Quality Assurance vs Quality Control: Key Similarities, Differences & Examples

Quality Assurance vs Quality Control: Key Similarities, Differences & Examples

Quality assurance and quality control are two pillars that uphold the integrity of any cannabis business. While they share a common goal – delivering safe and high-quality products – they play distinct roles in achieving that objective. In this guide, we’ll demystify the concepts of quality assurance and quality control, shedding light on their differences, importance, and how they work together to ensure excellence in the cannabis industry.

Click here to learn about the QAP Qualifications for cannabis processing license holders. This blog will explore these two concepts’ key similarities, differences, and examples in more detail. For help building a Quality Management System, or SOP, or to hire a Quality Assurance person for non-cannabis-regulated industries, contact our team at Quality Smart Solutions.

Quality Assurance: Building a Foundation of Confidence

Understanding Quality Assurance in the Cannabis Industry Quality assurance (QA) is the proactive approach that starts before a product is even made. It encompasses the processes, procedures, and protocols designed to prevent issues from arising. In the context of cannabis, QA involves setting comprehensive standards, creating SOPs, and implementing protocols that ensure each step of the production process aligns with these standards.

The Importance of Quality Assurance in Cannabis QA is all about preventing problems before they occur. By conducting regular audits, training employees, and monitoring processes, cannabis businesses can mitigate risks and maintain consistency. This approach fosters consumer trust, reduces wastage, and ultimately contributes to the success of the business.

Quality Control: Safeguarding Product Excellence

Unveiling Quality Control in Cannabis Operations Quality control (QC) is the hands-on aspect of ensuring product excellence. It involves the testing and inspection of products at various stages of production to identify any deviations from established standards. In the cannabis industry, this could mean testing for potency, contaminants, or other quality factors.

The Role of Quality Control in Cannabis QC acts as the final checkpoint before products reach consumers. Rigorous testing and inspections guarantee that products meet the defined standards. In a sector as delicate as cannabis, where safety is paramount, QC is the guardian that ensures products are safe, effective, and true to their labels.

Balancing Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Harmonizing QA and QC for Cannabis Success While QA and QC have distinct roles, they are interconnected. An effective QA program creates the framework for QC to thrive. By setting robust standards through QA, businesses provide the basis for QC to measure products against those standards. The synergy between the two ensures that the entire production process is seamless, transparent, and accountable.

What are the similarities and differences?

Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) are both essential components of a quality management system (QMS), and they play distinct but complementary roles in ensuring that products, processes, and services meet specified quality standards. Here are the key similarities and differences between QA and QC:


  1. Quality Focus: Both QA and QC are focused on maintaining and improving the quality of products, processes, and services to meet customer and regulatory requirements.
  2. Process Improvement: QA and QC contribute to continuous improvement by identifying areas for enhancement and implementing corrective and preventive actions.
  3. Customer Satisfaction: QA and QC ensure that products or services meet or exceed customer expectations and requirements.
  4. Documentation: Both QA and QC involve the creation and maintenance of documentation to record quality-related activities, standards, procedures, and outcomes.


  • Scope:
    • Quality Assurance (QA) encompasses all activities and processes that ensure the overall quality management system is effective. It involves setting up functions, guidelines, and standards to prevent defects and ensure compliance with established quality requirements.
    • Quality Control (QC) focuses on inspecting, testing, and evaluating products, components, or processes to identify and rectify defects. QC activities are often conducted at different stages of production or service delivery.
  • Objective:
    • The main objective of QA is to prevent defects and ensure that processes are efficient and effective. QA aims to create a framework for incorporating quality into all product or service development stages.
    • The primary objective of QC is to identify and rectify defects or deviations from quality standards after products or services have been produced or delivered.
  • Time of Application:
    • QA activities are typically applied throughout the product lifecycle, from design and development to production and post-market support.
    • QC activities are usually applied during or after the production or service delivery phase to assess product or service quality.
  • Responsibility:
    • QA is a collective responsibility that involves everyone within an organization. It’s about creating a culture of quality and ensuring that quality requirements are met at every level.
    • QC is typically the responsibility of specialized individuals or teams that perform inspections, tests, and evaluations to identify defects and ensure that products or services meet established standards.
  • Approach:
    • QA emphasizes process- and system-level approaches to quality. It involves setting up standardized procedures, best practices, and continuous improvement initiatives.
    • QC employs testing, inspection, and sampling techniques to assess the quality of specific products or processes.

In summary, while QA and QC have similar goals of achieving and maintaining high-quality products and services, they have different scopes and approaches. QA focuses on preventing defects and ensuring a robust quality management system. In contrast, QC identifies and addresses weaknesses through testing and inspection. QA and QC are integral to product and service quality and customer satisfaction.

How do I create a robust quality management system?

Creating a robust Quality Management System (QMS) ensures that your organization consistently delivers high-quality products and services while meeting regulatory requirements. A robust QMS helps establish a culture of quality, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction. 

Here are the steps to creating a robust QMS:

1. Understand Regulatory Requirements:

  • Identify the relevant industry regulations, standards, and guidelines for your organization’s products or services. This includes rules from government agencies such as the FDA, ISO standards, or specific industry requirements.

2. Define Your Quality Policy and Objectives:

  • Develop a clear quality policy that outlines your organization’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Define measurable quality objectives that align with your business goals.

3. Establish Quality Processes:

  • Identify the critical processes within your organization that impact quality. Document these processes, including inputs, outputs, roles, responsibilities, and interactions. Ensure methods are standardized and consistent.

4. Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs):

  • Create detailed SOPs for each critical process. SOPs should outline step-by-step instructions, guidelines, and best practices for carrying out tasks consistently.

5. Assign Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities for quality-related activities. Assign individuals accountable for specific aspects of quality management, such as quality assurance, quality control, and continuous improvement.

6. Implement Document Control:

  • Establish a document control system to manage and maintain all quality-related documents, including policies, procedures, forms, and records. Ensure that documents are controlled, up-to-date, and accessible to authorized personnel.

7. Train and Educate Employees:

  • Train employees on quality principles, processes, and their roles in the QMS. Training ensures that everyone understands their responsibilities and contributes to maintaining quality.

8. Establish Measurement and Monitoring:

  • Implement a system for measuring and monitoring key quality performance indicators (KPIs). Regularly track and analyze data to identify trends and areas for improvement.

9. Conduct Internal Audits:

  • Perform regular internal audits to assess the effectiveness of your QMS processes. Audits help identify gaps, non-conformities, and opportunities for improvement.

10. Implement Corrective and Preventive Actions:

  • Develop a process for identifying, investigating, and addressing non-conformities or issues that arise. Implement corrective and preventive actions (CAPA) to address root causes and prevent recurrence.

11. Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement:

  • Encourage employees at all levels to contribute ideas for process improvement. Implement a structured approach to continuous improvement, such as Lean, Six Sigma, or Total Quality Management.

12. Ensure Supplier and Vendor Quality:

  • Extend your quality focus to suppliers and vendors. Establish criteria for selecting, evaluating, and monitoring suppliers to ensure they meet your quality standards.

13. Management Review and Leadership Engagement:

  • Regularly review the QMS with top management to assess its effectiveness and alignment with business goals. Leadership engagement is crucial for driving a culture of quality throughout the organization.

Creating a robust QMS requires commitment, resources, and ongoing dedication to quality improvement. It’s essential to tailor your QMS to your organization’s specific needs and continually adapt it to changes in regulations, technologies, and customer expectations.

Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control examples

Here are some examples to illustrate the differences between Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC):

Quality Assurance (QA) Examples:

  • Process Design and Documentation:
    • QA involves developing standardized processes and documenting procedures to ensure consistency and adherence to quality standards. For example, a pharmaceutical company creates detailed protocols for drug manufacturing processes to ensure consistent quality across batches.
  • Training and Competence:
    • QA ensures that employees are trained and competent in their roles. A software development company conducts regular training sessions for its programmers to keep them updated on coding best practices and quality standards.
  • Audits and Inspections:
    • QA includes conducting internal audits to assess compliance with established processes and standards. An automotive manufacturer audits production lines to verify that assembly processes follow specified quality guidelines.
  • Risk Management:
    • QA involves identifying potential risks and implementing strategies to mitigate them. In the aerospace industry, a manufacturer conducts risk assessments to identify potential issues in aircraft components and takes measures to address them before they become problems.
  • Continuous Improvement:
    • QA focuses on the ongoing improvement of processes and systems. A food processing company regularly reviews its production processes to identify inefficiencies and implement changes that increase product consistency and reduce waste.

Quality Control (QC) Examples:

  • Product Inspection:
    • QC involves inspecting finished products to identify defects or deviations from quality standards. A textile manufacturer scans each batch of fabric for flaws, such as tears or irregularities, before sending them to customers.
  • Testing:
    • QC includes conducting tests to ensure that products meet specifications. A pharmaceutical company tests the potency and purity of each batch of medications before releasing them for distribution.
  • Sampling and Analysis:
    • QC often involves taking samples from a production batch and analyzing them for quality. A beverage company collects samples of bottled drinks and tests them for taste, color, and consistency.
  • Measurement and Verification:
    • QC uses measurement and verification techniques to ensure products meet specific dimensions or performance criteria. An electronics manufacturer measures the accuracy and precision of components in circuit boards.
  • Final Product Approval:
    • QC includes the final review and approval of products before they are released to customers. An automobile manufacturer performs a comprehensive inspection and testing of each vehicle to ensure it meets safety and quality standards before it is shipped to dealerships.

In summary, Quality Assurance establishes processes, guidelines, and standards to prevent defects and ensure consistency. At the same time, Quality Control involves specific activities such as inspections, testing, and measurements to identify and rectify flaws in products or processes. Both QA and QC are essential for maintaining overall development and service quality.

Conclusion: Elevating Cannabis Excellence

Quality assurance and quality control are the yin and yang of successful cannabis businesses. QA sets the foundation for quality, while QC safeguards it. By understanding and implementing these principles, cannabis businesses can ensure that every product that leaves their facility is of the highest caliber, meeting both regulatory requirements and consumer expectations. In a rapidly evolving industry, the commitment to quality assurance and quality control is what sets thriving businesses apart from the rest.

Whether you’re a cannabis cultivator, manufacturer, or distributor, embracing both QA and QC isn’t just a choice – it’s a commitment to excellence that resonates with your consumers and elevates the entire industry.

How we can help you

At Cannabis License Experts, we provide you with the guidance to plan your cannabis business, acquire funding, navigate the legal requirements, and acquire the appropriate license for your operations. As the Canadian cannabis industry develops, more and more licensed producers will be needed to meet the demands of consumers.

Cannabis License Experts offers support from day one of starting your cannabis business, including strategic planning, floor plan preparation, site audits, SOPs, Preventive Control Plans (PCPs) and more.

Our Edibles Compliance division can provide you with a solid plan for your edibles business to help get your products on store shelves.

Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you get started on the path to obtaining a processing license and running a successful cannabis business!

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