Quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) are terms used interchangeably in the consumer goods industry. However, they are actually two distinct concepts, so it’s important to understand the difference and where each fits into your quality management system. Let’s delve into it here!
Quality control is all about inspecting products to check if they meet the brand’s quality standards and specifications before they leave the factory. Quality control is focused on a particular point in time, typically towards the end of the production run, however it can be carried out at any stage during production.
Quality control inspections are usually carried out following a comprehensive checklist which guides product checks including specifications, construction, measurements, color and appearance, function, barcodes, labelling and packaging. Any defects found are classified as either minor, major or critical. The checklist should specify how many defects will be tolerated within each category. For more on this, see our information on Acceptable Quality Limits (AQL).
On the other hand, quality assurance focuses on how a product is made. QA does incorporate elements of quality control, but it is a broad-spectrum process implemented throughout the entire manufacturing process to ensure products are made “right first time”.
Quality assurance can include the following:
Sourcing and pre-production planning
Raw material and manufacturing supplier verification
Product design evaluation
Raw material inspections and testing
Supply chain mapping
Ongoing KPI monitoring and improvement
While quality control is a reactive function which catches defects or issues in the product before it is shipped, quality assurance is a proactive function which prevents issues from occurring in the first place. Finally, quality assurance activities typically involve an entire organization (or much of it), while quality control is run by a specific team.
Despite their differences, both quality control and quality assurance are central to ensuring a brand’s products meet customer expectations for quality, function and safety so they keep coming back for repeat purchases.
For a brand, quality control helps them to verify product quality at their factory source and avoid paying for defective goods. It also help to avoid product recalls and any associated reputational damage, while anticipating production delays.
Alternatively, with its wider focus, quality assurance makes processes more efficient, improves supplier cooperation, catches issues early in the manufacturing process and ultimately results in cost-savings due to less re-work.
QIMA provides both quality control and custom quality assurance programs in 95 countries. Our team of expert product inspectors, auditors and lab technicians help you navigate the complexities of quality management to ensure your products meet requirements. Contact us today to learn more!