What is Quality Control? A Detailed Guide
Last Updated on October 10, 2022 by Owen McGab Enaohwo
When buying products, customers expect quality all the time. Therefore as a business, it’s your responsibility to deliver products without defects. However, this is not the case in most companies, thanks to the absence of standardized procedures.
Lacking a proper quality control process affects the company’s output and puts your consumer at risk. If your products and services are of poor quality, you’ll spend more time and money reworking them, which eats into your profits in the long run. In addition, your customers won’t be satisfied with your products and will stop doing business with you. As word spreads about your products and services, your reputation will be affected.
This is why quality control procedures are a crucial function in any organization. Implementing a standardized process in your operations is the only way your company will deliver consistent and quality products and services to your customers.sigh
Quality control comes in handy because it spots and removes the sub-standard output at three separate stages:
- When you receive raw materials for production.
- When products are going through the production process.
- Before finished products are dispatched to the customers.
If you are looking to implement a quality control process in your organization or improve the existing procedure, this article will cover all the steps you can use to create and enhance the process, the requirements, benefits, and methods to use as a guide. By the end of the article, you’ll have a clear understanding of why quality control is a must-have in your company.
Definition and Overview
Quality control (QC) is an approach of quality management that businesses use to ensure that the manufactured product or service adheres to a standardized quality criteria and meets the client’s requirements.
Organizations use a set of procedures and benchmarks to ensure that the quality of a product is maintained or improved and errors are reduced or eliminated. Quality control requires inspection and sampling to test whether the final product adheres to the set specifications.
Quality control testing is done at the various steps of manufacturing to identify the problems and help prevent them in the future.
Quality control is a core process in industries that rely on products. For instance, the food and drug manufacturing industries are quite sensitive because the products can cause the consumers to get sick. Companies in this sector perform chemical testing of samples to ensure the final product is free from contaminants to avoid such issues.
Other industries such as automotive and electrical companies also use quality control on their products. The procedures are essential because they help in boosting the safety of the manufactured parts.
Quality control was introduced following the industrial revolution in the 19th century. The rise of mass production prompted the establishment of processes to create parts with identical designs and dimensions. However, the consumers were not satisfied with the results because the processes were not uniform; therefore, quality control was introduced.
During this period, quality control involved using a sketch of the desired product. However, this process became too costly and challenging for most manufacturers. In 1840, companies introduced tolerance limits, and with this method, a design would pass the testing if the parts aligned with the set limits. Manufacturers used devices such as ring gauges and plug gauges to define quality.
The method did not address the issue with defective items; therefore, several methods of quality control were introduced. Here are the different approaches that have been developed over the years.
- Statistical quality control: 1930s
- Total quality control: 1956
- Statistical process control: 1960s
- Company-wide quality control: 1968
- Total quality management: 1985
- Six Sigma: 1986
- Lean Six Sigma: 2001
Once you introduce quality control in your organization, you need to measure its performance. Each company will adopt different standard operating procedures depending on their industry, business size, and nature of business. Here are the common methods used by most corporations.
Six Sigma is a set of quality control tools created by a scientist in the 1980s. This method is a data-driven process that was developed to reduce the defects and variations from set specifications. In statistics, Sigma is the standard deviation from the mean.
With this method, a process needs to have no more than 3.4 defects for every one million events or units. Originally Six Sigma was developed as a management method to enable companies to work faster with fewer mistakes, and has grown to become an industry standard that provides certifications. Companies use this model to boost their profits.
Over the years, Six Sigma has evolved to become a part of business management. Organizations use this method to meet customer requirements, improve customer retention, and sustain the business products and services.
Lean, or lean Six Sigma, is one of the latest quality control methods. This team-focused managerial approach identifies and eliminates waste in the production process to improve efficiency in the organization. In this case, “waste” is the tasks or steps that are deemed unnecessary in the company; therefore, they need to be discontinued.
