If you are outsourcing your manufacturing, then making sure that there is good quality control in place is absolutely crucial. This is what will ensure that any of your products are produced exactly to specification before they end up in the hands of your customers, and this in turn, will mean that you aren’t inundated with customers who want refunds.
But QC is actually only one half of the story. Just as important is quality assurance, and there’s an important distinction to be made here that can often get missed. Let’s take a look at what both terms mean, and why it isn’t enough to have just one without the other…
What is Quality Control and Why is it Important for Hardware Startups?
All too often, it is common for hardware companies to release products that sound great on paper, but get undermined by serious issues with quality control.
Quality control of course, refers to defects and the processes in place to ensure that they don’t creep into production. When this is missing, products can end up making it onto shelves with a range of issues such as light bleed around the edges of the screen, damaged paint, or problems with hardware buttons. In the more severe cases, they may be completely unfit for purpose.
As mentioned, this can then result in lots of orders being returned, which can seriously hurt your bottom line. More serious in the long term though, is the impact that poor QC can have on your reputation. If you return two fitness trackers from the same company and each replacement has some kind of defect, you’ll probably not be buying from that company again in a hurry!
What is Quality Assurance?
Quality Assurance is the lesser known younger sibling of quality control. This gets a lot less press, but is just as important – and really the two should always be used in unison.
The simplest way to explain the difference is to say that quality control is product oriented, while quality assurance is process oriented. Or to put this another way: quality control looks for defects in products and eliminates them, quality assurance prevents them from happening in the first place.
As you can imagine then, quality assurance is actually preferable for everyone involved, as it means you aren’t wasting materials or time producing products that have defects. A good manufacturing company should offer quality control on your behalf, and swallow the cost of replacing defective units – but in this case, you’ll still likely be paying for the privilege in inflated costs and there’s still a chance a few bad eggs will make it through the net (which is why you should have your own QC in place if possible).
If your manufacturer is dedicated to good QA though, they’ll be more efficient, which will mean there’s even less chance of a defective unit being sold with your branding on it, and you’ll probably not be charged as much for the service as a whole. QA requires a company to have a good management system, to use periodic performance audits, and to maintain efficient systems.
In conclusion then, QA and QC are really indispensable tools that can help you to be more efficient and to provide a better quality of product to your end user. When using any manufacturing company you should always speak to them about how they have implemented both these things, and you should be sure to do your own checks as well to be certain that nothing is making it through the cracks.
What do you think? Have you had any issues with quality control or assurance in the past? How did your organization handle it? As ever, let’s discuss it all and more in the comments section below! Also, subscribe to our FREE newsletter for more manufacturing tips.