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Today’s Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control

Quality assurance vs. quality control. The two get lumped together frequently. Companies have QA/QC programs and QA/QC managers, so naturally you could assume the two are one and the same. But that’s not the case. While quality assurance and quality control are connected, they are very different. Further, you can have one without the other — at the expense of your project. I’d like to clear up the key difference between quality assurance and quality control so that you can ensure your builder is delivering both. 

Quality Assurance: The word assurance is defined as “the act of giving confidence, the state of being certain, or the act of making certain.”  

Quality assurance is primarily about understanding the requirements that must be met to achieve quality and developing the plan to meet those requirements. If you’re successfully performing quality assurance, you can be confident in the quality you’re delivering.  

Quality Control: Let’s look closer at the word control, defined as “an evaluation to indicate needed corrective responses. The act of guiding a process in which variability is attributable to a constant system of chance causes.”  

Quality control is all about monitoring work as it occurs and enforcing corrective actions as needed to correct issues. In construction, there are plenty of chance causes to look out for like weather, unforeseen existing building conditions, or improper installation. By closely guiding the work and evaluating it being performed in real time, you are ensuring your plan is actually being put in place.  

Both of these components, planning and execution, are necessary to deliver quality. In our industry, it’s most common to fail in the execution.  A builder can have a solid QA plan — they know what needs to be done and they put that plan in the hands of their project team. But if they don’t have a strong quality control action plan than they have no way of ensuring the work is following the requirements laid out during their quality assurance planning. It takes both assurance and control to deliver a quality building with minimal change orders, rework, or future quality issues that might develop during the lifespan of the building. So, when hiring a contractor, I’d encourage you to ask them to answer how they plan to handle quality assurance and quality control on your project. They should be able to detail their plan showing they fully understand the quality requirements and what it will take to satisfy those requirements. And, they should prove they understand that failing to monitor work as it put into place will result in cut corners and potential warranty issues. Simply put, don’t settle for someone who can’t define and detail the difference between QA and QC.  

A phrase you’ll hear around our offices is “trust but verify.” We trust that we have put the best teams together who will study our quality assurance plan. But we also have an action plan that verifies the work that’s being done is correct and will stand the test of time. It doesn’t matter how much planning you do; you can always have a quality issue due to unforeseen conditions. If you’re checking work every step of the way, you can quickly resolve the issue and ensure the work is correct moving forward. If you’re not checking, you’ll pay for that issue later whether it’s in change orders or expensive repairs down the road. To learn more from our experts about how to be sure you’re getting the quality you expect in a project, click here.  


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