What is the Cost of Quality

The term “Cost of quality” refers to the expenditure made in preventing, detecting, and correcting defects in products.

These costs can be far-ranging and include the costs of prevention, appraisal, and internal/external failure costs, as well as the total effectiveness of the business and its customer satisfaction.

As we know, Quality Management is the backbone of any business; when well-implemented, measures will positively affect everything from customer satisfaction to efficiency in operations.

In this article, we will explore the cost of quality, what contributes, how it can be calculated, its components, and how businesses can effectively manage it.

We’ll be covering:

  • What is the cost of Quality
  • The Four Types of Cost of Quality
    • Prevention Costs, 
    • Appraisal Costs, 
    • Internal Failure Costs
    • External Failure Costs.
  • Why we Manage the Cost of Quality
  • Calculating the Cost of Quality
  • Strategies to Reduce the Cost of Quality?
  • Cost of quality examples

What is the cost of Quality? 

As we described in our introduction, the Cost of Quality (often referred to as CoQ) refers to the total costs incurred by an organization to prevent, detect, and rectify product defects. 

It refers to all activities and processes that ensure products or services meet customer requirements and appropriate industry standards. 

CoQ is typically divided into the following distinct areas:

  • Prevention Costs, 
  • Appraisal Costs, 
  • Internal Failure Costs
  • External Failure Costs.

It’s important that businesses have a thorough understanding of these in order that they can both identify costs whichappear and identify areas of inefficiency. This understanding can help prioritize quality improvement initiatives, and ultimately result in savings.

The Four Types of Cost of Quality

Let’s now have a look at these categories in a little more detail:

Prevention Costs

Prevention costs are costs that are incurred to avoid defects in products or services.  These costs are associated with activities that prevent quality problems before they occur.

By preventing and therefore significantly reducing defects we can significantly impact our organziations quality and thier contribution to total cost of quality.

Some examples of prevention costs include:

– Thorough preventative maintenance and inspection of equipment

– Quality training programs for employees

– Process improvement initiatives

– Quality planning and control procedures

– Supplier quality assurance

Appraisal Costs

Appraisal costs are associated with activities such as measuring/assuring products and/or monitoring activities to ensure that products or services meet appropriate quality standards. 

These costs are incurred to detect defects at various stages of production and before delivery to the customer.

Some examples of appraisal costs include:

– Inspection and testing of materials and products

– Quality audits and assessments

– Calibration of measuring equipment

– In-process and final inspection

– Quality control personnel salaries

Internal Failure Costs

Internal failure costs arise from defects that are identified before the deliverables (products or services) reach the customer. 

Some examples include:

– Rework and repair of defective products

– Scrap and waste materials

– Downtime due to quality issues

– Re-inspection and re-testing

– Corrective action activities

Unsurprisingly this area often gets significant focus with many businesses prioritizing this above all else often because itsperceived to be the most visible.

External Failure Costs

The final costs are those that expand beyond the factory walls of the business and occur when defects are discovered after the products or services have been delivered to the customer.

Some of these may be complex and some may result in commercial challenge (i.e. warranty claims may be refuted) and the impact of these can be substantial, not only from a monetary perspective (i.e. in fixing the issues) but in terms of the actual impact of the customer through impacts to satisfaction, relationships and reputation.

Examples include:

– Product returns and replacements

– Warranty claims

– Customer complaints handling

– Legal liabilities and settlements

– Loss of customer trust and business

Why Manage the Cost of Quality

Being aware of and managing the cost of quality is crucial for any business looking for long-term success. 

It necessitates investing in quality management; the amount of this can sometimes be a bone of contention for leadership and for some organizations it remains a balance of risk vs reward.

However, effective control minimizes rework, returns, and warranty claims, thereby saving costs and protecting the company’s reputation. 

Additionally, high-quality standards foster customer loyalty and can provide a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Ultimately, a strategic approach to quality management contributes significantly to a company’s profitability and sustainable growth.

Calculating the Cost of Quality

Calculating the cost of quality involves quantifying the costs associated with each of the four categories described earlier. 

This requires detailed data collection and analysis across various departments and processes.

As a result, it’s not always easy, and some costs may prove challenging to verify.   

However, by encouraging transparency around costs, making collection simpler (often at the point of error detection) and fostering internal processes to support cost collection, businesses can make the process less challenging.

Let’s take a look at the steps involved:

Identify and Categorize Costs

Start by identifying all quality-related costs and categorizing them into prevention, appraisal, internal failure, and external failure costs.

Collect Data

Gather data on the identified costs from relevant departments such as manufacturing, quality control, customer service, and finance.

Analyze Costs: – Analyze the collected data to determine the total cost of quality and the proportion of each category. This helps in understanding where the majority of costs are incurred and which areas need improvement.

Benchmarking -Compare your CoQ with industry standards or competitors in order to compare performance whilst also enabling you to identify areas for improvement.

Monitoring – Regularly monitor and review CoQ to track the effectiveness of quality improvement initiatives, understanding what works and what requires re-thinking.

Strategies to Reduce the Cost of Quality?

Reducing the cost of quality involves implementing effective quality management practices, controls and continuous improvement initiatives. 

Issues, of course, will arise and it’s down to how the company approaches thier correction – i.e. a temporary sticking plaster is unlikely to make a dent in long term cost of quality rather than irradication and sustainment will.

Here are some strategies to consider:

Invest in Prevention

Investing in preventive measures is one of the most effective ways to reduce CoQ. By preventing defects from occurring in the first place, businesses can save on costly rework, scrap, and customer returns.  This includes:

– Implementing robust quality training programs

– Conducting regular process audits and improvements

– Ensuring supplier quality through stringent selection and monitoring

– Utilizing preventive maintenance for equipment

Use appropriate appraisal activities.

