12 January 2012

Reader's question: QA and QC Managers

QI'm a Quality Manager of a manufacturing company, and the group involved in QA activities and the one performing QC activities, both report to me. My question is: Can the same person be manager of QA and QC departments? Or each department must have its own manager? ~Greg~

A: In my opinion, the ideal situation would be the existence of 2 separate departments, QA and QC, each one with its own manager. However, it depends on tons of factors like: how big the company is, how many people are involved in quality, how committed is the upper management (CEO) to support quality tasks, the times of financial crunch such as now, etc.

Based on my experience in the software field; in the company I worked for, there was just one quality department with one Quality Manager; who was responsible, among other responsibilities, to represent the organization on matters pertaining to quality management, and provide expert assistance to project personnel like auditors on QA issues, and software tester on QC issues (she wore multiple hats!). Everything worked perfect.

However, I think in the manufacturing environment, things are little different from the software one.

Let me cite an example to clarify my point: In a software project, one of the customer’s requirements was “Excellent-user experience or friendly Graphical user interface”. You, as QA personnel can check if the requirement is traced along the project as the process specifies, and as QC personnel you will check if that requirement passed all the testing specified; both can report to the same manager, no problem with that.

In the manufacturing environment, there are specific requirements, that are more precise; I will say no that much subjective than some software requirements like the one I cited above. Let’s see the following example I read on a management consultant blog:

“There is a QA person who determined that milk during the production of xxx product must always be between 38 degrees and 42 degrees; and there was an inspector (QC) who samples the milk to ensure that requirement is met. Now imagine if the QA and QC people both report to the same person. What happens when the milk is consistently over 42 degrees? Does she change the standard or does she find a solution to the problem?

In that case, the Quality manager will face a dilemma; so in those environments is why QA and QC should typically not be managed by the same person. That doesn’t mean that in software, that kind of dilemma never occurs.

So, we have to analyze the pros and cons in each scenario; unfortunately there is not a phrase or book that tell you the correct way to do things, when there are so many factors to keep in mind.

Something I would like to add on before finish is, that some people think that the same person can be manager of both departments in every environment, as long as he/she provides an unbiased criterion, independent oversight, delivers ethics and creates a transparent-healthy environment.

You can read the post about the differences between QA and QC here.

So, what do you think about it?

NOTEIf you are a member of the ASQ group in LinkedIn, you can read more answers to this question by clicking here.


  1. Great article, Jimena. I would agree that having the same manager overseeing both QA and QC has a number of different factors...and in my opinion, the most important would be the size of the company. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Eden for stopping by and share your thoughts.

      Keep in contact! Added me on LinkedIn, it will be a pleasure for me having you on my network.


  2. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    - Pete Baston :Interesting dilemma and bluntly common in our industry. It really depends on the human in the slot and their professional integrity. Personally I would not make a coment on the process without meeting the person and asking them how they would handle the departments. Someone who is a Q Traffic cop would not work, someone passionate about best practices and Quality would. Real quality starts in the board room and flows down and whatever department is doing whatever it should follow those actions. Far to often the paper is driving the humans and the paper value is given more cred than the humans.
    At a convention last year a major focal topic was " should QC that is really testing as with software stop calling itself a quality process when it is a controlled (sic) testing process. The other dilemma is can an industry that makes its clients sign a EULA and pretend that there product is not a product claim to follow any real Quality Assurance program period.

    - Timothy Miller: I work at a site that has two manufacturing shops, each producing different products for the aviation industry. We have a central quality function, QA, that I oversee. Each factory then has a Quality Manager and a Quality Control team. I report to the Quality Director and the factory quality managers report to the factory VPs. When there was only one shop, QA reported to the Quality Manager, who oversaw all quality functions. But when the second shop was added the complexity of each position grew, so separation was created to better service our customers' needs, and it made logical sense to centralize the QA function.

    - Jagdish Patel: I think, both units should be separate. In pharma/bio industry the 21CFR58 states:
    "For any given study, the quality assurance unit shall be entirely separate from and independent of the personnel engaged in the direction and conduct of that study."
    So, if QC is analyzing non-clinical study, QA unit that performs quality assurance must be separate.
    I am not sure about regulation in other industry.


