Quality Assurance vs Quality Control: System & Procedures | SafetyCulture (2022)

How is QA Different from Quality Control?

Whereas QA is focused on the manufacturing process or the processes involved in producing the output, quality control (QC) is the quality inspection of products to evaluate if they pass certain quality standards before being shipped out to customers. QC aims to catch deficiencies in quality while QA aims to prevent deficiencies from occurring.

Quality Assurance vs Quality Control: System & Procedures | SafetyCulture (1)

Quality Assurance and Quality Control | Start with this Basic QA Inspection Checklist

The Importance of Both

Good quality assurance and quality control are two of the most important elements of a successful operation. Achieving, ensuring, and maintaining the quality of your goods and services are paramount to making your customers happy and keep them coming back.

“Quality is everyone’s responsibility.” – W. Edwards Deming, engineer, statistician, professor, and author

Why is QA Important?

Products and services of good quality create demand, meeting demand generates profit, and profit is used to create supply and meet demand. This is the cycle of success which starts when a company achieves, ensures, and maintains good quality through quality assurance.

Why is QC Important?

People have varying ideas on what quality is supposed to be. Yet, in the context of products and services they pay for, the work they provide, and the life they aim to live, each person desires and strives for good quality. Though people can be frugal when they want to be, most are willing to pay more for products and services they judge to be of good quality. This is the reason why successful companies go to great lengths and spend considerable amounts of time, money, and resources on quality, as well as experimental design.

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Quality in Manufacturing

This section contains a brief overview of the history of quality assurance and quality control as well as a beginner’s introduction to the common ISO standards in use today.

Guilds: The Early Pioneers of Quality

In the middle ages, manufacturing and commerce enjoyed a period of growth that helped artisans gain prominence as valued craftsmen. Guilds became an important factor in this period’s product and service quality, similar to today’s ISO.

A guild is an association by the workers, for the workers. Typically, each territory would have their own merchant guild (sellers of goods and services) and craft guild (blacksmiths, masons, bakers, haberdashers, and other workers that serve the essentials of daily living).

Guilds screened applicants and shouldered the apprenticeship costs of new members. Aside from training guild members in the industry’s best practices, guilds also performed inspections to ensure that the products and services of their members complied with the accepted standards of the time.

How the Industrial Revolution Shaped Quality

The next significant period in the development of QA and QC was the First Industrial Revolution. According to Prof. Christoph Roser, it began in 1715, when Englishman John Lombe went to Italy to copy an Italian design for a mechanized silk loom. In subsequent years, division of labor was put into practice. This made the entire production process more efficient and improved quality assurance because it allowed workers and machines to focus on a single task.

In the early 19th century, Americans Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford advocated industrial efficiency, with the latter becoming famous for developing the assembly line as a method of mass production.

What is ISO and Why is it Important?

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization, with a current membership of 165 countries or national standards bodies. It is the world’s leading authority and regulatory body for safety and quality standards in manufacturing and service.

What are ISO Standards?

ISO standards are specific criteria set by ISO to cover different aspects of business and manufacturing operations. To earn a coveted ISO standard certification, a company has to request and pass a third-party ISO audit performed by a national or regional certification body.

Aside from boosting your company’s trustworthiness in the eyes of clients and consumers, having an ISO standard certification also gives you an advantage over your competitors who have not yet acquired theirs.

Common ISO Standards

To date, ISO boasts almost 22,000 standards and certifications covering a wide variety of operational aspects. Below are some of the most common standards companies strive for:

ISO 9001:2015 – Quality Management Standard

Last updated in 2015, ISO 9001:2015 specifies the requirements for a company’s QMS (Quality Management System). It aims to assess an operation’s ability to consistently deliver high-quality products and services while meeting customer expectations and relevant statutory and regulatory requirements.

ISO 22000 – Food Safety Standard

ISO 22000 provides requirements for developing and implementing a Food Safety Management System (FSMS). This certification is a must-have for companies in the food processing and food service industries.

ISO 27001 – Information Security Standard

Another popular ISO standard, ISO 27001 is concerned with a company’s ability to implement an effective Information Security Management System (ISMS) in order to keep confidential business information safe from unauthorized access.

ISO 31000 – Risk Management Standard

The ISO 31000 certification sets the standard for frameworking, designing, implementing, and maintaining a risk management system on a company-wide level.

ISO 45001:2018 – Workplace Safety Standard

Last updated in 2018, ISO 45001 sets the international standard for Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Management Systems. Failure to comply can lead to incidents, cost overruns, and even lawsuits.

Other notable ISO standards include ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), ISO 17025 (Laboratory Testing), and ISO 13485 (Quality Management of Medical Devices).

Quality Control Procedure Requirements

To come up with a great product or service, management can’t just sit back and let the business take care of itself. A truly successful and sustainable operation has an effective QA/QC strategy to keep product and service quality consistently high across all stores, branches, and service centers. Here are some general prerequisites to establish and execute quality control procedures efficiently:

Build a Dedicated Quality Team

Having a dedicated QA/QC Team composed of personnel with the proper credentials should be a priority. Even in start-ups, where funding is limited and time-frames are shorter, a good quality team can help your operation meet or even exceed performance goals.

Before creating a team, consider the employee’s knowledge of your specific product/service along with prior experience in the same industry before they joined your company.

Often, top performers are screened for the QA role because they have a good understanding of what makes the product/service work and what the customers want, so that supply and demand are reconciled. Being a top performer is also a good indication of an individual’s diligence towards their work, something the quality team is expected to exercise at all times.

Define Your Performance Goal

It may sound like a no-brainer, but plenty of quality teams, especially when starting out without a tested template to follow, make the elementary mistake of not clearly defining what success means for their product or service.

Quality teams must consider the current performance of their product and/or service, define a SMART goal, and then strive to eliminate all of the processes, steps, and obstacles that do not contribute to the achievement of said goal.

Choose the Best Method

Aside from the ones mentioned previously in the article, there are many other quality assurance and quality control methods available today. While Six Sigma, Lean, and Kaizen offer generally applicable procedures for improving overall quality, using the right tools to implement these methods increases their effectiveness.

A high standard for quality assurance and quality control makes all the difference between established global brands and struggling businesses. The entire organization, from top management to frontline workers, must be dedicated in creating a culture of quality and safety for all members to do their best work.

How to Improve QC Procedures

Quality control procedures ensure that manufactured products conform to predetermined quality criteria or meet customer requirements. Improving quality control is vital for the continued success of any business in manufacturing and production. Consistently delivering high-quality products through processes that are at par with industry standards and looking out for ways to further improve quality control can help your business stay on top.

Step 1: Engage all staff

Involve all employees and gain their buy-in and commitment to adhere to the organization’s quality standards and processes. Conduct onboarding for new hires and refresher training for tenured employees to help them understand that maintaining the quality of products and services is everyone’s responsibility, not only of leadership or the quality management team.

Step 2: Be proactive

Reinforce quality control procedures through regular quality checks and immediately address nonconformance discovered during internal audits. Discuss improvement opportunities during quality control procedures trainings. Implement production planning and control or production control techniques to further strengthen the quality control procedures. Keep employees up-to-date on new processes and encourage them to share best practices and provide suggestions on how to further improve quality.

Step 3: Automate recordkeeping

Documentation of quality control monitoring is not only required in maintaining quality and safety standards but is also a resource for continuous quality improvement. Conventional paper-based recordkeeping methods can be cumbersome and time-consuming, preventing some auditors from regularly documenting internal checks. Utilize automated digital recordkeeping to save time and ensure that internal checks are consistently recorded.

Step 4: Seek improvement opportunities

Conduct customer surveys, review incident reports, learn from past mistakes in your organization and others in the business, stay up-to-date with industrybest practices, and be on the lookout for new technology that can help improve processes and implementation ofquality standards in your organization.

Step 5: Utilize technology

Save time and maximize resources for quality control by using new technology such as sensors that automate monitoring of quality parameters and mobile auditing tools to record and analyze information that paper audit forms cannot capture.

