while generic benchmarking involves comparing yourself with organizations in unrelated sectors.
In order to carry out benchmarking projects, you need to develop a benchmarking methodology. Your benchmarking methodology should define rules that control :
How the scope of each project is defined.
How benchmarking partners are selected.
How confidentiality is respected and ensured.
How benchmarking characteristics are specified.
How benchmarking indicators or metrics are chosen.
How benchmarking data is collected and analyzed.
How potential improvements are identified.
How improvement plans are developed.
How your benchmarking experience is added to your organization's knowledge base.

Best practice

A way or method of accomplishing a business function or process that is considered to be superior to all other known methods.


A systematic error, which contributes to the difference between a population mean of measurements or test results and an accepted reference value.

Black Belt

The leader of the team responsible for applying the Six Sigma process.

Black-box testing

Testing that ignores the internal mechanism or structure of a system or component and focuses on the outputs generated in response to selected inputs and execution conditions.


A tool used to encourage creative thinking and new ideas. A group formulates and records as many ideas as possible concerning a certain subject, regardless of the content of the ideas.
No discussion, evaluation, or criticism of ideas is allowed until the brainstorming session is complete.

Breakthrough thinking

A management technique which emphasizes the development of new, radical approaches to traditional constraints, as opposed to incremental or minor changes in thought that build on the original approach.

Business Process Reengineering (BPR)

A structured approach by all or part of an enterprise to improve the value of its products and services while reducing resource requirements. The transformation of a business process to achieve significant levels of improvement in one or more performance measures relating to fitness for purpose, quality, cycle time, and cost by using the techniques of streamlining and removing added activities and costs.


is the total range of inherent variation in a stable process. It is determined using data from control charts. The control charts shall indicate stability before capability calculations can be made.
Histograms are to be used to examine the distribution pattern of individual values and verify a normal distribution. When analysis indicates a stable process and a normal distribution, the indices Cp and Cpk can be calculated. If analysis indicates a non normal distribution, advanced statistical tools such as PPM analysis, will be required to determine capability. If control charts show the process to be non stable, the index Ppk can be calculated.

Cause & Effect diagram

A tool used to analyze all factors (causes) that contribute to a given situation or occurrence (effect) by breaking down main causes into smaller and smaller sub-causes. It is also known
as the Ishikawa or the fishbone diagram.

Centre Line

The line on a statistical process control chart which represents the characteristic's central tendency


Certification is an activity which assesses whether a particular product, service or process or system (e.g. quality management system) complies with requirements defined by a standard or other document containing criteria. It is conducted by an external independent certification body.The result of the successful certification is the certificate awarded to the organisation by the certification body.

Central Tendency

the degree of clustering of the values of a statistical distribution that is usually measured by the arithmetic mean, mode, or median


Cross Functional Team.

Change control

The processes, authorities for, and procedures to be used for all changes that are made to the system and/or the system's data. Change control is a vital subset of the Quality Assurance [QA] program within an establishment and should be clearly described in the establishment's SOPs.


A document that specifies the purpose of a team, its power, it's reporting relationships, and its specific responsibilities.

Check sheet

A customized form used to record data. Usually, it is used to record how often some activity occurs. A list of things to do.


Clarity is an attribute of statistics describing the extent to which easily comprehensible metadata are available, where these metadata are necessary to give a full understanding of statistical data.
Clarity is sometimes referred to as "interpretability". It refers to the data information environment:
whether data are accompanied by appropriate metadata, including information on their quality, and the extent to which additional assistance is provided to users by data providers.
In the European Statistics Code of Practice, clarity is strictly associated to accessibility to form one single quality criteria: "accessibility and clarity": the conditions and modalities by which users can use and interpret data.
European statistics should be presented in a clear and understandable form, disseminated in a suitable and convenient manner, available and accessible on an impartial basis with supporting metadata and guidance.


Coherence is an attribute of statistics measuring the adequacy of the data to be reliably combined in different ways and for various uses.
European statistics should be consistent internally, over time and comparable between regions and countries; it should be possible to combine and make joint use of related data from different sources.
When originating from different sources, and in particular from statistical surveys using different methodology, statistics are often not completely identical, but show differences in results due to different approaches, classifications and methodological standards. There are several areas where the assessment of coherence is regularly conducted: between provisional and final statistics,
between annual and short-term statistics, between statistics from the same socio-economic domain, and between survey statistics and national accounts.
The concept of coherence is closely related to the concept of comparability between statistical domains. Both coherence and comparability refer to a data set with respect to another. The difference between the two is that comparability refers to comparisons between statistics based on usually unrelated statistical populations and coherence refers to comparisons between statistics for the same or largely similar populations.
Coherence can be generally broken down into "Coherence - cross domain" and "Coherence -internal".