Companies that use the lean model are focused on eliminating the following:
- Inefficient transportation of materials
- Overproduction that exceeds customer demands
- Too much waiting
- Inefficient processing standards
- Excess inventory levels
- Inefficient work execution by workers and machines
- Work spent fixing production defects
Kaizen in Japanese means change for good; however, it’s loosely translated to “continuous improvement.” This quality control process is quite different because it includes the entire organization, from the top management to the rank and file. If you implement this method in your company, it means that every employee has the opportunity to improve daily.
Organizations that use the Kaizen model also use these implementation tools.
- Gemba Walk: Management and top executives walk around the production floor or manufacturing plant to observe the work, ask questions, and identify areas of opportunity. This model enables the management to know exactly what’s happening.
- SIPOC: Supplies, inputs, process, outputs, customers (SIPOC) is a mapping tool that provides clarity in the process workflows. With this tool, the overall process gets optimized and unnecessary tasks are discontinued.
- 8D Report: Also known as the eight disciplines model, this problem-solving tool resolves and prevents issues identified by quality control personnel. This method identifies and eliminates the root cause of the problem to improve the quality.
Organizations also use quality control charts to measure whether the sampled processes or products are meeting the set specifications. With the X-bar chart method, randomly selected products are tested for the attributes the chart is tracking. On this chart, the Y-axis tracks the variation, while the X-axis monitors the sample tested.
You can use the pattern of variance from the chart to determine whether the facts are systematic or random. Using the results, you can plan on how to improve your quality control processes.
This quality control method involves examining and assessing all parts of a product. Companies use this method to rule out defects on a product; therefore, it’s common in organizations that deal in produce and metals. Quality control inspectors will need the data on the entire manufacturing process and an inventory analysis.
However, this method comes with some disadvantages. Checking every item that makes up the product is expensive and time-consuming. In addition, if the product is delicate, such as fruits, the inspection process could render it unusable, leading to massive company losses.
Unlike other quality control methods, the Taguchi model focuses on product design, development, and research. Developed by Genichi Taguchi, a Japanese statistician, it seeks to eliminate variances during production before they happen. Companies that use this method aim to reduce the occurrence of defects in their products.
This Taguchi method considers product design to be more important than the manufacturing process. Therefore, the focus is on using research and design to ensure every product will match the set specifications.
For your products to be of high quality, you have to have a strategy in place. A successful and efficient business has effective quality control techniques and procedures to help maintain the consistency of the products across all their locations. If you are unsure about where to start, here are some of the key things you need to build an efficient process.
The first step is hiring a dedicated quality control team for the company. According to statistics, more than 122,528 quality control managers are employed in the U.S. Therefore, when searching for personnel, you need to recruit the most qualified candidate and with the right credentials to handle the job.
If your business is a startup with limited capital, it’s still advisable to hire a quality control team to help track and monitor your products’ quality. While you may need to source for extra funds to pay their salaries, the returns are worth it. If your products maintain the quality, you’ll generate more sales and revenue.
When putting together a team, consider their knowledge about the specific product or service they’ll be handling. In addition, you should confirm whether they have worked in this industry before coming to your company.
Consider recruits who understand what the customer wants and the product you are offering so that the quality control process is efficient. You should also recruit top performers who are diligent in their work. Having the right team will streamline your quality analysis procedures and maintain and improve the quality of your products in the long run.
While this might sound obvious, some quality control teams work without a plan. This is counterproductive and will not meet the company objectives. To build efficient procedures, define success, and take all the steps necessary to improve the quality of your products and services.
During the initial phase, quality control teams need to track the existing procedures and identify any problems that affect the quality of processes. Once this step is complete, the next step is to eliminate all the tasks and steps that interfere with the ultimate goals.
For instance, if you identify some defects in your product, you need to develop a roadmap detailing the root cause of the problem and how to eliminate it. With this type of strategy, you’ll improve the consistency of your services and products while meeting customer needs.
