Quality assurance and quality improvement are closely related concepts having to do with quality management of a manufacturing production process. Quality assurance is related to overseeing of the existing quality control processes whereas quality improvement is about improving upon production process and results.
Quality Assurance Basics
One word that distinguishes quality assurance from other quality control concepts is "confidence." Quality assurance is about giving confidence to potential buyers that production processes are designed to optimize production and efficiency. Manufacturing can only offer this assurance if leaders are certain themselves in specific control processes.
Quality Improvement Basics
Quality improvement is more concerned with the actual effectiveness of quality controls and effective production processes. Companies that are concerned with maintaining a strong reputation for quality must constantly look to improve on best practices for production. This means monitoring quality and efficiency performance of equipment, employees and processes. Typically, companies want to improve both the quality of production and the efficiency in an ongoing pursuit of optimization.
Naturally, assuring standards of production quality in the present is critical to getting and retaining buyers. Quality improvement processes are necessary for retaining buyers and keeping up with competitors. If your company does not look for new and better ways to produce products, your competition will. This creates a competitive disadvantage and can make your quality performance poor and your efficiency rates low compared to industry standards.
Industry standards are baseline measure of expected performance that individual companies can measure themselves against to find opportunities for improvement. For instance, if an industry standard is to produce widgets with a certain size-to-weight ratio, your company would want to assure customers that you have the production capabilities to make widgets at or above the standard. You also want to monitor production to find improvements in your processes that allow you to stay ahead of increased standards so your widget size-to-weight ratios do not fall below future standards.