Commitment to quality

Commitment to quality is the characteristic of organizations in which they systematically and regularly identify strengths and weaknesses to continuously improve process and product quality.


Any person or entity which is a rival against another. In business, a company in the same industry or a similar industry which offers a similar product or service. The presence of one or more competitors can reduce the prices of goods and services as the companies attempt to gain a larger market share. Competition also requires companies to become more efficient in order to reduce costs. Fast-food restaurants McDonald's and Burger King are competitors, as are Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and Wal-Mart and Target.


The property that all necessary parts of the entity are included. Completeness of a product is often used to express the fact that all requirements have been met by the product.


The degree to which a system or component has a design or implementation that is difficult to understand and verify.


Meeting requirements or specifications.


The degree of uniformity, standardization, and freedom from contradiction among the documents or parts of a system or component.

Continuous improvement

On-going improvement of any and all aspects of an organization including products, services, communications, environment, functions, individual processes, etc.

Control Chart

is a line chart with control limits. It is based on the work of Shewhart and Deming. By mathematically constructing control limits at 3 standard deviations above and below the average, one can determine what variation is due to normal ongoing causes (common causes) and what variation is produced by unique events (special causes). By eliminating the special causes first and then reducing common causes, quality can be improved.

Corrective Action

Documented and purposeful change implemented to eliminate forever a specific cause of an identified non

Cost effectiveness analysis

Cost-effectiveness analysis is a way to examine both the costs and health outcomes of one or more interventions. It compares an intervention to another intervention (or the status quo) by estimating how much it costs to gain a unit of a health outcome, like a life year gained or a death prevented.

Cost of Poor Quality

The costs incurred by producing products or services of poor quality. These costs usually include the cost of rework, duplicate work, scrapping rejects, replacements and refunds, complaints, and loss of customers and reputation.

Cost of Quality

The total labor, materials, and overhead costs attributed to: 1) preventing nonconforming products products or services, 2) appraising products or service to ensure conformance, or 3) correcting or scrapping nonconforming products products or service.


Commonly used process capability index defined as [USL (upper spec limit) - LSL(lower spec limit)] / [6 x sigma], where sigma is the estimated process standard deviation.


ASQ Certified Quality Technician

Critical control point

A function or an area in a manufacturing process or procedure, the failure of which, or loss of control over, may have an adverse affect on the quality of the finished product and may result in a unacceptable health risk.


An information gathering tool to use with any work activity. It breaks down a job into its component parts: Customer requirements and Supplier Requirements.


The point which partitions the acceptance region from the reject region.

Cycle time

The time that elapses from the beginning to the end of a process or sub-process.

Data validation

A process used to determine if data are inaccurate, incomplete, or unreasonable. The process may include format checks, completeness checks, check key tests, reasonableness checks and limit checks

Decision matrix

A tool used to evaluate problems, solutions, or ideas. The possibilities are listed down the left-hand side of the matrix and relevant criteria are listed across the top. Each possibility is then rated on a numeric scale of importance or effectiveness (e.g. on a scale of 1 to 10) for each criterion, and each rating is recorded in the appropriate box. When all ratings are complete, the scores for each possibility are added to determine which has the highest overall rating and thus deserves the greatest attention.


Nonconformance to requirements.


personal performance standard that says specifications should be met every time. An attitude that displays personal commitment to doing the job right the first time, every time.

Deming cycle

Alternate name for the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, a four-stage approach to problemsolving. It is also sometimes called the Shewhart cycle.


The probability that an item will continue to function at customer expectation levels, at the useful life without requiring overhaul or rebuild.


is the capability of producing a desired result or the ability to produce desired output. When something is deemed effective, it means it has an intended or expected outcome, or produces a deep, vivid impression.


the state or quality of being efficient, or able to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort; competency in performance.

Employee involvement

Regular participation of employees in decision-making and suggestions. The driving forces behind increasing the involvement of employees are the conviction that more brains are better, that people in the process know it best, and that involved employees will be more motivated to do what is best for the organization.


Usually refers to giving employees decision-making and problem-solving authority within their jobs.


(1) the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (such as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival, (2) Everything that supports a system or the performance of a function. (3) The conditions that affect the performance of a system or function.


Person who helps a team with issues of teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. A facilitator should not contribute to the actual content of the team's project, focusing instead as an observer of the team's functioning as a group.

Failure Mode Effects Analysis FMEA

a method of reliability analysis intended to identify failures, at the basic component level, which have significant consequences affecting the system performance in the application considered.

