Quality Control vs. Quality Assurance: What’s the Difference?

By United Language Group

You’ve probably heard the term QA/QC, which stands for “Quality Assurance” and “Quality Control.” Together, they comprise what is known as a “total quality management system” (QMS), a comprehensive set of guidelines intended to reduce product and service error while improving customer satisfaction. The language services industry works on so many high-stakes projects that extensive use of quality control and quality assurance measures are essential to project success.

Having an established quality management system is one of the biggest benefits of working with a Language Solutions Partner (LSP) rather than a free online translator or a contract linguist. Many LSPs are certified by ISO 9001:2015, which provides international quality control and quality assurance measures to address risks and opportunities associated with doing business, meeting regulatory requirements, and maintaining high customer satisfaction.

Although quality control and quality assurance are very similar, there are a number of key differences between the two. The simplified version is that quality control is about output, while quality assurance is about process.  Here is a quick breakdown of how each is used, and how they work together during the translation process.

Quality Control in the Translation Industry

Quality control occurs at the end of the translation process, when the final document or product is inspected to ensure it is error-free and adheres to all requirements. This might include making sure that a medical device adheres to the proper labelling specifications as set forth by MDR requirements, a newly translated website has the correct responsiveness and aspect ratios for different devices, or all copies of a newly translated technical manual include all of its pages. Quality control ensures that the client, end user, and any relevant regulatory authorities are satisfied with the output.

Although important, quality control is also limited in scope. Because quality control measures are put in place at the end of a project, it is like using a high-quality spell check after writing a college essay — it catches mistakes at the end, but doesn’t help the student improve his or her writing skills. In order to help the student (or in the language services industry’s case, the translator) improve his/her process and have a stronger foundation for future projects, quality assurance must come into play.

Quality Assurance in the Translation Industry

Quality assurance occurs at the beginning of the project and outlines the plan, guidelines, execution, and documentation required to reach a project’s desired quality. Unlike quality control, quality assurance is proactive and helps the project team catch mistakes throughout the translation process.

Quality assurance also enables the team to reorient the project and obtain additional resources as needed to improve the translation process. Improvements to the process might include incorporating technology such as machine translation or glossaries to expedite the translation, providing additional training for existing linguists, or hiring new specialists for the project. These actions are likely to reduce error and thus save time and money.

Quality assurance also has a significant human element. Most LSPs will have an extensive quality assurance process with multiple sets of eyes on the translation, including translators who are native speakers in the target language, editors, a desktop publishing team for formatting and localization, proofreaders, a project manager, and in-country reviewers. With so many specialists involved, it is less likely that mistakes filter through by the time the product is ready for quality control.

By using a combination of quality control and quality assurance measures, LSPs can complete projects as efficiently and accurately as possible.

Interested in learning more about how the ULG team uses QA and QC for client projects? Contact us today for a consultation.

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