What Are the Differences Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?

Quality assurance and quality control might sound like the same thing, and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences between the two. Ideally, a business will have both in place.

Quality assurance is the process of managing for quality, while quality control is how a company manages the quality of their output—whether that’s a building or a Barbie doll.

Here’s how quality assurance and quality control are different.

QA and QC explained

Both quality assurance and quality control fall under the umbrella of quality management. Quality assurance focuses on ensuring there are adequate processes in place to create quality products. QA branches create or improve the systems that manufacture products or structures, so employees, management and clients are assured that there are appropriate methods in place.

Quality control focuses more on inspections. QC professionals will inspect products or structures to ensure the actual output meets the company’s (or regulatory agency’s) standards.

Think of quality assurance as prevention, while quality control occurs after the processes have been carried out. Ideally, a business will have a quality assurance process in place before they ever start creating output. This can involve documentation of processes, instructions, guidelines and other types of planning. The members of the quality assurance department will work with other parts of a company to make sure their guidelines are not only feasible, but practical. This is a key part of managing risks for a project, whether a company is building a bridge or creating a video game. Whatever type of project is undertaken, there should be a plan to take it from concept to tangible output.

Quality control is reactive, instead of proactive. A QC department will observe both the product itself and the standards to which it must adhere. Depending on the type of product, you might see quality control professionals on a regular basis. For example, the quality assurance plan might involve planned checks or inspections at pre-determined points. The QC department can perform these checks and make sure the processes are going as planned.

The importance of quality management

As you can see, quality management involves a lot of checks and balances. If all goes well, a manufacturer, builder or company can use the two-prong method to consistently put out excellent work product.

If, however, there’s a breakdown in the processes, quality management departments can find the problem quickly. If there’s an issue with the process itself, quality assurance will rework their approach to get the results needed. If the issue lies elsewhere, quality control will detect it and spot the problem before it gets to the customer.

Now that you know how quality assurance and quality control are different, you’ll be better prepared to work with your business partners. Be sure to ask how their quality management department will monitor the processes and outcomes for a specific project, and what they will do if an issue arises.

When you need civil engineering services, contact EMC2 Inc. today. We’ll be happy to walk you through our QC and QA processes.