We have identified the different types of quality control methods above. Depending on your business and the industry you are in, you can choose between Six Sigma, lean, Kaizen, Taguchi, X-bar chart, or 100 percent inspection as the method for your organization.
Each of these procedures can be used to improve the overall quality, but you need to use the right tools to boost their effectiveness. If you select one and it doesn’t give you the expected results, you can choose another option until you find the most ideal for your organization.
Implementing a quality control procedure in your organization comes with the following benefits.
Quality control ensures that your company delivers high-quality products without defects. This process in turn contributes to customer satisfaction and more sales. If your clients are assured of quality products and services, they will shop from your business which earns your company money in the long run.
Customers are more likely to refer you to their friends and family members if your products are of a high quality. Statistics show that 82 percent of small businesses say referrals are their main source of revenue; therefore, it’s important to build that reputation. In addition, your customers become loyal to your brand because of consistency. For this reason, you should have an efficient quality control procedure in place.
When you have a quality control procedure for your company, all your products will be uniform and meet the same high standard. This plays a big role in building public confidence in your product. Consumers who have tried your products will have positive reviews about your brand, significantly boosting your image.
Quality control is implemented to identify defects in your products and services. If you don’t test your finished products, you’ll be putting your consumers at risk. In addition, your company might get into legal trouble in case the products harm your customers. For instance, the company Takata Corporation had an airbag recall because of increased cases of airbag explosions during deployment leading to injuries and death. These types of liabilities can be costly to your organization if you don’t have quality control.
Quality control is also critical for your business because it keeps your operations within the regulatory requirements. Organizations are checked against the ISO 9000 set of standards, ensuring that their operation meets stakeholder and customer needs under the statutory regulations. ISO 9000 standards are fundamentals of quality management systems; therefore, they are used by organizations globally to document the quality elements. Quality control is a part of these standards—they play a big role in ensuring that the company is not breaking the law.
One of the benefits of introducing quality control in your company is its impact on your employees. Since they know that quality is important, they become keener and monitor all the procedures carefully. This effect will also trickle down to all the areas of business. Employees will become efficient during production to reduce the chances of error and accidents on the production floor.
If your customers are happy with your products, you’ll get more sales. As they become more loyal, you’ll gain a competitive advantage over the other companies in the same industry. Consumers tend to source products and services from organizations with a good reputation. Therefore, if you want to outsmart your competitors, invest in quality control protocols for your products.
Some of the most successful brands in the world have incorporated quality control procedures in their operations. Let’s look at some of the best examples.
Kaizen, or “continuous improvement,” is one of the major principles in The Toyota Production System. The company uses this philosophy to ensure that its products are of high quality while eliminating waste and improving efficiency in their work procedures.
By following the principles of Kaizen, they have improvements in their standardized work. These standards involve following the set procedures consistently, making it easier for employees to identify defects.
Since this method involves all the employees, from the management to assembly line workers, the Toyota Production System is humanized. Every member of staff can identify areas that need improvement and suggest solutions. According to the company, every staff member has the responsibility to adopt the standard procedures and eliminate waste.
Six Sigma was introduced in 1986 by a scientist working at Motorola. This methodology was incorporated into the company procedures to reduce mistakes while documenting the manufacturing procedures.
Motorola introduced this quality control method during this period because they faced fierce competition from similar organizations overseas, especially in the Japanese market. Additionally, at this time, the customer complaints about their products were pretty high due to product defects and customer support; therefore, they had to take action.
To deal with this problem, the company introduced Six Sigma, which improved the company’s performance significantly. Between 1986 and 1991, Motorola had hit every target for improvement in different business functions.
As one of the largest software producers in the world, Microsoft has tons of customers. To improve the reliability of their network, the company had to use Six Sigma techniques. This method also helped them eradicate defects in their data centers and systems and reduce the failure incidences in their infrastructure.
Microsoft collected data based on past high-priority incidents, server issues, and customer recommendations. This historical data was used to develop a road map on addressing these problems and improving the quality of their services.
