Expert Talks: Dr. Dragana Đorđević Čegar, Senior Manager of Auto Quality at TTTech Auto CEE
In today's interview, we spend quality time with Dragana Đorđević Čegar, our Senior Manager of Auto Quality, who shares insights into the quality assessment and certification process as critical steps towards product maturity.
In this interesting and engaging talk, you'll learn why quality management is an indispensable part of product development and release. And who is behind the highest safety and security standards of TTTech Auto products. Keep reading.
Dragana, I would like to warmly welcome you as the first female expert in our Expert Talks series. This is a big step forward, as TTTech Auto has many women working in various leadership positions.
First, I would like to thank you for the invitation, and I must admit that it is a great honor for me to be part of the Expert Talks which I personally enjoy reading and which I consider very important for our company. I really appreciate that you are trying to promote our Quality and Sustainability policy in terms of gender equality. As a company, we should be proud of how many female experts there are in the various areas, but of course we must not forget our dear male colleagues.
What are the most common misconceptions about what a quality team does? And what are the facts?
I think that due to the complexity of automotive Quality Engineering and Management, there is a misconception about what automotive Quality delivers, not only in our company but across the IT market. This is due to a lack of knowledge about what quality means overall and in particular what it means to have quality embedded in software delivery.
One of the problems I see is that it's not easy to measure the quality of software because you can't see it as a pile of inferior hardware sitting somewhere in the facility and immediately calculate how much money is lost due to the materials used in production. In the software industry, it's much more difficult to do this very quickly due to the higher complexity of the “production line”. Therefore, our engineering colleagues view our work as either police officers or documenters of problems, stopping releases simply because a "law" is not being followed, which is completely contrary to our mission. The mission of Quality is to identify deviations as quickly as possible and prevent them from happening again, provide clarification, help with solutions, etc.
Another problem is wrong expertise in connection with Quality Engineering. When you think of functional safety, for example, everyone immediately fears that human lives are at risk if the desired functional safety isn't achieved. It's similar with cyber security, because everyone imagines that a car could be hacked, which in turn would put people's lives at risk. The fact is, however, that functional safety and cyber security are only the specific manifestations of Quality Engineering. Basically, software quality, especially in the automotive industry, requires a deep understanding of software development, architecture, safety, security, testing and other aspects, because this is the only way to detect errors before it is too late and you deliver bad software to the customer. For this reason, we have changed our name from Quality to Quality Engineering and then to Software Factory and Compliance Engineering.
We recently spoke to Davor Kedačić, Manager Test Engineer at TTTech Auto CEE Osijek, about the importance of testing in delivering high-quality products to our customers. How is quality management related to testing? Can you explain the development path from software developer to quality engineer?
I'm glad you asked me, because I wanted to continue with another example from the previous question, and this is in the field of testing. All engineers will agree that without proper testing, proper pass rate and proper sampling, no one can say that a software or hardware product can be considered safe. But let me tell you something, testing is the lowest level of Quality cycles. The easiest way to explain this is with a definition across all cycles.
The common practice is that we have good software developers who turn to testing because they are so experienced that they can find the bugs and problems in the source code or even in the design very quickly. After gaining a certain amount of experience as a test engineer over the years, he/she becomes a Quality engineer as the perspective is broadened to include the functional and non-functional requirements. This means that the engineer can now perform a thorough root cause analysis and propose corrective actions by observing all processes in the technical area, but also in other areas such as project management or change request management, configuration management, etc.
A final product should mature from a well-defined concept to a complete and flawless solution. To achieve this, the product must be thoroughly tested and adapted to the highest quality requirements during the development process. Dragana, how is such an improvement cycle implemented in practice?
The key is constant monitoring and a data-driven approach. It is crucial that you have transparency about where you stand with quality and KPIs. Once you have created this transparency, you should look at every detail and try to find the root cause of the problems that are occurring at any of the development or testing levels. The next step is then to find a solution for a quick response, but also for systematic, long-term solutions that need to be proven and later deployed at the company level. I think most engineers are already thinking along these lines: find out what is not good, solve it, check the solution and deploy it systematically - the Shewhart-Deming cycle is better known as Plan-Do-Check-Act, the central postulate of ISO 9001 Quality management.
Let me give you one example: The customer complains about errors in vehicle tests with test drivers because an incorrect value is displayed during an action. The Quality engineer immediately thinks of an incorrect implementation of the requirement for a service or feature, because for Quality the customer is always the focus (again a postulate from the ISO 9001 standard that can be linked to engineering). What will the Quality engineer do? He goes to the requirements for the particular service, checks the complete V-model, looks at the test reports and logs, goes to the pull requests and tries to check static code reports to find anomalies in production. The next step is to go to the project team and perform a thorough analysis together with experts to take corrective actions. The corrective actions are documented and prepared for systematic reuse, because Quality is a shared service that knows the product and all projects at the same time.
It is clear from the above that quality management plays a decisive role in every product release. In your opinion, what is the level of awareness in this regard? What do you think needs to change in the general perception of quality to achieve great results and consistently deliver the best products?
We need to change the way we look at the relationship between quality and what we produce. Leadership commitment is critical here. The leadership team should take the time to understand what quality means and to explain that this is the only way for us - to have a high-quality product that everyone wants to buy. We should stop thinking that, for example, the unit design document or the architecture document is just a document - it's a work product and our algorithm of how we create the source code. Then we should start evaluating more architectural designs and not just take an architect's idea for granted but invest in the software architecture before we start implementing it.
I've thought about this so many times in my life, mainly because I like fashion, why some things can be incredibly expensive, and people still buy them. The answer is quite simple: very high, consistent quality and reliability over the years of the brand's existence. If we want a strong brand, we need to do the same – have consistent quality!
Finally, I have a few questions for our readers, just to think about them:
Do you buy nice, expensive leather shoes and think it's fine if they break after 2 days of wear?
What can happen if someone doesn't check and demand the quality of the plastic used to package the food you eat?
Are you okay with buying a toy for your child for which there are no quality controls or standards for the materials used?
As a customer, would you accept to buy a car with lane control, cruise control or parking assistance that has not been adequately tested?
And as a user, would you drive a car that only fails 10% of the time?