  3. - Douglas Thomas: First, the word "control" was removed from the official terminology back in the early 1990s. The name of our organization was changed from American Society for Quality Control to American Society for Quality.
    The rationale, which made a lot of sense, was that too much attention was being given to the team members who inspected the work, rather than the overall process of thinking quality as a description of what the organization does.
    And, for those who have been around for about 20 or more years, wasn't it much harder to do the quality job at the organizational (i.e. management) level with everyone in the company thinking of the quality person as the source of most of their headaches? Not many instances of true friendship between co-workers because of that perception.
    Now to the question: In the performance of your job, as described by your employer, you are ensuring the integrity of the work on the product or service. But, in so doing, you are the production area on-scene representative of the Quality Department.
    The two functions are not mutually exclusive. The "assurance" is what you are doing in your area, under the direction of the Quality Director. This is more of a long-term, continuing attention to overall company policies and mission. The "control" is your minute-by-minute job performance as you move around the work area.
    No conflict, but should you seek other pastures, in order to show your professionalism I would leave the "control" part out of your resume, unless you must use it as your job title.

    As I have tried to remind the members of this forum, the word control was dropped back about 1993. ASQ used to be ASQC. The thinking was, in part, that the word "Control" was an automatic turn-off to other team members, as it implied that a "Big Brother" type was just waiting to pounce on the slightest deviation from a process or procedure. It did not work very well when team building. I realize that a lot of companies still have formal departments called Control, and I wonder how their managers feel when the company insists their quality function still retain that outmoded word.
    Whatever, in my humble opinion, all quality functions should be under one individual, and if multiple sites, then each site needs a manager, and they all report to a Director of Quality, or a similarly-titled person. How else can the person in charge of a vital function exert oversight and direction? If a quality person, whether called control or assurance, must report to a non-professional team member, i.e. the Production Manager, isn't that like reporting to the person responsible for what they are inspecting? I don't see how it can work, effectively. And what happens when there is a conflict, such as a process document? What if the manager to whom the control personnel reports to objects to what the Quality Manager has produced? OK, I agree all such effort should be the result of cooperation, but the QM is very tied in to the customer, who expects to be communicating with the person in charge of quality. If that person in fact does not have total control, what is the customer to think? How about when the customer is the DoD?

  4. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    - Lawrence Pommier: In some organizations, Quality Control is unfortunately relegated to the function of policing production that relies on the Quality Department to throw up the stop sign when production has crossed the boundaries separating acceptable and unacceptable product. In such organizations it is common to hear the excuse, "Quality did not tell me it was bad," when a defect results in a rejected lot and the QC inspector that "missed" the problem is first on the list to get chastised. Hence the fostering of the adversarial relationship between the quality and production organizations that Douglas refers to above. Other organizations prefer a definition of Quality Assurance to mean those activities that are preformed proactively. They concentrate on building quality into the process in an effort to shift responsibility away from preventing the junk from getting out the door to instead focusing on eliminating the causes of defects and their prevention thereof. In such scenarios the Quality organization crosses functional lines to assist in the creation of robust systems and processes that assure the existence of an environment that is conducive to the manufacture of product that satisfies the customers requirements.
    Unfortunately, there are an infinite number of definitions along the continuum between the two mind sets with each definition being a function of the bias of individual philosophies and business strategies. In my last position my biggest challenge was moving the organization from the "Control" philosophy to the "Assure" side of thinking. This can be an uphill battle if your in an organization that is reluctant to shift the responsibility for creating good product to the part of the organization that is making the product. What? Believe it or not there are still too many organizations stuck in the Control mode.

  5. Thanks everyone!
    No doubt about it. In my previous job, QA department and Software development department were not "friends" at all. So, my biggest challenge was to help software engineers understand the importance of implementing processes with the main objective fulfill and exceed customer expectations. Even I got great results, it was a hard job to make clear that the QA is not a "tons of documents to fill out or bureaucratic process", and that "Testing is not the responsible for every problem a software has".