Once the company had all the data, they identified the defects and solutions for each of them. The company prioritized all the issues depending on how severe the disruption was. Using the Six Sigma method, the organization had improved the defects by about 40% within the first year. Furthermore, the server failure period improved from 18 days to 125 days. Thanks to these procedures, Microsoft improved the performance of their services, increasing customer satisfaction.
Lean Six Sigma had a significant role in Dell’s success. In the early 2000s, the company adopted this technique of quality control to improve its product.
Dell enjoyed massive success between 1997–1999 and increased its revenue from $7.8 billion to $18.2 billion. Once the company implemented the lean Six Sigma model, it saved up to $1.55 billion and achieved the highest profitability by 2004.
With this process in place, the organization increased its efficiency; therefore, customers enjoyed better service and received their computers much faster. At the same time, Dell cut down wastage and turn-around time and started listening to their customers. This quality control tool boosted Dell to become one of the most profitable companies globally.
Just like with Toyota, Kaizen was also implemented at TOTO Ltd. TOTO is a Japanese manufacturer that specializes in plumbing fixtures. The company adopted the Kaizen philosophy to create a comfortable environment for employees and people with disabilities.
Thanks to this quality control technique, the company rearranged supplies for easier handling and better transportation. In addition, the executives introduced new procedures, including using flexible cords to stabilize hanging screwdrivers, which eliminated more than three working hours per month. This saved the company money on salaries.
Quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) are mostly used interchangeably. However, that should not be the case since they are quite distinct. Here are the major differences between the two.
Quality control is the process of inspecting products to ensure that they meet the required standards. Quality control is based on inspection and aims to take the defects out.
Quality control was introduced during the industrial revolution in the 20th century following the rise of mass production. Businesses needed a system to check the quality of their products.
On the other hand, QA is based on processes and aims to build in the quality without inspecting. These are the processes that a company puts in place to ensure the production quality aligns with the customer’s needs.
Businesses perform quality assurance to design how a product or service will be delivered and eliminate the chances that it will be sub-standard. The focus of QA is during the product development phase, making it easier to build in the quality. Therefore, if the production process is done well, there will be no need to inspect or do quality control on the finished product.
Quality assurance was first introduced in the Middle Ages. Guilds were formed to ensure a standard of quality was maintained. QA continued during the industrial revolution. Over the years, the process has evolved and led to the introduction of statistical control, total quality management, and ISO standards.
Here are the differences between quality control and quality assurance that you need to know.
- Quality control is a process that fulfills the quality request.
- Quality control aims to identify and improve defects.
- It verifies quality.
- The testing team is responsible for quality control.
- It involves executing the planned process.
- It ensures the results align with your expectations.
- This process verifies the deliverables.
- It ensures that the standards are followed when developing a product.
- The statistical technique on quality control is referred to as statistical quality control (SQC).
- QA is a process that aims to provide confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.
- QA aims to prevent product defects.
- This technique manages quality.
- All the team members are responsible for quality assurance.
- QA is not involved in executing the program.
- The process ensures the company is doing the right thing.
- QA creates the deliverables.
- QA defines the methodologies and standards to be followed to meet customer needs.
- The statistical technique used on QA is referred to as statistical process control (SPC).
How They Work Together
Quality control and quality assurance work together in an organization as part of the quality management system (QMS). QMS incorporates policies, planning, improvement initiatives, and quality control and QA procedures to boost business efficiency.
These two procedures work together in the following areas.
Both quality control and QA are essential in meeting customer needs and are implemented to exceed expectations. Once your team understands customers’ current and future needs, it becomes easier to succeed. This strategy leads to increased customer value, loyalty, and satisfaction.
To deliver value to your customers, you need to engage all the employees at all organization levels. Quality control and QA techniques can be used to involve all the people in the company. This leads to increased motivation, enhanced personal development, and encourages more involvement in company activities.
