Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Quality Management. What's in a name?

25 March 2021

Quality Business Team

Quality Control, Quality Assurance, and Quality Management. We often see or hear those terms mentioned. But are they just alternative ways of describing the same thing? Or are they different concepts? and if so, just what do they mean?

Well, they are not really interchangeable as they describe different concepts.

This article will explain what they actually mean.

Quality Control


Quality Control is the oldest of the three terms. We have all seen products that have a little 'QC Passed' sticker or something similar.

It is very much a term with its origins in manufacturing. The very words suggest a person with a white coat and clipboard checking items as they leave a production line. In this sense, quality control could be said to focus entirely on the product - or to be 'product-related'.

Quality Assurance


We can broaden the focus to establish the customer’s requirements for a product or service, and then control all the processes that take place in delivering it to the customer.

This is often referred to as 'quality assurance’ – as that focus is on the customer's needs and expectations – it is said to be 'customer-related'.

Quality Management

Quality Business Team

So far, we have looked at two very important 'quality' issues - ensuring that the product or service is correct, and that the customer's needs and expectations are satisfied.

However, a business also has other stakeholders or interested parties that have their own interests. For example, owners, suppliers, workers etc.

This broader concept is often referred to as 'quality management' - which could be said to focus on the overall business objectives - or to be 'organization-related'.

Putting it all together

Quality control to quality management

So, the concepts are not the same and they are not exclusive to each other. One builds upon the other.

This blog article is based on a training presentation available in the latest ISO 9001 Quality Toolkit.

Check out these other great Quality management articles on this web site:

10 Essential Tips for a Great Quality Management System

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