3 Principles to Follow in Creating Effective QA Inspection Checklist

“Quality is everyone’s responsibility,” claimed the renowned engineer, professor, and management consultant W. Edwards Deming. Quality assurance, however, is a continuous process. A process that becomes harder to complete when the complexities of large-scale production and servicing are introduced. In order to stay true to a company’s promise of quality, something as simple as an effective QA inspection checklist can be the X factor.

Below are the principles QA inspection checklists must follow in order to become effective:

1. It must consider input from different stakeholders

Creating a product or rendering a service is a step-by-step process. Often, each step is handled by a dedicated department specializing in that section. For this reason, acquiring input from the different experts that are actually involved in the process is important since it informs your QA inspection checklist with data and insights founded on solid bases.

2. It must be uniform for all sites and branches

A good QA inspection checklist informed by the expertise and insights from relevant stakeholders is only as good as its effective implementation. To keep quality output consistent throughout the entire organization, quality assurance officers must ensure that the same QA inspection checklist is being used by all sites and branches. This minimizes product quality variation between manufacturing sites and locations.

3. It must be updated regularly and whenever necessary

The processes and standards of operations evolve due to numerous factors over time. Since a QA inspection checklist serves as one of the final checkpoints before a product or service is deemed fit for delivery, organizations must ensure that the standards enforced by their QA inspection checklist is consistent with their current quality standards.

The Pros and Cons of Internal vs. External QA Practices

Budgets, preferences, and laws all influence a company’s decision to favor one type of QA practice over the other. Some companies even choose to employ a hybrid of internal and external QA practices to achieve and maintain compliance with quality standards. Regardless of your QA method of choice, each has its own pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of Internal QA Inspections

ProsCons
No need to hire external consultants and auditors so the company saves money. The data collected may be biased and may be used to cover up employee negligence and other malicious activities.
Since actual employees of the company are performing the audit, they are sure to have good context and proper understanding as to what quality looks like for the business.Management may end up becoming too lenient when it comes to enforcing recommended changes since there is no external pressure to do so.
The internal audit department can verify the accuracy of inspection reports faster since data is available in-house.Internal QA inspectors may become more and more complacent over time as they start treating the practice like a chore.

Pros and Cons of External QA Inspections

ProsCons
Third-party quality inspectors bring additional experience and knowledge built from conduction quality inspections for several different companiesHiring a third-party quality inspector to conduct QA audits can be expensive.
Third-party quality inspectors can provide an unbiased and objective assessment report; something that may be an issue when with in-house quality inspectors.While the perspective of a third-party auditor may be valued due to its perceived objectivity, their QA inspection may end up becoming ineffective if they lack the specialized knowledge required to understand and properly assess a specific product/service.
Having a third-party inspector conduct audits allows workers to focus on their regular day-to-day tasks. The queries and demands of external auditors may require employees to work extra hours and accomplish additional tasks which contributes to workplace stress.

Streamlining Your QA Inspection Process With the Help of QC Procedures Software

Successful businesses, regardless of their product or service, value quality. Valuing quality means investing in the right resources in order to consistently deliver at the highest level. Using iAuditor by SafetyCulture as a versatile mobile inspection app, businesses can achieve and maintain quality in their products and services by taking advantage of the following features:

  • Easily create and customize your own QA inspection checklists with iAuditor’s simple drag-and-drop template builder. Additionally, you can download pre-made general templates from our public library, or convert your existing QA inspection checklist into our digital format.
  • Pick and choose response types including multiple choice, check box, yes/no, and long and short text answers among others to make sure you get the data you need and filter out the rest.
  • Capture and include high-quality photo evidence mid-inspection and annotate them to easily communicate your findings. This adds clarity to your reports to ensure that issues are identified, understood, and resolved ASAP.
  • Set and trigger automatic assignments once certain conditions are met. You can also assign standalone corrective actions with priority levels so issues are triaged and resolved in order of urgency.
  • No need to manually compile data to create a report post-inspection. Automatically generate professional reports after completing your inspection so you can share the information to relevant stakeholders in real-time; improving visibility across your organization.
  • Have quality inspectors validate inspection reports via digital sign-offs to improve and streamline accountability.

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