Quality Control Vs Quality Assurance: Understanding the Differences

A lot of times people confuse the concept of Quality Control with Quality Assurance or vice versa. In this article, we will try to eradicate any prior confusion that you might have had. Because these terms, though part of the same goal, cannot be used interchangeably. In the corporate sector, you might as well commit fraud by confusing Quality Control with Quality Assurance. Since both Quality Assurance and Quality control form an integral part of the organization’s quality management plan, it’s imperative to agree on what meanings of Quality Assurance and Quality Control are and understood by all stakeholders, as the effectiveness of delivery teams relies on that. 

Quality systems are likely to be ineffective and weak in ensuring that the product is delivered on time if they are poorly understood. Hence, for the QA to contribute enormously to the success of projects, it’s crucial to understand the differences. 

Quality Assurance and Quality Control, so what’s the difference. Let’s take a deeper look at them;

Difference Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control

The ISO 9000 family of standards is a good point of reference for understanding the difference between QA and QC. For organizations to meet the needs of the customers and other stakeholders, these standards are designed in compliance with the quality management systems. 

Quality control is defined by the ISO 9000 standard as; 

“The fulfillment of quality requirements ensured by a part of the quality management”

Quality Assurance, on the other hand, is defined as;

“A part of the management that focuses entirely upon assuring that the quality requirements will be abided by.”

These definitions are too vague and broad to be useful, though they lay a good foundation. Hence, let’s take a deeper look at what these terms have in common and what are the differences that sets them apart.

Quality Control VS Quality Assurance:

Product (QC) vs Process (QA)

QA is primarily focused upon preventing quality issues, hence is process-oriented. On the other hand, QC focuses on identifying quality issues in manufactured products which makes it product-oriented. Actions vs results is another way to understand this distinction. QC is focused on the final resulting product and QA involves the actions which create the product.

Reactive (QC) vs. Proactive (QA)

Before any defects occur through the design process, Quality assurance plays a proactive role and prevents them. On the contrary, identifying defects after they have happened, is something QC exists to do, which makes it reactive. 

 Documenting standard operating procedures or more commonly known as SOPS, are part of the design of processes, which QA is responsible for. So every time processes are followed, a safe, effective product should be produced. 

To ensure that the products meet standards for safety and efficacy, a lot of testing is involved. This is done as a part of QC.

Parts (QC) vs. System (QA)

The methods and procedures which are used to safeguard quality standards are the Quality assurance control systems. The outputs of the system are measured by Quality control systems. 

The raw materials used to make the final product are the focus of Quality Control Measures. To make sure that these inputs or raw materials are consistently safe and effective, the QA system for quality management, on the other hand, samples batches of raw materials and audits suppliers. 

Verification (QC) vs. Creation (QA)

The roadmap for creating High-Quality products is the consequence of QA done properly. The standards for Sales, marketing, distribution, packaging, manufacturing, and product design are an integral part of QA.

Conforming to the safety and efficacy, or verification of products post-manufacture and before distribution is part of Quality control.

Dedicated Personnel (QC) vs. Entire Team (QA)

The entire team is involved in the Quality assurance activities. QA activities involve standards for documentation, review across workforce, training, while the quality management system (QMS) is generally the responsibility of the leadership team and the quality unit. 

Certain personnel, within the organization whose job tasks include abiding by SOPs for product testing, are part of QC. Based on standardized procedures for product validation and product testing, QC staff document their findings on that. Moreover, they also follow SOPs for quality control.

Understanding Quality

“Conformance to requirements”, is the most important and accepted definition of Quality given by Philip B. Crosby.

In other words, if you are meeting the customer’s requirements and that the deliverable is fit for use, then you are maintaining quality. However, the product is of low quality, if it does not meet its stated requirements. 

Quality Control

Activities and techniques that are used to fulfill the quality requirements are part of the Quality Control process. 

The approach which is reactive in nature and helps find defects in deliverables is a function of Quality Control and starts right at the beginning of the project. For deliverables to be defect-free and acceptable based on the quality requirements, is the primary objective of the quality control process. 

Finding defects in the product, correcting them, and then validating the deliverable are the objectives of the quality control process.  

