The production of goods and the provision of services

If a product or service is of good quality, it means that it is of a high standard. Quality can come from how well a product is made, the use of high-quality raw materials, and ensuring that products will last a long time and work well, eg a watch should tell the time correctly. Post-sales service should also be of good quality. For example, businesses should deal with faults quickly and efficiently.

Businesses have two ways of managing quality – quality control and quality assurance.

Quality control

Quality control is the process of inspecting products and services to ensure that what customers receive is of a high standard. There are many different ways that businesses conduct quality control. For example:

  • Feedback can take the form of customer questionnaires, conducted either at the point of sale or electronically, to ask about the service customers received from the business.
  • Factory inspectors are often used at the end of production to ensure that products are of the required standard before they reach customers. For example, car manufacturers have a list of checks that they complete before cars are sent out, eg doors must be correctly aligned, car mats must be present and there must be no visible flaws in the paint.
  • A one hundred percent inspection system is often used in high-end restaurants. In this method of quality control, all food is checked by the head chef before it is given to the customer. If the chef spots any imperfections, the whole dish is cooked again before the customer receives it.

These methods reduce the number of faulty or sub-standard products that reach customers. However, a disadvantage is that these methods only identify faults at the end of production, when they may be more expensive to fix than if they were found immediately. This is because the whole product may need to be removed and rebuilt in order to fix the fault.

How businesses manage product quality, producing high standards of customer service, production processes and checks and staff teams.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance is a process of carrying out quality checks at specific stages during the production process. This ensures that faults and sub-standard products are found sooner rather than at the end of the production process.

Quality assurance makes quality the responsibility of the employees involved in the production process. This can mean that businesses need to develop a good business culture where the attitudes and behaviours of employees within the business ensure that they are focused on producing high-quality products. Businesses usually employ managers to oversee quality assurance. The managers also make employees aware of their quality responsibilities and what is expected of them.

Training staff and employing highly-skilled people can come at a cost. This means the quality assurance process can be expensive for businesses, and often the added costs are reflected in what customers are charged.

Quality controlQuality assurance
Focuses on identifying faulty goodsFocuses on improving the production process
Identifies and fixes problems and faultsEstablishes a good system for quality management
Quality is the responsibility of one individual or a specific team of individualsQuality is the responsibility of everyone involved in the manufacturing process
The product is at the heart of quality controlThe production process is at the heart of quality assurance