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Global Business 06.21.17 BLOG 

Learning About Quality: What's the Difference Between QA & QC?

By Quality Services & Reporting Team

Translation Quality

Learning About Quality: What's the Difference Between QA & QC?

Very often, the terms quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) are used interchangeably. The truth is, while they are closely related, QA and QC are two different concepts. If you’re in a business that routinely requires language translation services, understanding how QA and QC factor into the process is crucial to ensuring you’re getting the most out of your investment. 

A bit of history first…

According to ISO 9001:2015, quality is “the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of an object fulfill requirements.” Simply put, quality in localization is about meeting client requirements, while also sticking to industry and language standards.

Quality as a concept has been known for years, but it only started to receive prominence in the 20th century. Following the Industrial Revolution and the rise of mass production, companies realized the need to better define and control their processes. In the 1920s, quality control came to life as a method for ensuring that requirements were met in final products. Thirty years later, quality assurance and auditing developed out of the realization that quality could be improved earlier in the process and therefore should be managed from the source. The 1980s brought the rise of total quality management (TQM) as a methodology to ensure quality through the coordination of all the processes in a company. As the movement matured and improved, it developed into what we now know as quality management.

...and a few real-life scenarios

Imagine you own a dog called Rufus who has a habit of running away. You can either check on him every five minutes to make sure he’s still there, or you can build a fence to ensure he can’t run away. Which option is more appealing?

Now, a localization scenario…you had 2,000 words to translate into 15 languages last week. You specifically instructed your language services provider (LSP) to keep all product names the same as they appear in the source. You checked the deliverables yourself to ensure they met the requirement. Yesterday, you sent them another project with exactly the same instructions. Your LSP applied exactly the same process, so you’re hoping for good quality, low costs, and fast TAT. However, you’re beginning to realize that the exact opposite is happening. Why? Most probably because your LSP didn’t plan for quality on the front end and they only relied on manual checks at the end of the process. Instead of this, they could have prepared clear instructions for their linguists in advance, carried out a detailed source analysis, or maybe added some automation and locked the product names. Each of these activities could have brought you a reduction in cost and time, as well as confidence in quality.

In each of these two scenarios, you saw a difference between pure quality control and quality assurance. Let's now explore them in more detail and see how they fit into the quality management methodology.

Quality Control – Verifying the Quality of the Output

Quality control is the most basic level of quality management. It includes all activities of inspecting, testing, or checking a product to ensure it meets the requirements. The intent of QC is to identify any issues—and either fix them or eliminate them—to make sure the end result is as expected. QC is typically conducted reactively, at the end of the process.

The main limitation of quality control is that it’s very product oriented and doesn’t improve quality or make quality more efficient—it only focuses on identifying instances where quality is lacking. What’s more, you only find out about issues at the end of the process, which may cost you time and money.

Quality Assurance – Managing and Planning for Quality

Quality assurance takes your quality management process a step further. QA is focused on planning, documenting, and agreeing on the steps, rules, and guidelines that are necessary to ensuring quality. The planning happens at the beginning of a project, and the end result is a documented quality plan.

The main purpose of QA is to prevent defects from entering into your product in the first place, so it’s a proactive measure to ensure quality. Planning for quality is key to mitigating risks, but also saves you a lot of time and money.

Quality Management System – QA and QC Working Together

According to ISO standards, a quality management system (QMS) includes quality planning, quality improvement initiatives, the establishment of a set of quality policies and objectives that will act as guidelines within an organization, and QA/QC procedures.

The seven quality management principles are:

  1. Customer focus
  2. Leadership
  3. Engagement of people
  4. Process approach
  5. Improvement
  6. Evidence-based decision making
  7. Relationship management

A well-organized QMS provides multiple benefits that cannot be ignored, including the elimination of waste in your processes, the improvement of your product’s quality, faster TATs, lower costs, and increased customer satisfaction—so it is important to ensure your LSP has a well-built QMS that is ready to cater for all your needs.

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