March 5, 2021 Doug Koehler
Quality Assurance or Quality Control?
You are in your kitchen on Sunday morning, it’s a cold winter day and the sun has just made its way over the trees, now glistening off the fresh blanket of snow. The bacon and coffee are done, hot and ready. Now you are making the first batch of pancakes. You redirect your attention from the glistening snow to your first pancake which is about to come off the griddle, but when you pull it up, the bottom is black and the griddle is starting to smoke! You take that pancake and the other three from the first batch and flip them into the trashcan. You just performed Quality Control (QC) on your pancakes. You check the griddle setting and turn it down from 450° to 375°, giving it a few minutes to adjust. You put a small amount of batter on the griddle and start the timer on your watch. “Good,” you think to yourself, “about 90 seconds per side is golden brown.” You cook the rest of your pancakes and they all come out a tasty golden brown. You just performed Quality Assurance (QA) on your pancake-making process!
So, what’s the difference?
From the short and simple example above, you can derive some of the differences between QA and QC. Quality assurance has more to do with the method or process used to ensure a product is made to a predefined level of quality, like cooking the batter at a certain temperature for a preset amount of time to achieve delicious golden pancakes. Quality control is about verifying the product made has met the requirements that were defined, like checking the color of the pancake and continuing to cook it if it’s not ready or throwing it away if it’s been burnt.
What do pancakes and production have in common?
When you only have quality assurance of your processes, it’s difficult to tell if the products you’re making are truly meeting the customer’s requirements. One of the many controls in your process may have gone astray. If you’re not checking the doneness of your pancakes, you may not notice the griddle came unplugged when your teenager needed an outlet to charge their phone, leaving you with a pale, still gooey mess after 90 seconds on each side.
If you only have quality control of your finished products, they may not be produced the way they are supposed to be, leaving you performing rework or throwing away scrap when you inspect and find the errors. Remember… the burnt pancakes that occurred when your teenager thought it would be funny to turn the griddle all the way up when you told them they had to find another spot in the kitchen to charge their phone.
So, which is more important?
Some say quality control is the most important function of quality, making sure nothing makes it out the door unless it is top notch. Some believe quality assurance is more important, making sure we define and understand our processes thoroughly, giving us the ability to always make perfect products.
At Excellerate, we believe the optimum lies in a system that has seamlessly integrated QA and QC. We’ve created a Quality Management System (QMS) which has designed and tested the processes needed to continuously produce excellent products. Our QMS also finds the products that don’t meet customer standards and simultaneously provides notice if any parameters in the quality assurance process need to be re-adjusted before bad products are made.
Now that the pancakes are coming out great, do we need to talk about the burning toast?