Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC): What’s the Difference?

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Quality assurance and quality control are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they are different entities. Quality assurance and control can be done in tandem to ensure a product meets its specifications and the desired level of quality. Knowing the difference between these two concepts will help you understand how to best guarantee and maintain high-quality products and services for your company.

What is the Definition of Quality Assurance (QA)?

ISO 9000:2015 defines quality assurance as:

"Part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled."

 This definition suggests that QA is a proactive measure used to prevent issues from occurring before problems arise. This concept can be applied to any industry, whether manufacturing, project execution, food production or healthcare.

The goal of QA is to provide customers with products that meet their expectations. In other words, QA ensures that the customer gets what they paid for. It also helps to protect against potential risks such as recalls and lawsuits.

What is the Definition of Quality Control (QC)?

ISO 9000:2015 defines quality control as:

"Part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements."

As you would understand from this definition, QC is concerned with ensuring that products and processes are within specification limits. This means that QC is more reactive than QA. The purpose of QC is to identify defects before they become an issue.

Other Definitions and Explanations

In addition to the formal definitions by ISO 9000:2015 above, there are some informal definitions about Quality Assurance and Quality Control as well.  

Quality Assurance
  • All the planned and systematic activities implemented within the quality system that can be demonstrated to provide confidence that a product or service will fulfill requirements for quality.
  • Quality Assurance is fundamentally focused on planning and documenting the processes to assure quality, including the requirements of quality plans and inspection and test plans are met.
  • Quality Assurance is a management approach to ensure that quality standards and customer requirements are met.
Quality Control:
  • The operational techniques and activities used to fulfill requirements for quality.
  • The physical verification that the product conforms to the planned arrangements by inspection, measurement.
  • Quality Control ensures that the final product meets the requirements.

Why Should You Care About Quality Assurance & Quality Control?

Companies need to deliver a high-quality product or service at a reasonable price in today's competitive market. If you do not have a well-defined process for providing quality products and services, then there is no way that you can make sure that customers get what they pay for. This could result in an unsatisfied customer, leading to dissatisfied employees and, ultimately, lower sales.

What Do They Do?

QA includes all the steps taken to ensure that the product or service meets the required levels of quality. This includes everything from planning and designing the product or service to inspecting and testing it after being produced.

On the other hand, QC involves verifying that the product or service conforms to specifications.

It is essential to recognize that the terms "assure" and "verify" mean different things. As mentioned earlier, assurance usually refers to something being done to improve or maintain existing conditions. Verification, however, focuses on checking the accuracy of the results.

How are these achieved?

Quality Control is achieved by testing, inspecting, and eliminating causes of quality problems to meet customers' requirements continually. Quality control activities include inspection and testing of products or services.

Quality Assurance is achieved by establishing a Quality Management System (QMS), which focuses on meeting internal and external requirements, conducting quality audits and the periodic review of the system. Quality assurance activities require the involvement of all team members in the organization.

What are the similarities between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?

Before we talk about the differences, let's understand the similarities between QA and QC. Both QA and QC are essential parts of quality management. They are related but not identical. Both play crucial roles in maintaining a consistent and reliable supply chain.

QA and QC are similar because they work together to ensure that all products and services meet the required standards and ensure customer satisfaction.

What are the differences between Quality Assurance and Quality Control?

Even though both QA and QC share some commonalities, there are key differences. For example, QC focuses on measuring and verifying compliance, while QA focuses on preventing errors.


Characteristic Quality Assurance Quality Control
Definition A set of processes to ensure that a product or service meets specific quality standards throughout its entire life cycle. A process that focuses on detecting and correcting defects or non-conformances in the finished product or service.
Objective Prevents quality problems by focusing on the process used to make the product or deliver the service. Identifies quality problems by inspecting the finished product or service.
Scope Broad, involving all aspects of the product or service, from design to delivery. Narrow, focusing only on the finished product or service.
Responsibility Involves the entire organization, from top management to front-line employees. Primarily the responsibility of quality control inspectors or technicians.
Activities Includes activities such as process design, training, documentation, and audits. Includes activities such as inspection, testing, and corrective action.
Time of activity Occurs during the development and production process of the product or service. Occurs after the product or service has been completed.
Focus Focuses on prevention of defects or non-conformances in the product or service. Focuses on detection and correction of defects or non-conformances in the finished product or service.

quality assurance vs quality control

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