Quality is an important factor when it comes to any product or service.
Therefore all manufacturers and service providers constantly look for enhancing and improving their product or service quality.
In order to maintain or enhance the quality of offerings manufacturers use two techniques viz. Quality Assurance and Quality Control.
It is important for an organization to agree on what is the meaning of QA and QC. Both form an integral part of quality management plan.
If distinction between QA and QC is clear among the teams, management and various stakeholders can contribute to the success of the project whereas if it is misunderstood can lead to ineffective quality system, delivery will take long time, fund allocated to project will increase and customer requirement may not be fulfilled.
This article considers the difference between QA and QC.
What is QA and QC?
A good point of reference for understanding the difference is the ISO 9000 family of standards. These standards relate to quality management systems and are designed to help organizations meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders.
In the ISO 9000 standard, clause 3.2.10 defines Quality Control as:
“A part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements.”
Clause 3.2.11 defines Quality Assurance as ” A part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.”
Simply put, Quality Assurance focuses on the process of quality, while Quality Control focusses on the quality of output.
Quality Assurance : A strategy of Prevention
QA focuses on planning, documenting and agreeing on a set of guidelines that are necessary to assure quality. QA planning is done at the beginning of a product development and it’s typical outcomes are quality plans, inspection and test plans, selection of defect tracking tools and training of people in the selected methods and processes.
The purpose of QA is to prevent defects from entering into the product in the first place. In other words, QA is a pro-active management practice that is used to assure that product manufactured is at a stated level of quality.
Undertaking QA at the beginning of the project helps in finding the risks that have been identified during the specification phases. Part of any risk mitigation is clear communication of both the risks and associated remedies to the team involved in the project.
Quality control: A strategy of Detection
Quality control on the other hand includes all the activities that are designed to determine the quality level of the product. QC is a reactive means by which quality is gauged and monitored.
QC involves verification of output conformance to desired quality levels. This means that the parameters are gauged against the customer requirements, with various checks conducted at the various planned stages throughout the product development phase. Teams will use various techniques, structured walkthroughs, testing and inspection to ensure that the the product meets the agreed requirements.
Benefits of Quality Management
The benefits of structured quality management system cannot be ignored.
Quality control is used in conjunction with quality improvement activity. By using this approach, the feedback mechanism works towards identifying the root cause problems, and developing strategies to eliminate these problems. Using this holistic approach ensures that the teams achieve the higher levels of quality.
With proper quality management system company can expect:
- Greater levels of customer satisfaction which can lead to repeated business and business referrals.
- A motivated team that not only understand the quality policy and objective but who also actively participate in executing the plan.
- Increase in confidence as the product manufactured will be right at the first time, with increasing speed as people get accustomed to systems.
- Market place perception will be good.
Now let us try to understand this with an example:
Suppose there is a Industry requirement of Mechatronics Engineer. So based on this requirement AICTE decides to start a new course. (Here industry is the customer and AICTE is supplier) AICTE studies Requirement of the industry based on which it decides a syllabus and various activities or projects that needs to be included to make students industry ready. ( Students can be considered as a product and syllabus, activities, projects, etc are process which assures that if student go through this process they will be ready for a job).
Now as the processes are completed we need to check only qualified students get the job. To check the qualification of the students we conduct exams at various semester and unit test ( this ensures that quality control is being done or we ensure here that certain qualities a product has achieved).
Here we can clearly see even if we follow process there is no guarantee that every student will learn throughout the course.
Hence quality assurance is a step or process that makes sure the requirements which we had initially could be fulfilled.
But still we need to conduct exams (quality control) to see whether all students will fulfill the requirement of the customer.