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Global Business 12.09.19 BLOG 

Learning About Quality: The Difference Between QA & QC

By Translations.com Quality Services & Reporting Team

Translation Quality

Learning About Quality: The Difference Between QA & QC

Very often, the terms quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) are used interchangeably. The truth is, while the two are closely related, QA and QC are fairly different concepts. If your business routinely calls for language translation services, it’s crucial that you understand exactly how QA and QC factor into the process. By doing so, you ensure that 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.” In localization terms, this refers to 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, QC came to life as a method for ensuring that requirements were met in final products.

Thirty years later, QA 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 real-life scenario

Imagine you own a dog called Rufus who has a habit of running away when he’s let out of the house. This leaves you with a few options. You can either check on him every five minutes to make sure he’s still in the yard, or you can build a fence to ensure he can’t run away. Which option is more appealing?

Now, a localization scenario…

Say 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 expecting high standards, low costs, and fast TAT. However, you’re beginning to realize that the exact opposite is happening.

Why? Most likely 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 QC and QA. Now let’s explore them in more detail and see how they fit into the quality management methodology.

QC – Verifying the Quality of the Output

QC 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 QC limitation is that it’s 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.

QA – Managing and Planning for Quality

QA takes your quality management process a step further, focusing on planning, documenting, and agreeing on the steps, rules, and guidelines that are necessary to ensure 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 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 QMS incorporates planning, improvement initiatives, 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

ISO’s quality management principles does an excellent job going into further detail on each principle—explaining why it is important for your organization and three key benefits associated with each. Below a few quick-hitters from the PDF.

QMP 1: Customer Focus

The primary focus of quality management is to meet customer requirements and strive to exceed customer expectations. Understanding current and future needs of customers and other interested parties contributes to sustained success.

Three key benefits:

  • Increased customer value
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved customer loyalty

QMP 2: Leadership

Leaders at all levels establish unity of purpose and direction and create conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the organization’s quality objectives.

Three key benefits:

  • Improved communication between levels and functions in an organization
  • Better coordination of the organization’s processes
  • Increased effectiveness and efficiency in meeting quality objections

QMP 3: Engagement of People

Competent, empowered, and engaged people at all levels throughout the organization are essential to enhancing its capability to create and deliver value. To manage an organization effectively and efficiently, it is important to involve all people at all levels.

Three key benefits:

  • Increased motivation to achieve quality objectives
  • Enhanced involvement of people in improvement activities
  • Enhanced personal development, initiatives, and creativity

QMP 4: Process Approach

Consistent and predictable results are achieved more effectively and efficiently when activities are understood and managed as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system. Understanding how results are produced by the QMS enables an organization to optimize the system and its performance.

Three key benefits:

  • Consistent and predictable outcomes
  • Enhanced ability to focus effort on key processes and opportunities for improvement
  • Optimized performance through effective process management, efficiency use of resources, and reduced cross-functional barriers

QMP 5: Improvement

Successful organizations have an ongoing focus on improvement—which is essential to maintain current levels of performance, react to changes in external/internal conditions, and create new opportunities.

Three key benefits:

  • Improved process performance, organizational capabilities, and customer satisfaction
  • Enhanced focus on root-cause investigation, followed by prevention and corrective actions
  • Enhanced ability to anticipate and react to internal/external risks and opportunities

QMP 6: Evidence-Based Decision Making

Decisions based on the analysis and evaluation of data and information are more likely to produce desired results. Facts, evidence, and data analysis lead to greater objectivity and confidence in decision making.

Three key benefits:

  • Improved decision-making processes
  • Improved assessment of process performance
  • Improved operational effectiveness and efficiency

QMP 7: Relationship Management

For sustained success, an organization manages its relationships with interested parties, such as suppliers—as interested parties influence the performance of an organization.

Three key benefits:

  • Enhanced performance of the organization and its interested parties
  • Common understanding of goals and values among interested parties
  • Increased capability to create value for interested parties by sharing resources

By eliminating waste in processes, improving product quality, expediting TATs, lowering costs, and increasing customer satisfaction, a well-organized QMS provides benefits that can’t be ignored. It’s important to ensure your LSP has a well-built QMS that is ready to cater for all your needs.


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