Process Improvement and Risk Mitigation – QA/PA contribution to mission cost reduction
Mantineo, Alfio1; Scaglioni, Stefano1; Vicari, Emmanuel2
The activities performed under the Product Assurance &Safety function are well known in any Space Mission. Two of the most relevant ones are the identification and tailoring of the applicable standards (e.g. ECSS) and the management of problems, waiver and non conformances.
Assuring Compliance of product or services: The application of specific standards and the monitoring of the problems and their correct resolution have the objective of assuring the compliance of the product or the service with the mission requirements, reducing the overall risk that this will not happen or that some of the problems experienced on the ground would show up again in situations far more difficult and expensive to be managed. This is one way of performing risk mitigation. A second element that is probably not immediately visible, is the process of gathering and elaborating the experience (the “lessons”) in order to improve the standards, their tailoring and their implementation processes.
Improvement and cross fertilization: The analysis of the problems in terms of “root causes” allows shifting from immediate solution / restore of the service, to the avoidance of the reoccurrence of the same incident in the same system or similar system. The identification of the “lessons learned”, their analysis and validation constitutes an extremely valuable base of knowledge at corporate level that provides benefit to all future activities in terms of problem prevention, process efficiency and know how preservation.
Both this two approaches are strictly interrelated in the implementation of PA/QA functions in OPS and are documented in its Quality Management Systems. The direct involvement in the integration activities and operations allow gathering first hand information on problems and their root cause.
The costs associated to these activities are easily accountable and contribute to the “cost of the quality”. On the other plate of the scale there are the “costs of non-quality”. All NCRs raised, the time spent for managing the records, the MRBs and, far more important factor, the effort necessary to fix and recheck. The later in the lifecycle the heavier in terms of costs. On top of these figure there are the materialization of the risks, their evolution from fear to real problems with their associated costs. Looking at the statistics on problems recorded is trivial to build up a business case showing that a reduction of them (even a small fraction) will fully cover the entire “costs of quality” making it cost free. Unfortunately it is not easy to demonstrate a reduction of problems in absolute terms by comparing different projects. However some considerations can be done on: