Cost of Quality

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The concept of the cost of poor quality was first described by Armand V. Feigenbaum in a 1956 Harvard Business Review article.


The cost of quality can be categorized into four categories:

  • Prevention Cost
  • Appraisal Cost
  • Internal Failure Cost and
  • External Failure Cost

1. Prevention Costs:

Prevention costs are the costs of all activities that are designed to prevent poor quality from arising in products or services. The examples of the prevention costs include:

  • Quality planning
  • Education and training
  • Conducting design reviews
  • Supplier reviews and selection
  • Quality system audits
  • Process planning and control
  • Product modifications
  • Equipment upgrades


2. Appraisal Costs:

Appraisal costs are costs that are incurred to ensure the conformance to quality standards and performance requirements. The examples of the appraisal costs include:

  • Test and inspection (receiving, in-process and final)
  • Supplier acceptance sampling
  • Product Audits
  • Calibration


3. Internal Failure Costs:

Internal Failure Costs are the costs that are associated with defects found within the organization before after the customer receives the product or service. The examples of the internal failure costs include:

  • In-process scrap and rework
  • Troubleshooting and repairing
  • Design changes
  • Inventory required to support poor process yields and rejected lots
  • Re-inspection / retest of reworked items


4. External Failure Costs:

External Failure Costs are the costs that are associated with defects found after the customer receives the product or service. The examples of the external failure costs include:

  • Sales returns and allowances
  • Replacing defective products
  • Service level agreement penalties
  • Complaint handling
  • Field service labor and parts costs incurred due to warranty obligations
  • Product recalls / Legal claims
  • Lost customers and opportunities
  • Downgrading
  • Processing of customer complaints


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  • Visible vs Invisible Cost of Quality:

    Cost of quality can also be classified as visible and invisible costs (also called the hidden costs). The below graphic explains both of these types of costs.


    In conclusion, it is important for companies to understand what they need to do to reduce their overall cost of quality. This will help them improve their business processes and operations, which ultimately lead to better profitability.

    The worst type of cost out of these four categories of the cost of poor quality is the external failure costs. Organizations should make their best effort to reduce the external failure cost.

    Spending more on prevention and appraisal costs usually leads to a reduction in internal and external failure costs.

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