Two factors are having a profound effect on businesses today: rising inflation and increased competition. Excessive and aggressive competition means companies must do more to distinguish themselves from the crowd today. Rising inflation makes consumers reluctant to part with their money unless given a compelling reason.
One solution to both dilemmas is releasing high-quality products that stand out from the pack and encouraging consumers to buy them. After all, most intelligent shoppers don’t mind paying a little extra for a premium product.
That’s why quality control is so important. Quality control ensures excellent products, which attract more customers.
This article tackles the question, “What is quality control?” We will define the term, explore different methods of quality control, explain why quality control is essential in the manufacturing or business process, discuss the difference between quality control and quality assurance, and discuss other aspects of the quality control process.
What Does Quality Control Mean?
Let’s answer the question, “Quality control, what is it?”
Quality control, or QC for short, is the process that ensures a product or service follows a predefined set of quality requirements or standards or meets the needs of the customers or clients. Usually, quality control requires the organization to develop and perpetuate an environment where employees and management continually strive for perfection. This philosophy involves thorough training, setting benchmarks for measuring service or product quality and employing quality control methods to detect any significant variations in quality.
Ultimately, the goals of product quality control can be boiled down to two brief items:
- Ensure product uniformity
- Minimize product errors and inconsistencies
But why is quality control a vital part of today’s businesses?
What is Quality Control and Why Is It Important?
Although we’ve danced around why quality control is vital to today’s business process, let’s dig into the reasons it’s important. Here’s why every company, regardless of size or industry, should have quality control.
- It encourages quality consciousness. Quality control encourages employees to adopt a quality mindset throughout the manufacturing process, creating an environment conducive to consistently producing a quality product.
- It boosts customer satisfaction. Quality control ensures that customers receive error-free products, increasing overall customer satisfaction. This advantage feeds onto the next one.
- It fosters goodwill. A business consistently produces high-quality products that meet all the quality control requirements and consistently satisfy the customer’s needs, increasing the organization’s reputation. This advantage leads to the next one.
- It boosts brand recognition and sales. Consistent quality control helps the company develop a reputation for reliability and quality, increasing customer retention and the overall customer base and boosting sales.
- It raises employee morale. Employees who create high-quality products that the customers appreciate are typically happier and more satisfied with their jobs, realizing that their hard work is paying off and their efforts are appreciated.
- It improves production methods. Quality control processes streamline and improve production processes and make the production line more efficient, resulting in improved practices and designs, typically resulting in higher productivity.
- It keeps the company in compliance with oversight standards. Many countries, states, or even individual metropolises have their own set of regulations governing manufacturing and quality control. If the company employs quality control specialists to oversee production, the business can ensure they stay in compliance.
- It lowers production costs. Quality control processes detect items that don’t meet quality standards, thus anticipating and correcting any problems and decreasing the cost of production.
- It ensures the effective use of resources. Quality control helps companies use their resources effectively by minimizing material and product waste and increasing efficiencies.
Quality control comes in several varieties. Let’s look at them.
What Are the Different Types of Quality Control?
There’s a vast selection of quality control methods, which is crucial since not every industry employs the same quality management methods nor has the same quality criteria. Here’s a list of the most common forms of quality control.
- 100% Inspection Method. This method looks at and assesses all product parts to eliminate flaws. This method is typically used to evaluate produce (fruits and vegetables) and valuable metals.
- Acceptance Sampling. This statistical measure determines if a sample of products meets the accepted manufacturing standard.
- Process Control. Processes are continually monitored and adjusted to improve performance and ensure quality. Process controls typically employ chemical processes, feedback loops, and industrial-level controls to achieve product consistency.
- Process Protocol. Process protocol is a mapping methodology that enhances product design and implementation processes by developing and implementing evaluative indicators for each step in the process.
- Quality Control Charts. Quality control inspectors often use a graph or chart to study how processes change over time. In addition, inspectors use statistics to analyze the business and manufacturing processes to ensure they fulfill quality requirements. The following is one of the more popular quality control charts.
