Clarifying The Difference Between Quality Control and Quality Assurance

Shark Design has enabled hundreds of clients to attain the highest quality standards, and, as experts in quality management, this is a question we hear all the time. Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA) are often confused as the same activity and mistakenly used as interchangeable terms. 

In reality, however, they play crucial but distinct roles. They combine to form a manufacturer’s total, overarching quality system, or quality management system (QMS). Understanding these distinct roles can greatly assist organizations in their quest to deliver the best products possible.

Quality Control

Let’s start with Quality Control. We are often asked by clients about quality control in plastic manufacturing, and quality control checks for injection molding. Quality Control refers to a systematic set of processes used to ensure the quality of products. 

The main purpose of the QC process is to ensure that the product meets the client’s actual requirements by rigorously testing its functional and non-functional elements. Importantly, QC is conducted downstream during production and sometimes post-production. 

Quality Assurance

By comparison, Quality Assurance is a proactive undertaking and a process-based methodology for preventing defects in products and services before they are developed and later deployed. In essence, QA is a preventative activity. 

We would suggest factory audits as a brilliant example of QA because they emphasize quality from an extremely wide, all-encompassing angle. For example, does your factory have the right systems in place to meet your specified quality level consistently? That is the kind of big picture question that a factory audit is meant to address, putting it under the umbrella of QA.

It makes sense, then, that if a manufacturer fully controls its QA, it should experience fewer quality issues and associated costs in the quality control phase. Mastering both QA and QC should mean a reduction in the total cost of quality (COQ) and an improved bottom line. 

That’s no exaggeration! The American Society for Quality (ASQ) confirms that manufacturers often suffer quality-related costs between 5% and 30% of gross sales. The good news here is that Shark Design can prevent that for you.

Summary of Key Differences

  • Quality Assurance aims to avoid defects, while Quality Control is about identifying and fixing the defects.
  • Quality Assurance ensures that the specified quality level will be achieved, while  Quality Control is a process that strives to meet the quality requested.
  • Quality Assurance is carried out in the software development life cycle, while Quality Control is conducted in the testing life cycle.
  • Quality Assurance is a proactive activity. Quality Control is a reactive activity.
  • Quality Assurance necessitates the involvement of all team members. By contrast, Quality Control involves a testing team only.
  • Quality Assurance is performed before Quality Control.

If you want to know more about our QA/QC processes, contact the experienced professionals at Shark Design today. 

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