You conduct meticulous product and market research, work with the top manufacturers, and you have high standards when it comes to product production.
In other words?
You take delivering the best possible products to your customer base incredibly seriously.
But could you be doing even more?
If you don’t know the difference between quality control and quality assurance, then chances are good that the way you test your products is missing an important step. This usually happens because managers aren’t aware of the differences between quality assurance vs quality control.
Read on to ensure you’re not conflating the two and compromising your production and testing standards as a result.
First, let’s clearly define quality control, or QC as it’s often abbreviated.
The QC process takes place once the product is complete.
Let’s say you’re a toy company manufacturing a 2019 Christmas doll. QC doesn’t look at the doll assembly process, where you get the hair and eyes from, and even production times.
Instead, it looks at the finished 2019 Christmas doll and ensures that it’s up to the standards your company promised consumers. You’ll look for flaws like chipped porcelain, eyes that don’t close, or broken voiceboxes.
Often, you’ll have a specific quality control team in-house, led by a quality control inspector.
You may use manual product inspections, software, product testing, and other techniques to make sure that the dolls are in perfect condition before you ship them out to customers.
Think of quality control as the process of fixing, not preventing, a problem.
If quality control is all about fixing problems, quality assurance focuses on doing everything possible to ensure they don’t happen in the first place.
It’s all about preventative, proactive testing and research.
Let’s look at our doll example again.
In the QA process, the doll isn’t yet complete. Instead, the quality assurance inspector will take a look at all the parts used to make the doll.
Are the dolls constantly breaking, and is there a need to move away from using porcelain in the construction as a result? Is the equipment used to sew clothing for the dolls in good working order, or does it need some maintenance to prevent future breakdowns?
What about the manual labor aspect of the production? What can be improved to increase production times? Should you implement a better employee training program or enforce a daily quota?
Quality assurance is more managerial in nature than quality control, because the process is still ongoing in the QA process.
Now, let’s go over a few common examples of quality control.
If you work in the food service industry, a basic form of QC is testing the taste of the food before it’s served to your customers. You may also take samples of the food and test it to make sure it’s safe to serve.
Let’s say you want to improve customer service at your business as a form of quality control.
You might send in “secret shoppers” to your store and have them ask for help. You can then examine the level of attention and assistance your employees are able to provide.
If you work in website maintenance, or if you just want to independently verify that your website is up to par, you can also conduct QC.
Use speed testing to make sure pages load quickly, and that they’re able to load on mobile devices.
So, what are some examples of quality assurance?
First, let’s take a look at food safety quality assurance.
Begin by examining the potential risks, like food allergies, spoiled/rotten food, or food that’s been contaminated in some way.
Once you know the risks, learn to mitigate them by carefully researching the farmers and food suppliers you work with. Understand how they test for allergens, how they label their food, and how they work under FDA guidelines.
What can you do in your kitchen to separate peanuts, a common allergen, from the rest of your ingredients? Designating an area where only peanuts/foods containing them can be placed is a form of quality assurance.
Let’s say you’re a car manufacturer.
One of your forms of quality assurance is to test the brake pads and tires that you plan to use in your vehicle. Know how much pressure they need, the level of traction they offer, and the kinds of conditions they can stand up to.
Perhaps you’re in the manufacturing industry.
Lately, you’ve been getting a lot of complaints from customers that the flashlights you make have been breaking within just a few weeks of purchase.
You contact your parts supplier to see if something’s changed. You’ve learned that they’ve started using a lower-quality bulb. You decide to switch suppliers, and the problem is fixed.
If you want to deliver the best product to your clients, you’ll need to implement both quality control and quality assurance processes for your business.
Doing so means fewer problems, fewer customer complaints, and increased profits and production times.
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