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In last week’s blog, we looked at quality assurance (QA) best practices for manufacturers. In that post, we touched on the fact that many use the terms quality assurance and quality control (QC) interchangeably, even though they represent different functions in the overall quality management process. As we noted then, a distinction between the two terms is that quality assurance is process-focused and quality control is product-focused. Another way to view the distinction is that QC is designed to discover flaws or defects in a product or process and QA investigates the root causes that led to those flaws and seeks to correct them.
Regardless of their differences, as two critical components in a discrete manufacturer’s quality management program, QA and QC work together to ensure the ongoing quality of finished products as well as the satisfaction and confidence of the customers who purchase them.
Quality assurance is a proactive methodology that is initiated at the beginning of a manufacturing project and which serves as an indispensable tool in the mitigation of risks identified in the design phase. Its primary purpose is to prevent any defects or nonconformities that may occur in production. It is, in essence, a system designed to avert failure at every stage of the production process and to ensure success concerning product quality, product safety, and compliance with all legal guidelines.
QA involves some essential tasks such as data collection, problem trend analysis, process identification, and process analysis and process improvement. QA regimens also include inspection and testing plans, the selection of defect tracking tools, document controls, and the training of people in the applicable methodologies and processes involved.
Quality control is a reactive methodology that is typically performed at the end of production stages and the very end of the production process before a product is shipped to a customer. On the macro level, QC is used to verify that products have been manufactured up to the expected quality standard. QC personnel are required to inspect or test finished products for any defects or other issues that can compromise quality. Interestingly enough, QC is not intended to ensure quality, but to identify when it’s lacking.
Often, manufacturers will perform QC checks at predetermined stages of production to ensure that all processes along the way are meeting customer requirements. Here are a few common examples of QC activities:
Tim Landerville laid out an excellent QA game plan for manufacturers aimed at raising customer satisfaction levels in his article 7 Essential Steps to Implementing a Process of Quality Assurance.
Start by defining how employees’ jobs and their roles are tied to your company’s goals and get them to buy-in.
Identify which factors of your company’s QA system are essential to success. These may include a well-designed production process, high-quality product, technical/customer support, or employee satisfaction, to name a few.
Identify the key groups of customers and tailor your QA program to meet their needs and expectations.
Consistent customer feedback enables organizations to detect and solve quality problems before they arise, thus ensuring successful quality management.
Utilize customer feedback to continuously upgrade your company’s QA program. This could entail more leadership development, customer service training, revisions to the production process, etc.
Select software that provides the tools you need to maintain a successful QA program.
Use tools that measure the success, for example, positive ROI, of your company’s QA program. Documentation of these results enables management to see the positive effect this program has on the company’s bottom line.
The MyMG team outlines a series of consecutive steps that will help manufacturers implement a successful QC program in their article “Quality Control Activities – Ensuring that Deliverables Comply with Quality Requirements”.
The following quality control tools can be used to support the project manager’s effort
Even though the two terms are often used interchangeably they are very different and distinct. Quality Assurance is about the process and Quality Control is about the product. But both are required to ensure that finished goods meet the rigorous and exacting quality standards that customers and consumers expect.
Find out how OptiProERP’s manufacturing ERP software can help you achieve better Quality Assurance and Quality Control practices.
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