Feasibility study

An analysis and evaluation of a proposed project to determine if it (1) is technically feasible, (2) is feasible within the estimated cost, and (3) will be profitable. Feasibility studies are almost always conducted where large sums are at stake


See "Cause & Effect diagram"

Five Ss (5S)

5S is a workplace organization method that uses a list of five Japanese words: seiri (??), seiton (??), seiso (??), seiketsu (??), and shitsuke (?).
In English, these words are often translated to: Sort; Set in Order; Shine; Standardize; Sustain. Each S represents one part of a five-step process that can improve workplace

Fixed Cost

A cost that does not vary with the amount or degree of production. The costs that remain if an activity or process stops.

Flow Chart

is a pictorial representation showing all of the steps of a process.


an act or instance of fluctuating : an irregular shifting back and forth or up and down in the level, strength, or value of something

Functional Process Improvement

A structured approach by all or part of an enterprise to improve the value of its products and services while reducing resource requirements. Also referred to as business process improvement (BPI), business process redesign, and business reengineering.

Gantt chart

A bar chart that shows planned work and finished work in relation to time. Each task in a list has a bar corresponding to it. The length of the bar is used to indicate the expected or actual duration of the task.


An indicator of category or rank related to features or characteristics that cover different sets of needs for products or services intended for the same functional use.

Green Belt

An individual who supports the implementation and application of Six Sigma tools by way of participation on project teams

Hazard analysis

A technique used to identify conceivable failures affecting system performance, human safety or other required characteristics.


is a display of statistical information that uses rectangles to show the frequency of data items in successive numerical intervals of equal size. In the most common form of histogram, the independent variable is plotted along the horizontal axis and the dependent variable is plotted along the vertical axis.

Hoshin kanri

Japanese term for hoshin planning, a form of interactive strategic planning which aids the flow of information up and down the organizational layers in a systematic, productive way.


the act of looking at something carefully, or an official visit to a building or organization to check that everything is correct and legal

ISO 9000

A family of ISO standards that apply to quality management and quality assurance.


Just-In-Time: A policy calling for the delivery of material, products or services at the time they are needed in an activity or process to reduce inventory, wait time and spoilage.


Taken from the Japanese words kai and zen where kai means change and zen means good. The popular meaning is continuous improvement of all areas of a company not just quality.

Key Performance Indicators KPI

refers to the short list of measurable parameters that will indicate how well the business is doing at attaining its goals. In a manufacturing quality scenario, this may be the amount of scrap or rework that gets metered.

Lean Manufacturing

is a systematic method for waste minimization ("Muda") within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity, which can cause problems Lean manufacturing makes obvious what adds value, by reducing
everything else (which is not adding value)

Lower Control Limit

A horizontal dotted line plotted on a control chart which represents the lower process limit capabilities of a process


the probability that a failed system can be made operable in a specified interval or downtime.

Master Black Belt

A teacher and mentor of Black Belts. Provides support, reviews projects, and undertakes larger scale projects.

Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS

a document that contains information on the potential health effects of exposure to chemicals, or other potentially dangerous substances, and on safe working procedures when handling chemical products.


The process of determining the value of some quantity in terms of a standard unit.

Mean time to failure (MTTF).

is a measure of how reliable a hardware product or component is. For most components, the measure is typically in thousands or even tens of thousands of hours between failures. For example, a hard disk drive may have a mean time between failures of 300,000 hours.

Mean time to failure (MTTF).

is a measure of how reliable a hardware product or component is. For most components, the measure is typically in thousands or even tens of thousands of hours between failures. For example, a hard disk drive may have a mean time between failures of 300,000 hours.

Mean time to repair (MTTR).

is the average time required to troubleshoot and repair failed equipment and return it to normal operating conditions. It is a basic technical measure of the maintainability of equipment and repairable parts.

Mission statement

is a short statement of an organization's purpose, identifying the goal of its operations: what kind of product or service it provides, its primary customers or market, and its geographical region of operation, It may include a short statement of such fundamental matters as the organization's values or philosophies, a business's main competitive advantages.

Non-conformance report

A non-conformance report is any kind of formatted text document or file that contains information related to a nonconformity.
There are many formats used, and often they are not even standardised within one company or location, so do not be surprised that there is not a standard format in use across all industries.
A list of NCR reports is usually kept as an NCR register.


Product or material which does not conform to the customer specifications and/or requirements.

Non Value Added Activity

An activity performed that does not add value to the output product or service, which may or may not have a valid business reason for being performed.


A continuous, symmetrical function characterized by a bell shaped curve, e.g., distribution of sampling averages.

Ongoing Process Capability

a long term measure of statistical process control or process performance.


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