The quality control process receives input from the quality assurance process and in turn, gives its feedback to the quality assurance process, which makes them dependent on each other. If a project team finds a defect during the execution, for instance, they will correct it and will send their feedback to the quality assurance team. Corrective or preventive actions are taken by the quality assurance team to prevent the defect from happening again.

To prevent the defect from reoccurring again, the quality control people will follow the updated process, once the process is updated.

Quality Control Process and Its Tools

For the quality control process, generally, there are three techniques.

  1. The seven basic tools of quality
  2. Statistical sampling
  3. Inspection

The Seven Basic Tools of Quality

Flowchart, cause and effect analysis, Pareto diagram, checklist, histogram, control chart, scatter diagram, are the seven basic tools of quality. Defects and the causes of those defects are found with the help of these tools.

Statistical Sampling

A random number of items are selected from a batch and then they are inspected to see if there are any defects and conformance.

Inspection

To check if the deliverable matches the requirement it’s physically inspected for any defects. This process is known as an inspection. 

Quality Assurance

Surety or trust are the words that can explain the meaning of assurance. Confidence is something that you believe in can only be provided by assurance. If you want the output of the process to be defect-free and conforming to all requirements, then Quality Assurance needs to be checked in. 

When there are defects in deliverables in the planning stage to avoid rework, which is always expensive, the objective of the QA process jumps in. Because this is a proactive process. To assure quality, QA emphasizes finalizing the guidelines, documenting, and planning. A plan is developed to meet these expectations and requirements once all of them have been identified. 

Quality Assurance Process and Its Tools

Control tools, quality management, process analysis, quality audit are some of the tools that are used in quality management.

Quality Audit

The processes and procedures are reviewed by a team of external experts in a quality audit. They may suggest improvements, and some corrective actions, if any discrepancies are to be found. 

If you want your project to follow the best practices and approved procedures then a Quality audit is the best tool out there.  

Process Analysis

Identification of Non-value-added activities, discovering the root cause of any problem, and analyzing to find improvements is part of the process analysis. 

Quality Management and Controls

If you want to find ideas, make decisions, and prioritize your issues by utilizing various diagrammatic techniques then Quality management and control tools include all of them. A tree diagram, network diagram, and affinity diagram are some examples of these tools.  

Merits of Quality Control And Quality Assurance

Following are some of the few merits of QA and QC:

Importance of QC

Quality Consciousness is Encouraged

Quality consciousness among the workers in the factory is developed by introducing quality control. The desired level of quality in the product is achieved if quality consciousness is encouraged in the workplace.  

Consumer Satisfaction

On the account of quality control, consumers are greatly benefited as they get better quality products. In the long term, it develops brand loyalty and strengthens brand image.

Reduced Production Cost

Production costs are considerably reduced if effective inspection and control over production processes and operations are undertaken. Moreover, the cost of production is reduced further, as QC checks the production of inferior products and wastages. 

Strengthens Employer-Employee Relations

The morale of employees increases as QC replenishes the industrial atmosphere. Moreover, better understanding and closeness between the employer and employee development, which ultimately increases employee retention. 

Improved Methods of Production

Quality control ensures improved methods and designs of production, by supplying technical and engineering data for the product and manufacturing processes. 

Importance of QA

Time Effective

If an error occurs in the production stage it takes up to 150 times longer to repair if that error had occurred at the requirements design stage. This shows how time-effective the QA is. 

Cost-Effective

 If you try to fix everything after the release of a product, it does not only endanger the reputation of the company but also increases costs. Hence, a well-rounded QA helps save a lot of money. 

Safety Level of the Application Increases

You can find places where errors have been made that are not visible to the ordinary user, by conducting a series of safety and performance tests. This increases security against hacking attacks (if your product is software) and also prevents data leaks.

Long Term Profit

Businesses are based upon quality and trust if one invests in QA. Hence, the savings that you will make through early error detection can be used as reinvestment funds. 

User Experience Enhanced

Users will only get attached to the application if proper QA is done to create an optimized interface for applications that satisfies the user. And if a user is satisfied, then the purpose is fulfilled. 

Conclusion:

Many people proclaim QA and QC to be an unnecessary cost and an additional task that requires a lot of time and effort. But the significance of how important QA and QC is can be understood if thorough research is done to understand their long-term impacts. Both are different concepts and have to be handled separately. This will help employers, employees, and customers simultaneously if done properly. 

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