Quality management (QM) is a vital part of most industries. It not only focuses on the end product (in demining this is ‘safe cleared land’ ref: IMAS 04.10) but also the process to achieve the final product.
Quality assurance (QA) is conducted by assessing that the process is being followed.
The purpose of QA is to confirm that management practices and operational procedures are appropriate, are being applied correctly, and will achieve the stated requirements safely and efficiently. Internal QA is conducted by the survey and clearance organisations, while external inspections are undertaken by national mine action authorities or other contracted agencies.
QC relates to the inspection of a finished product, which in demining, normally involves the inspection of a proportion (percentage) of cleared land, to validate that the work has been achieved to the agreed standard. External QC takes place when a task has been completed, and is conducted through sampling. Internal QC takes place while conducting a task. QC is only conducted on the finished product (safe cleared land) and therefore practically can only be conducted on land that has had a clearance asset applied to it. The quality of land released through non-technical survey (NTS) and technical survey (TS) is normally assured by the QA of the process.
Internal QC is conducted by survey and clearance organisations, while external inspections are undertaken by national mine action authorities or other contracted agencies. External sampling, in particular, is a costly way of ensuring quality, and should be kept to a minimum. By developing a well-functioning internal and external QA process, the need for sampling can be reduced, or removed entirely from the QM process.
An efficient QM system focuses on internal and external QA, and applies limited external QC only where required (eg, areas worked by demining teams with a history of poor performance). Internal QC should occur more frequently.
Survey and completion documentation should be subjected to QA checks. All documentation relating to a task should be subjected to QA, to ensure that the relevant information has been gathered, and that the mapping of the surveyed and cleared areas is shown accurately and in enough detail.