When QA and quality control procedures are in place, leaders provide direction and create conditions for all employees to be engaged.
Organizations with an efficient QA and quality control process focus on improving all the business functions. This allows the business to maintain its high performance, prevent errors, and take corrective actions.
Quality management processes in an organization help manage relationships with other parties such as suppliers. With proper relationship management, your company will enhance its performance and create a common understanding of the goals and values.
Companies need efficient QA and quality control techniques to produce consistent and predictable products and services. These processes come in handy in the company to help optimize the system and its performance.
If you are looking to create a quality control process in your company, here are the steps you can use as a guide.
You need to set quality standards that you plan to follow in each department. Fortunately, some industries have guidelines created by an external organization or regulatory body. In this case, you have to follow these standards. However, if your industry does not have any external procedures, you’ll need to create your own.
When developing these standards, ensure that every department has quality control procedures that are measurable. This will help you track and monitor any issues and areas for improvement.
In addition, you can choose to focus on the important measures that have a significant effect on customer experience and your profits. This way, your business can get results quickly without overwhelming your team. Focusing on quality standards that are needed by your customers is the best way to improve their experience and ensure satisfaction.
You’ll deliver high-quality products and services if you have a well-designed quality control process. You’ll need to continually measure the success of your quality control procedure and implement improvements to make your products and services better. For instance, you can start with the critical operations in the business and create a guide with benchmarks.
Additionally, these processes should be incorporated in every department. If you deliver quality, your customers will keep coming back because of the high-quality products and services.
The only way to know how your quality control process is performing is by reviewing the results. Use your business software, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, financial apps, and customer service tools to customize your information and collect data. These reviews will provide information on whether the company is meeting its standards.
Failure to evaluate your results will lead to poor quality products and services. If a quality control process is not working properly, you might miss the indicators that something needs to be improved.
Apart from your company tools, you should also get external feedback from online ratings and reviews and customer surveys. This form of feedback is critical because it provides real-time information from the consumers on the quality of your products and services. You can use this information to improve your products.
Customer feedback provides first-hand information on the effectiveness of your quality control system. Always pay attention to these reviews to help you improve your operations.
Even if you are meeting your quality standards, you should strive to do better. Once you get feedback on your quality standards, you should not stop there. Find ways to improve your quality and delivery of services to keep the customers satisfied.
When your processes are improved, your quality of products and services will become better. Otherwise, if you are stagnant, your bottomline will be affected.
Quality control processes are important because they help your business meet customer expectations. If you consistently improve your company processes, you’ll enjoy continued success and deliver quality products that align with the industry standards. Here are some tips you can use to enhance your company procedures.
For the quality control procedure to be effective, you need to engage all employees. This encourages them to adhere and commit to the set standards. You can enforce these procedures easily by training new hires during the onboarding period. Additionally, you can conduct refresher training every year to remind the employees that quality control is everyone’s responsibility.
If your company has a top-down approach, you need to transform it into a bottom-up approach to reach employees in all levels. Your quality control system will become better when everyone is working on a common goal.
During audits, ensure that you reinforce quality procedures and have regular checks to identify non-conforming employees. Typically, a company will have one external audit every year. However, others have several internal audits to keep track of company performance, either quarterly or twice a year.
After these audits, keep employees updated on the new quality control processes. Encourage them to share their feedback and suggestions on how the quality can be improved further.
Paper-based record-keeping can be tiresome and time-consuming for any business. Ensure that you automate most of your records to make it easier to monitor and track quality standards and procedures. Digital recordkeeping saves time and helps in consistently recording internal checks.
In addition, you should automate all reporting systems from the employees. This way, they can send suggestions and comments in real-time about the progress of the quality control processes.
During reviews, use all the information you get from surveys, past mistakes, incident reports, and customer reviews to improve your quality control procedures. It would be best if you also stayed up to date with the latest industry best practices that can be used to improve your processes.
You can use internal and external tools to improve your systems. Ensure that every employee understands how the tools work to make system improvement much easier.
