The Ultimate Guide to Quality Control
There are many attributes that companies can choose to make a part of their brand statement — innovation, experience, practicality, customization, social responsibility, fun, etc. However, delivering on any of these qualities will not create long-term success unless a company also delivers — consistently — on quality.
Disappoint a customer on quality and you have a customer who is looking for your competition - and telling their large circle of friends on social media to look elsewhere as well. With the quantity of information available on the internet, today’s consumers are better informed about their options and less likely to put up with products or services that don’t meet their standards.
At the same time as these trends are increasing the importance of quality management, the process is also becoming more complex, with global supply chains, new and changing regulations, and industry disruptions that are creating a need for rapid product/service line changes.
Quality control is one of the critical components of an effective Quality Management System, no matter your organization’s size or industry.
What Is Quality Control?
Quality control is one of the four components of Total Quality Management (TQM), which also encompasses quality planning, quality assurance, and quality improvement.
Quality Control Definition
Quality control is the step in quality management that focuses on testing products and services to ensure that customers consistently receive deliverables that conform to company quality standards.
Quality control differs from quality assurance and comes later in the production or delivery process. While quality assurance is the development of proactive processes to prevent quality-related problems, quality control is a review process that identifies problems such as defective raw materials/products or unsatisfactory services once they occur but hopefully before they reach customers.
The Quality Control Process
Although businesses in various industries will differ widely in quality criteria, standards, and methodologies, there is a general pattern to quality control procedures. Every company needs to:
- Set testing standards. Based on your critical success factors, you need to know what you are testing, what results are acceptable, and how tests will be conducted.
- Test deliverables at various stages. For a manufacturer, testing generally will be done on raw materials, during the production process, and on the final products. Service companies may review sales techniques, service features, and delivery methods.
- Correct problems. This means rejecting defective parts and products, but it also involves researching why the problem occurred and taking corrective measures.
- Collect data and make adjustments. Was this a one-time problem or a recurring one? If the data shows that this is an ongoing problem, management needs to address the cause(s) and establish a plan for preventing it in the future.
The Importance of Quality Control
Effective quality control can have positive impacts on operations, customer relations, and employee attitudes.
Recurring testing and process improvement can help you minimize the waste of products, materials, time, and staff resources. Over time, this can measurably lower operating costs.
Customer Satisfaction and Sales
Receiving high-quality goods or services builds customer satisfaction and trust in your company, resulting in repeat sales and enthusiastic recommendations. As your reputation for quality grows, it will attract new customers and increase your sales and profits.
Being part of a team that is focused on producing high-value deliverables and receives a high level of customer appreciation can significantly raise morale and productivity.
What Industries Does Quality Control Apply to?
Clearly, quality control is critical in industries that produce materials or products with consumer safety consequences.
This includes industries such as:
- Consumer Goods
- Food & Beverage
- Specialty Chemicals
- Crop Sciences
- Life Sciences
However, quality control is applicable to virtually any business that cares about the quality of its deliverables. It is regularly employed by companies in software, finance, media and publishing, information services, and more.
Quality Control Methods
There are several established methods used by businesses for performing quality control. The techniques that may be appropriate for your company will depend largely on the nature of your products or services.
Randomly selected products are tested against established standards, with the results tracked on a quality control chart. There are several types of charts (X-bar, flow, run, scatter diagrams, etc.), but all depict the degree to which sampled products meet or vary from intended specifications on one or more attributes.
Also referred to as off-line quality control, the Taguchi method aims to reduce defects in products by building quality in, through appropriate design and development. It applies statistical methods to decrease the variability of a product. Although it was developed for manufacturing, this approach has been used in biotechnology, engineering, advertising, and marketing.
Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma
These methodologies use a data-driven review to address and fix quality control problems. Focus is on the utilization of statistical analysis rather than guesswork to improve business processes and the resulting products or services
How to Create a Quality Control Plan
Before you can create your quality control plan, you need to do some initial quality planning. In this early stage, your organization will need to specify your quality objectives. You should identify critical success factors and research both customer preferences and industry regulations. Once you have defined your important quality objectives, you will formulate a quality assurance process to reach and maintain them.
Quality control is the next step, in which you will be testing your quality results. To create a quality control plan, you will:
- Select a quality control method that suits your industry, deliverables, and operational structure.
- Specify procedures for testing deliverables and identifying deviations from standards.
- Determine strategies for data collection and decision-making.
- Set a schedule of activities.
- Define roles and responsibilities.
- Select quality management software to support the process.
- Implement your plan.
- Analyze the results.
- Make adjustments as needed.
These last two steps are ongoing. The goal should always be to keep improving your quality control and raising the level of the deliverables you provide to your customers. This will help you build and maintain success in a competitive environment.
Quality Assurance Certification
Although not a requirement, becoming ISO 9001 certified for Quality Management Systems can increase your organization’s credibility by showing customers that its products and services meet quality standards. There are over one million large and small ISO 9001 certified companies and organizations in over 170 countries. It is the world’s most recognized Quality Management standard, offering guidance on customer focus, leadership, employee engagement, process approach, evidence-based decision making, continual improvement, and supplier relationship management.
Controlling Quality is Central to Remaining Competitive and the Cloud is the Modern Key to Both
If you’re ready to ensure compliance and agility in your quality control program, a unified cloud-based application like Veeva’s QualityOne can help you make that happen — faster and at less total cost.
QualityOne is intuitive and easy to use, unlike cumbersome on-premise legacy programs, so your staff will be able to easily and effectively use it to manage document control, training, quality processes, and HSE events.
- Reduce the cost of quality management
- Quickly and easily find and fix quality issues
- Access your files & dashboards from any device
- Visualize all product or quality data in one system
- Ensure your suppliers meet your quality standards
- Be audit-ready, anytime an auditor calls