  6. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    Douglas Thomas: Jimena and Lawrence have hit on the main problem areas, and a continuing headache for those charged with assuring the customer will get what was desired. The old saying about leadership from above is really true here - the quality person cannot be considered to be "the enemy". The boss has to lead and ensure that everyone values and respects the fellow members of the team.

  7. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    - Kenneth Scott: Based on my last 8 years of experience the answer is yes, QC is a critical part of overall QA. QC is traditionally a quality inspection and/or production responsibility. QA on the other hand involves the active participation and buy in of many other functional areas and requires Quality to interact with these funtions at a different level.

    - Mark Klugiewicz: Of course it can work either way but my personal preference would be to have the same manager to avoid competing interests. What I mean by that is, the better the QA system, ideally at least, the less reliance must be placed on the QC efforts. With separate managers, a potential reduction in QC reliance/resources could become a power struggle Whereas, under the same management, a reduction in QC activity would be seen as a business performance improvement and savings due to successful and effective QA/QM system implementation.

  8. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    - Jason Forgette: I believe that a good Quality Manager should be in control of both QA and QC. I think of it in terms of, QA is the input to the process or procedure and the QC it the verification or analysis of the output. I believe that all too often, we are solely concerned with the ideology or just the verification in the Quality industry, and that we forget to merge the two in order to achieve true innovation.

    - Rakesh Kumar: QA & QC reporting to the same manager is an existing pracice in most of the organisation. It is good.
    An able manager shall distinguish QA & QC roles, creates a conducive work environment , good reporting system & most important is to coach the team.
    Effective Job Rotation between QA & QC personnels faciliates the concept of "Use experience & Know how".

    - Gururaj Kulkarni: Both qa/qc team should report to QA/QC manager in Construction Industry on Individual Projects only.but other industries will differ based on magnitude of Industry and theit System.

  9. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    - Dan Strongin • It is a ping pong ball, as both will have advantages and disadvantages. Better would be to follow Deming's lead and have no QA or QC department, but integrate it into the DNA of the company.

    Any time you create a department you create a barrier and silo mentality, forcing QA/QC into inspecting after the fact, and police work, which always is at risk of generating fear, and can lead to manipulating the data or the process to stay "on goal."

    Self-inspection, where the person with the statistical ability is a resource to the ones actually doing the work is far superior, but must include investment in training, people and total commitment from management.

    Most things can be done through the development of teams, close communication and simple charting using only pencil and paper, as in here: http://artoflean.com/blog1/?p=34 note the pencil and the fact that the operator is doing the inspection.

    The inherent problem with command and control structures is fear. You end up with a few empowered individuals, and hundreds of people working well below their natural potential.

  10. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    - kenny prejean: QC and QA work together and report to the upper management. Quality department has the upper hand but seperated for good reasons.

    - Bert Dorman: I agree that QA and QC should report to the same manager, and that manager can take the concerns/problems up to top management. While Dan S. stated that quality should be intergrated into the DNA of a company, it still doesn't hurt to have QA/QC verify quality elements of processes and product release. By integrating quality into processes and having employees responsible for the quality of the product they produce; decreasses the number of QA/QC personnel you need.

  11. Comments from ASQ LinkedIn group:

    - Jason Rao: When we look back the quality development history, the concept changed from QC to QA. In my understanding, QC is more about in process quality activities, such as inspection, SPC, etc. QA is a higher level which requesting a full picture in your mind on how to build a system that assure the quality goal of the company be achieved.

    - Rakesh Kumar: Hello Jimena,
    This is an interesting queastion.
    It is advantageous to work that way provided the personnel is unbiased.
    As QC performs as per QA , we get direct feedback on effectivenss on QA planning and thus strengthens QA process.
    We should have a better time management with us.

    - Eric C.: I prefer not to differentiate the two in terms of job title. I am looking at it as task which involves ensuring the implementation of quality goals and objectives and the exercise of ability and skills to verify conformance to specfication requirements. What matters is how you regard the responsibility in line with the organizations quality policy. Finally, I think to most if not all, these two are inseparable.