New technologies save time spent inspecting products and services. Invest in digital tools that make it easier to automate monitoring. You can find new ways to improve your quality control processes with these resources. Research the current industry trends and incorporate some of the technologies being used by your competitors.
What is quality control?
Quality control is a process that involves measuring the product quality against set standards to identify defects. It can be implemented by either testing products, creating benchmarks, or reviewing the manufacturing process.
While quality control involves the delivery of products and services, QA relates to each process involved in the production and delivery of goods and services.
You’ll know if your business has quality control issues if you are underachieving when it comes to delivering products and services. Watch out for errors and defects in your business.
The different quality control methods include Six Sigma, lean, X-bar chart, 100% inspection, Taguchi, and Kaizen.
Yes! Whether you are running a small or large business, you need quality control. The success of your business depends on the quality of services and products.
In the medical industry, quality control is done on medication by checking the composition of the drugs to sanitary conditions to ensure that they don’t have any contamination that could be harmful to the human body.
Companies use quality control procedures to ensure they don’t deliver defective products to the consumer. Therefore, they hire quality control employees to inspect and keep track of all the products and confirm that they are safe.
SweetProcess is a software that helps companies manage all their tasks and processes in one place. You can use it for various functions, from managing tasks to documenting company information to implementing quality control procedures. Lack of proper quality control procedures will affect the quality of your products and services and prevent you from meeting customer expectations.
However, if you adopt the SweetProcess platform in your operations, you can document your procedures, capture all information, and involve your team members in suggesting improvements. If you want to sign up, SweetProcess is available on the web, iOS, and Android.
Kevin Trapp, the director of operations at Forensic Analytical Consulting Services Inc, is responsible for ensuring consistency and efficiency in the organization. However, as the company expanded to multiple locations, it became challenging to maintain consistency. Although the company has standard operating procedures (SOPs), employees did not use them because they were buried in PDF files on the servers.
Employees who needed information would rather consult Kevin instead of checking the documented processes. This dependency was a setback in his productivity. He started looking for a solution and discovered the SweetProcess platform to solve this problem.
According to Kevin, SweetProcess was robust enough to complete tasks and simple enough; therefore, it didn’t overwhelm any of the users. They can now document SOPs that are more comprehensive and streamline their business operations.
David Brannen, the founder and managing lawyer at Resolute Legal, started his law firm to help people who had an unpleasant experience with the law in areas such as compensation. However, the business did not kick-off as expected. Since he started the business all by himself, David did not have a structure that prevented him from scaling his business.
The lack of procedures affected the quality of his output because he juggled all the tasks. To bring organization into the business, David discovered SweetProcess. Once he got on the platform, he started hiring other lawyers and staff, created a knowledge base for employees, and introduced quality control procedures.
Quality control helped the law firm maintain consistency in its services, which is essential in building customer loyalty. SweetProcess has made it easier to deliver quality services.
Florinela Serban, the head of operations at Onogo, was responsible for streamlining the company’s processes. The company was growing, and there were a lot of requirements from customers and partners. However, the business was experiencing challenges in keeping up with customer needs due to a lack of structure.
Florinela and her team decided to become proactive and document the company’s procedures to equip new hires. She took up the SweetProcess tool to help with the documentation, employee onboarding, and creating a knowledge base.
In addition, the Sweet Process platform helped the organization in establishing quality control and quality assurance procedures. There’s uniformity in the duties and increased collaboration between workers. Because of this, the company can meet its organizational goals much faster.
Click here to sign up for a free trial of SweetProcess now!
Every organization needs an efficient quality control procedure. This process ensures that you deliver quality products and services to your customers.
Companies with a quality control process can easily identify defects in their products and find ways to improve their delivery. You need to invest in a quality control process and team for your business to succeed. If you want to start your journey to create a new process, or improve the existing quality control process, sign up for a free trial of SweetProcess today. No credit card required.