Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control: Distinctions and Similarities

What makes it okay for 75% of Americans to spend $5 on a coffee when they can get a coffee elsewhere for $2? There’s something about customers’ perception of the quality of a coffee at Starbucks that makes this a premium product they are prepared to pay for. Quality is a source of competitive advantage.

Before implementing quality assurance and quality control, it’s important to understand the differences and similarities between the two. Read on to learn about quality assurance vs quality control.



What is Quality Assurance?

Quality assurance has a future focus. It’s that part of quality management that is about making sure that requirements will be met in the future.

Quality assurance builds confidence that a product or service will meet requirements by designing a quality system with planning and activities to achieve this end.


What is Quality Control?

Quality control looks backward. It’s that part of quality management that is about making sure that requirements have been met in the past.

Quality control gives confidence that a product or service has met requirements by designing a quality system with checks and an inspection regime to achieve this end.

Prodsmart facilitates smart, data-driven decisions 24/7 from virtually any location to improve QA and AC


How Manufacturing Software Aids Both Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Data is often key to the effectiveness of a quality management process. Specification data is needed to support quality assurance activity. Audit data is needed to support quality control activity.

When data is a factor, software solutions come into their own. Manufacturing software can help track manufacturing operations and analyze orders, materials, time, and cost. It can provide visibility of processes in real-time to help comply with standards.

It can provide reports to check conformance with expectations. It can highlight errors, waste, and even indicate opportunities for improvement.


Brief History of QA and QC

lady holding a sign called "quality control"

Even in simple societies, trade in food, the products made by a blacksmith or carpenter, and the services of a laborer, were subject to some concern for conformance to an agreed specification. An agreed trade involving 6 apples would be checked to confirm that indeed 6 apples had been supplied.

The reputation of a craftsman would stand or fall by the degree to which their product would meet or perhaps exceed the expectations of their customers. Craft guilds provided a framework for maintaining standards. Master craftsmen trained and checked the work of their apprentices.  

It was in the years following the industrial revolution that the factory system made it increasingly important to manage quality. Specifications had to be defined more formally. The output of the manufacturing process had to comply with that specification.

It became less common for the workers in factories to be time-served craftsmen. Audits and inspections of their work became more and more the means of managing quality. Any products that didn’t meet the required specification were re-worked or perhaps discarded.

As manufacturing became more sophisticated, the concept of “process” developed. “Process” was understood in the early 20th century to describe an input to which was added value to produce an output. Later, as analyzing the data that arose from such processes, Walter Shewhart laid the foundations for statistical process control.

After the 2nd World War, W. Edwards Deming inspired the development of quality management in Japan and then the United States. His work built the foundation for the Total Quality Management movement. TQM and then later, Six Sigma, and other quality management approaches, recognized that quality was a whole organization activity.



Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control

Quality assurance and quality control are distinctively different. Quality assurance is about the prevention of defects whereas, quality control is about detecting defects and correcting them. In this sense, QA is a proactive activity, and QC is reactive.

Quality assurance is a process management activity where the management of deliverables is the purpose. Quality control is an audit activity where verification of these deliverables is the purpose. Prodsmart is a great solution for helping companies easily be ready for any audit.

An example of this distinction is easy to appreciate in the software sector.

The software development life cycle includes quality assurance activities. They are designed to produce defect-free software. The software testing life cycle is a quality control activity designed to find and eradicate errors after the development phase and before release to the customer.

QA sets the guidelines, whereas QC verifies that guidelines have been met.


Similarities Between Quality Assurance and Control

Understanding the distinctions between quality assurance and quality control doesn’t mean that there is no common ground. On the contrary, QA and QC have much in common.

These two ideas are both parts of quality management and share the same goal. They are both about eliminating defects.

All stakeholders have an interest in both quality assurance and quality control in achieving this goal. Customers need a product or service that meets expectations. Manufacturers are equally interested in quality because it delivers customer loyalty, control of costs and waste, and ultimately is the basis for a profitable business. 

Both QA and QC are aspects of quality management, and so are managed by the same quality management process. They both affect all aspects of operations.

Ultimately, they both determine customer happiness.


Bringing QA and QC Together

man in suite pointing the word quality control

Given that QA and QC are both keys to the achievement of quality, what is the role of quality management?

There is a need to set clear QA guidelines. Meeting these guidelines is helped by implementing intuitive software for QC to use, such as Prodsmart

Bringing QA and QC together requires effective communication. Quality management can enable and support this communication between QA and QC teams and between the Quality team and the shop floor teams.Data is key. Tracking data and performance effectively helps to improve QA. It can also be used to inform continuous improvement of the QA guidelines and QC audits.

Prodsmart delivers the tracking tools manufacturers and fabricators need to keep up with ever-increasing customer demands.



Quality assurance and quality control can sometimes be thought of as two sides of the same coin. They support and complement each other. The truth is that it’s less about quality assurance vs quality control and more about collaboration and alignment.

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