Quality costs

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In process improvement efforts, quality costs or cost of quality is a means to quantify the total cost of quality-related efforts and deficiencies. It was first described by Armand V. Feigenbaum in a 1956 Harvard Business Review article. [1]


Prior to its introduction, the general perception was that higher quality requires higher costs, either by buying better materials or machines or by hiring more labor. [2] Furthermore, while cost accounting had evolved to categorize financial transactions into revenues, expenses, and changes in shareholder equity, it had not attempted to categorize costs relevant to quality, which is especially important given that most people involved in manufacturing never set hands on the product. [3] By classifying quality-related entries from a company's general ledger, management and quality practitioners can evaluate investments in quality based on cost improvement and profit enhancement. [4]


Feigenbaum defined the following quality cost areas: [5]

Cost areaDescriptionExamples
Costs of control (Costs of conformance)Prevention costsArise from efforts to keep defects from occurring at all
  • Quality planning
  • Statistical process control
  • Investment in quality-related information systems
  • Quality training and workforce development
  • Product-design verification
  • Systems development and management
Appraisal costsArise from detecting defects via inspection, test, audit
  • Test and inspection of purchased materials
  • Acceptance testing
  • Inspection
  • Testing
  • Checking labor
  • Setup for test or inspection
  • Test and inspection equipment
  • Quality audits
  • Field testing
Costs of failure of control (Costs of non-conformance)Internal failure costsArise from defects caught internally and dealt with by discarding or repairing the defective items
  • Scrap
  • Rework
  • Material procurement costs
External failure costsArise from defects that actually reach customers
  • Complaints in warranty
  • Complaints out of warranty
  • Product service
  • Product liability
  • Product recall
  • Loss of reputation

The central theme of quality improvement is that larger investments in prevention drive even larger savings in quality-related failures and appraisal efforts. Feigenbaum's categorization allows the organization to verify this for itself. [6] When confronted with mounting numbers of defects, organizations typically react by throwing more and more people into inspection roles. But inspection is never completely effective, so appraisal costs stay high as long as the failure costs stay high. The only way out of the predicament is to establish the "right" amount of prevention.

Once categorized, quality costs can serve as a means to measure, analyze, budget, and predict. [7]

Variants of the concept of quality costs include cost of poor quality and categorization based on account type, described by Joseph M. Juran. [8]

Cost areaExamples
Tangible costs—factory accounts
  • Materials scrapped or junked
  • Labor and burden on product scrapped or junked
  • Labor, materials, and burden necessary to effect repairs on salvageable product
  • Extra operations added because of presence of defectives
  • Burden arising from excess production capacity necessitated by defectives
  • Excess inspection costs
  • Investigation of causes of defects
Tangible costs—sales accounts
  • Discount on seconds
  • Customer complaints
  • Charges to quality guarantee account
Intangible costs
  • Delays and stoppages caused by defectives
  • Customer good will
  • Loss in morale due to friction between departments

ISO 9004 also accounts for "external assurance" quality costs to account for customer– or government–required certifications (e.g., for UL, RoHS, or even ISO 9000 itself). [9]


To ensure impartiality, reporting should be performed by the accounting department. [10] Additionally, to make it more understandable to a wider audience, the total cost of quality should be reported as a percent of sales, cost of sales, cost of manufacturing, or for firms in the service industry, cost of operations. [11]

See also

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  1. Feigenbaum, Armand V. (November–December 1956), "Total Quality Control", Harvard Business Review , 34 (6)
  2. Feigenbaum, Armand V. (1991), Total Quality Control (3 ed.), New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 109, ISBN   978-0-07-112612-0, OCLC   71640975
  3. Crosby, Philip B. (1979), Quality Is Free, New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, p.  121, ISBN   978-0-07-014512-2, OCLC   3843884
  4. Arnold, Kenneth L. (1994), The Manager's Guide to ISO 9000, New York: Free Press, p.  244, ISBN   978-0-02-901035-8, OCLC   29845272, The main objective of quality cost reporting is to provide means for evaluating effectiveness and establishing the basis for internal improvement programmes.
  5. Feigenbaum, Armand V. (1991), Total Quality Control (3 ed.), New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 111, ISBN   978-0-07-112612-0, OCLC   71640975
  6. Feigenbaum, Armand V. (1991), Total Quality Control (3 ed.), New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 113, ISBN   978-0-07-112612-0, OCLC   71640975
  7. Feigenbaum, Armand V. (1991), Total Quality Control (3 ed.), New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 130–131, ISBN   978-0-07-112612-0, OCLC   71640975
  8. Juran, Joseph M. (1962), Quality Control Handbook (2 ed.), New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 1–38–1–39, OCLC   64292499
  9. Arnold, Kenneth L. (1994), The Manager's Guide to ISO 9000, New York: Free Press, pp.  244–245, ISBN   978-0-02-901035-8, OCLC   29845272, External assurance quality costs are those costs relating to the demonstration and proof required as objective evidence by customers, including particular and additional quality assurance provisions, procedures, data, demonstration tests, and assessments (e.g., the cost of testing for specific safety characteristics by recognized independent testing bodies.
  10. Crosby, Philip B. (1979), Quality Is Free, New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, p.  123, ISBN   978-0-07-014512-2, OCLC   3843884
  11. Crosby, Philip B. (1979), Quality Is Free, New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, p.  122, ISBN   978-0-07-014512-2, OCLC   3843884