Every business on Earth has to deal with some degree of quality control to ensure the products and services they deliver are both high-quality and compliant with local or international safety standards. Two terms which frequently come up in this area are quality compliance and quality management. Each plays an important role in keeping your products and services in check. In fact, many businesses use these terms interchangeably. Yet the subtle differences between them make for some important distinction when it comes to how you run your business.
Quality compliance is meeting safety and security regulations set by government agencies or the industry itself. Standards may range from how an item can be manufactured to proper storage conditions. Failure to comply with these standards can lead to fines, legal violations, and even production shutdowns. This is all done to protect consumers and end-users of products and services.
Regulatory compliance standards may be set by organizations such as:
There are also more specific organizations which vary depending on industry or country of origin. Within these organizations are a variety of safety substandards, often based on industry specifics. For example, the FDA uses a series of regulatory requirements labeled as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) to regulate food, drug, and cosmetics to ensure safety for consumers.
In slight contrast, quality management systems (QMS), sometimes called quality assurance, have to do with improving and perfecting the production methods used by a business, setting their own standards for which products are an acceptable level of quality. The goal here is to provide consumers with high-quality goods and services they will want to continue using.
For instance, quality management software might use modules to regulate Corrective and Preventive Action (CAPA), processes which correct nonconformances which may occur during production.
While quality management can improve product development, it can also appease stakeholders by increasing consumer satisfaction and, in turn, profitability. The better your quality processes, the better your product and services can be.
Already, quality management and compliance have a lot of obvious similarities. Each is aimed at creating or meeting quality standards which will produce safe, high-quality goods. They overlap significantly in trying to make end products and services better.
Quality management software, for instance, includes a variety of features for automating quality practices. This can range from document management, which tracks official safety documentation, to in-depth risk management and analysis to prevent workplace accidents. Notice how these features are safety related? That’s how they also apply to quality compliance systems.
In theory, being compliant with industry regulations should lead to good quality products. At the end of the day, both compliance and management are designed to help companies make quality products as safely as possible. It’s the method which makes the key difference between them.
After understanding the similarities, it’s important to look at the differences between compliance and management. One key way to tell the two apart is who is in control of the quality: compliance focuses on meeting standards set by others, while management focuses on setting and maintaining internal standards to improve customer satisfaction and, in turn, potential profits.
Knowing this simplified distinction makes it easier to understand the goals of each when it comes to production. Compliance is aimed at keeping your company in good standing when in relation to consumer safety and manufacturing regulations. Management would look for ways to automate production methods to be as efficient and effective as possible in order to consistently deliver high-quality products to your customers.
These differences can lead to different priorities when planning out your supply chain, manufacturing, delivery, or sales methods. In most businesses, a compliance manager would be in charge of ensuring a company operates within all necessary regulations and standards while a quality manager would be the one looking for ways to improve current processes to save time and money. The compliance manager would be actively seeking new information on new and changing safety standards set by government organizations or specific industry groups. They would then check the company is operating within those standards at all times. In contrast, the quality manager would look at opportunities to optimize internal processes based on employee or customer feedback.
Whether you need a quality compliance or management system will largely depend on your industry and internal company goals. Do you want to continually improve product quality for clients? Then a quality management system would be best for improving your manufacturing processes. Higher-quality products can lead to more effective production by eliminating errors, lowering overall costs.
Or are you operating within a highly controlled industry, one in which there are regular third-party audits governed by strict regulating agencies? Implementing a quality compliance system will be a must to avoid potential violations and expensive fines.
However, it’s common for businesses to utilize both, since just about every business will need to be compliant to some government agency’s safety regulations. As such, you will need some system to manage your compliance. Yet you’ll also want to provide your customers with the best goods and services, necessitating a quality management system.
For example, consider a healthcare provider who manufactures medical devices. They will need to meet quality compliance with ISO 13485 which is a voluntary standard covering medical devices. Yet this standard also promotes continual improvement, which can influence quality management. So any company manufacturing medical devices would operate best with a system for both management and compliance.
In short, you’ll want both quality management and compliance systems to operate your business as safely and successfully as possible. And due to the overlap between these two quality methods, many quality management software systems include tools for compliance control to help your company improve while adhering to regulatory standards.