QA/QC is the combination of quality assurance, the process or set of processes used to measure and assure the quality of a product, and quality control, the process of ensuring products and services meet consumer expectations.
Quality has been defined as fitness for use, conformance to requirements, and the pursuit of excellence. Even though the concept of quality has existed from early times, the study and definition of quality have been given prominence only in the last century.
1920s: quality control. Following the Industrial Revolution and the rise of mass production, it became important to better define and control the quality of products. Originally, the goal of quality was to ensure that engineering requirements were met in final products. Later, as manufacturing processes became more complex, quality developed into a discipline for controlling process variation as a means of producing quality products.
1950s: quality assurance and auditing. The quality profession expanded to include the quality assurance and quality audit functions. The drivers of independent verification of quality were primarily industries in which public health and safety were paramount.
1980s: total quality management (TQM). Businesses realized that quality wasn’t just the domain of products and manufacturing processes, and total quality management (TQM) principles were developed to include all processes in a company, including management functions and service sectors.
Quality management today. There have been many interpretations of what quality is, beyond the dictionary definition of “general goodness.” Other terms describing quality include reduction of variation, value-added, and conformance to specifications.
ISO 9000:2015: Quality management systems—Fundamentals and vocabulary defines quality as the “degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of an object fulfills requirements.” Simply stated, quality is meeting customer requirements.
A system of quality management includes all activities of the overall management function that determine the quality policy, objectives, and responsibilities and their implementation. As ISO 9000 explains, a management system provides the means of establishing a policy and objectives and the means to achieve those objectives.