Every organization has quality management systems in place to ensure that their projects are successful and achieve the desired quality specifications. However, if these systems are not understood properly, it is likely that they will not be effective in making sure that the projects are delivered in a timely manner, fulfil customer needs and are developed within the specified budget.

The quality management system of an organization is defined by a quality management plan that comprises of the following:

  • Quality standards: these are industry-specific standards that may be established by the company, or may be bought from organizations that are involved in developing standards. A company adopts the standards that are applicable to their products.
  • Quality assurance: activities carried out to ensure that the best possible product or service is being offered.
  • Quality control: making sure that the quality of the product/service is as desired.

Quality assurance and quality control are two important aspects of an organization’s quality management system. Hence, it is important to comprehend the differences between the two to ensure that the quality systems are effective.

Definitions and explanations

Quality assurance

Quality assurance (QA) refers to the implementation of systematic and scheduled activities within a quality management system to ensure that the product/service fulfills the quality requirements. It is actually the assurance that the project has precisely adopted and implemented the relevant standards, policies and methods. The activities involved in QA include planning and decisions on various guidelines that should be followed to ensure the product’s quality. The planning for QA takes place at the start of a project, and considers the product or service specifications as well as the industry standards.

Quality assurance is aimed at ensuring that the product is free from defects from the start. Hence, it is a proactive strategy that concentrates on defect prevention and achieving the specified level of quality for any project/product.

Quality control

Quality control (QC) is that aspect of the quality management system that concentrates on achieving quality requirements. It checks if the standards, methods and processes are being followed during the project, and that the desired output is delivered.

QC involves various activities that have been developed to determine the extent to which the output fulfils the quality requirements. Thus, QC is reactive in nature as it is a measure of quality of the final product. It comprises of the various operational tools and techniques employed to achieve quality requirements that have been specified prior to the start of the project.

To determine if the output is consistent with the levels of quality required, the final product/service is assessed against the requirements of the customers, with different tests carried out at specified points during the product development life cycle.

Difference between quality assurance and quality control

The main difference between quality assurance and quality control is explained below:

1. Meaning

Quality assurance is providing the confidence that the product being developed will fulfill the quality requirements specified. It ensures that issues in quality are prevented through the implementation of planned and systematic techniques, such as planning and documentation. On the other hand, quality control refers to the activities and processes carried out to fulfill the quality requirements of the product, service or process.

2. Focus

The focus of quality assurance is on preventing defects from occurring. Quality control, in contrast, is focused on the identification and rectification of defects.

3. Objective

Quality assurance seeks to enhance the development and test procedures so as to ensure that no issues emerge during the product development stage. Quality control, in contrast, seeks to identify issues in a product after it has been created, but prior to being made available in the market.

4. Activities involved

Quality assurance involves planning for the different standards that should be followed as well as conformance audits of the system functions at given time periods.  Quality control is carried out by determining and removing the sources through which problems in quality emerge by using different instruments and techniques so that the product specifications are consistently fulfilled.

5. Carried out by

Quality assurance is carried out by all the members of a team that is part of product development. On the other hand, quality control is mainly carried out by a particular team that has been assigned the task of carrying out tests on the final product to identify any inherent defects.

6. Nature of activity

Quality assurance is proactive in nature and takes place at the start of a project, with the goal of preventing defects. On the other hand, quality control is reactive in nature as it is carried out after product development has taken place.

7. Orientation

Quality assurance is process-oriented, concentrating on the process of product development, while quality control is product-oriented, as it looks for identifying problems in the final product.

Quality assurance vs quality control –tabular comparison

A tabular comparison of terms quality assurance and quality control is given below:

Quality assurance vs Quality control
Different activities that are carried out to ensure that the end product is of desired quality Different activities carried out to determine whether the final product fulfills the quality requirements or not
Defect prevention Defect identification and correction
Improve development and test processes during product development Determine issues in a product after it has been developed
Activities involved
Planning and document of the standards to be following; timely conformance audits Using different tools to measure the extent to which defects are present, and then removing the sources of these defects
Carried out by
Everyone involved in the development of the product Only those members who have been made responsible for testing the product
Nature of activity
Proactive Reactive
Process-oriented Product-oriented

Conclusion – quality assurance vs quality control

An effective quality management system has several benefits. It not only ensures that the defects and problems in a product are identified, but also determines the ways in which these can be rectified.

Quality control works alongside quality improvement function to ensure that quality problems are identified and feedback is offered on the reasons for these problems. This ensures that the source of the problems is determined, and relevant strategies and mechanisms are developed to counter these issues. The use of this holistic approach makes sure that greater levels of quality are attained organizations.