- X-Bar Chart. On an X-Bar Chart, the x-axis tracks the samples tested, and the y-axis follows the degree of acceptable tested attribute variance. Randomly selected products are tested. Quality control inspectors analyze the variance pattern to determine whether defects occur systematically or randomly.
- Taguchi Method. The Taguchi Method reduces the occurrence of defects and failures in products by emphasizing the roles of product design, research and development, and product development. This method values design over the manufacturing process in quality control, trying to eliminate variances in production before they even occur.
Alternately, some quality control professionals divide quality control into four broad categories:
- Process control
- Control charts
- Acceptance sampling
- Product quality control
Now that we have gained a better understanding of the types of quality control, what is it about the concept that makes it so important today?
What Does a Quality Control Inspection Entail?
Product inspections let organizations verify that a batch of goods conforms to the company’s specific quality standards. This process can involve something as simple as checking the packaging and labeling or something more technical, like how the product works and if it adheres to physical requirements.
There are many types of product inspections, such as:
- Pre-Production Inspections (PPI). PPI inspections are conducted once raw materials arrive at the manufacturing facility. They help quality inspectors detect issues with the materials before they’re used to make the products.
- During Production Inspections (DUPRO). DUPRO inspections are held when at least 20 percent of the production is finished. This process lets quality control inspectors spot any product flaws or errors coming off the production line before committing to producing the entire batch.
- Pre-Shipment Inspections (PSI). This inspection is the most common, conducted after the product shipment is 100% complete and at least 80 percent of the products have been packaged.
- Loading Inspections (LI). Loading inspections happen once the product shipment is fully completed and packaged. This inspection allows QC inspectors to catch any problems before the goods are loaded into a shipping container. In addition, this inspection ensures the products meet the organization’s quality standards before being shipped out to customers.
- Sort Inspections (SI). Sort inspections happen after an error is found. Armed with the knowledge of the defect, QC inspectors can now inspect the rest of the batch for these issues.
Now that we’ve resolved the question of what quality control is let’s compare it to quality assurance.
Quality Control vs. Quality Assurance
These two terms are often interchangeable, although they shouldn’t be. As a result, we sometimes need to clarify the distinction between what is quality control and quality assurance. In fact, quality control is considered a sub-category of quality assurance. Consider these definitions.
According to ISO 9000 standards, quality assurance can be defined as “part of quality management focused on providing confidence that quality requirements will be fulfilled.” Alternately, quality assurance can be defined as a collection of all the planned and systematic activities in the quality system that ensures the product or service will fulfill every quality requirement.
On the other hand, quality control is defined as the part of the quality management process that covers fulfilling quality requirements. Quality assurance deals with how a product or process is performed, while quality control focuses more on the inspection aspect of quality management.
Quality Control Roles and Responsibilities
Qualified quality control professionals have a defined set of responsibilities and roles. But, just like there’s a difference between quality control and quality assurance, there’s a difference between what a quality control inspector does and what a quality assurance professional does.
Here are the roles and responsibilities of a quality control professional:
- Measures and analyzes the processes involved with determining product quality, using standards adopted by the company or regulatory bodies
- Determines whether a product is defective
- Suggests changes to the production process based on their findings
- Communicates results to stakeholders and any appropriate parties
- Helps in the process of solving the discovered problems
Learning Lean Six Sigma
The pressure is on businesses to improve their processes, generate quality products and services, and stay ahead of the competition. Lean Six Sigma is a widely used methodology that easily folds into the process of quality control and is a valuable skill for any quality control professional to master. So, now that we’ve answered “what is quality control,” let’s explore a great way you can become a quality control professional.
The UMass Amherst Isenberg School of Management offers this Lean Six Sigma course that serves as a valuable resource for anyone who wants to improve their expertise in Lean Six Sigma. This course is aligned with IASSC-Lean Six Sigma and provides vital, relevant training.
Salary.com reports that certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt professionals working in the United States typically earn a yearly salary of $113,000. Sign up for Lean Six Sigma training today, and earn certification in a popular and relevant skill set that helps businesses stay competitive and challenges professionals to be their best.