Though quality assurance and quality control may seem similar on the surface, understanding the differences between the two is critical to maintaining the highest quality of products and services. When properly defined, quality assurance and quality control operate in tandem to ensure that the correct operations lead to the appropriate results.
The Process of Quality Assurance
Quality assurance focuses on the journey that ends with the product. Appropriate quality assurance governs all processes and efforts, ensuring that they are being done as they should be. Notably, quality assurance does not in practice concern itself with the end result, but instead the procedures which lead to that end result. Quality assurances encompasses the entire journey of the product or service, from the beginning to the end.
This does not mean that the end results are not considered at all. The process of quality assurance does not include end results, but determining whether quality assurance is working does. The procedures that are enforced through quality assurance can only be said to be appropriate if the end results are positive. Naturally, acceptable levels of quality will also need to be defined.
Quality assurance must be integrated into every step of the process. Thus, a quality assurance team looks through the entire workings of the process while the quality control team will only be looking at a single aspect of it. This is where confusing the two can become dangerous: quality assurance that is only involved in the end stages of the product or service will not be comprehensive enough to make the necessary observations and adjustments.
Quality Determination through Quality Control
Quality control is a set of requirements and procedures which examines the products or services being provided for acceptable levels of quality. Quality control will ensure that the products and services being output are standard and meet any necessary requirements. Quality control does not concern itself with the processes that lead up to the end product, except insofar as flaws may reveal issues in the procedures. Nevertheless, when issues are revealed, they are only reported by the quality control team. It falls upon quality assurance to reveal the source of these production errors.
Quality control is vital separate from the process of quality assurance as the correct procedures may not necessarily yield the correct results. While quality assurance ensures that procedures are followed and that there is a higher likelihood of acceptable results it cannot ensure the end result without the quality control process.
Both quality assurance and quality control are necessities for a quality-focused business, but understanding the differences is essential in developing the processes involved. Quality assurance cannot be confused for quality control, as it will only introduce difficulties in both determining and finding problems. The quality assurance process must be dedicated to the procedures involved rather than the ultimate output.