While appraisal costs are necessary, they should be optimized to ensure the efficient detection of defects without excessive spending.  This can be achieved by:

– Implementing automated inspection and testing systems

– Using statistical process control (SPC) to monitor production quality

– Regularly calibrating and maintaining inspection equipment

– Conducting risk-based audits to focus on critical areas

Focus on Improvement

Continuous process improvement is key to reducing internal and external failure costs.  There are various techniques fromLean Manufacturing to VSM and TQM that can be utilised when identifying and eliminating process inefficiencies.  Thisincludes:

– Analyzing and optimizing production processes

– Implementing root cause analysis to identify and address underlying issues

– Encouraging a culture of continuous improvement throughout the orgnaization

– Using data-driven decision-making to drive process enhancements

Don’t forget Supplier Quality Management.

Poor supplier quality can significantly impact the overall cost of quality. To ensure high-quality inputs, businesses should:

– Establish clear quality requirements and standards for suppliers

– Conduct regular supplier audits and assessments

– Develop strong relationships with suppliers to encourage quality improvements

– Implement supplier development programs 

Cost of quality examples

Lets now look at some examples:

Automotive Industry

In the automotive industry, the cost of quality is particularly critical due to the high stakes involved in product safety and reliability. For instance, Toyota’s implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Lean Manufacturing has helped the company reduce defects, minimize recalls, and maintain its reputation for high-quality vehicles.  The investment in prevention and continuous improvement has significantly lowered the overall cost of quality for Toyota.

Pharmaceutical Industry

In the pharmaceutical industry, stringent quality requirements and regulatory compliance make the cost of quality a major concern. Companies like Pfizer invest heavily in quality control, testing, and validation ensuring thier products meet safety and efficacy standards.  By focusing on prevention and rigorous appraisal activities, Pfizer has managed to minimize internal and external failure costs, thereby safeguarding its reputation and avoiding costly recalls.

Electronics Industry

Apple Inc. has significant focus on quality management, including rigorous testing and supplier quality assurance, hashelped it maintain a low cost of quality.  Apple’s investment in preventive measures and continuous improvement ensures that defects are minimized, leading to high product reliability and customer loyalty.


The Cost of Quality is a critical metric that can impact a company’s profitability, customer satisfaction, and overall success. By understanding and effectively managing CoQ, businesses can identify inefficiencies, prioritize quality improvement initiatives, and achieve operational excellence. 

Investing in prevention, enhancing appraisal activities, focusing on process improvement, and improving supplier quality management are key strategies to reduce the cost of quality.  By implementing these strategies, companies can not only save on costs but also deliver high-quality products that meet customer expectations and regulatory standards.

We should also remember that the cost of quality can never be completely erraidicated, there will always be processes and practices (such as assurance, audit, training etc) that are essential to the running of the business. The trick is to understand what cost drivers can be erradicated and then developing plans to do so.

Have you got feedback on Cost of Quality, perhaps you’ve calculated it for your business, or run initiatives that have a positive impact on your bottom line, as ever we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do different industries prioritize and balance the four types of Cost of Quality (Prevention, Appraisal, Internal Failure, External Failure) in their quality management strategies?

Different industries prioritize and balance the four types of Cost of Quality based on their unique operational requirements, risk levels, and regulatory environments. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Automotive Industry:
  • Prevention: High priority due to safety and reliability concerns. Extensive investments in preventive measures like Six Sigma and Total Quality Management (TQM) to minimize defects.
  • Appraisal: Significant focus on appraisal activities such as rigorous testing and inspections throughout the production process to ensure compliance with stringent safety standards.
  • Internal Failure: Emphasis on minimizing internal failures through continuous process improvements and robust quality control measures.
  • External Failure: Extremely cautious approach due to the high cost of recalls and the impact on brand reputation. Extensive post-market surveillance and quick response mechanisms.
  • Pharmaceutical Industry:
  • Prevention: Critical due to stringent regulatory requirements and the potential impact on patient safety. Heavy investments in preventive measures like Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and regular training.
  • Appraisal: Intense focus on appraisal costs, including rigorous testing and validation processes to ensure product safety and efficacy before market release.
  • Internal Failure: Prioritized to prevent costly batch rejections and delays in production. Emphasis on process validation and monitoring.
  • External Failure: High stakes involved due to potential legal liabilities and impact on patient health. Robust pharmacovigilance and rapid response to adverse events.
  • Electronics Industry:
  • Prevention: Focused on designing quality into the product from the beginning. Investment in R&D and robust design processes to minimize defects.
  • Appraisal: Regular inspections and testing are crucial to ensure product reliability and performance standards are met.
  • Internal Failure: Emphasis on minimizing rework and scrap through lean manufacturing principles and continuous improvement.
  • External Failure: Significant attention due to the impact on customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Strong warranty management and customer support systems.

What are some common challenges or pitfalls companies face when trying to reduce the Cost of Quality, and how can they overcome them?

  1. Lack of Management Support:
  • Challenge: Without strong leadership backing, quality initiatives may lack the necessary resources and focus.
  • Solution: Secure executive sponsorship by demonstrating the financial and strategic benefits of quality management through data-driven presentations and case studies.
  1. Insufficient Data and Metrics:
  • Challenge: Difficulty in collecting accurate data on quality-related costs can hinder effective decision-making.
  • Solution: Implement robust data collection systems and train employees on the importance of accurate data recording. Use technology like ERP systems to integrate and streamline data collection processes.
  1. Resistance to Change:
  • Challenge: Employees may resist changes to established processes and practices.
  • Solution: Foster a quality culture by involving employees in the planning and implementation of quality initiatives. Provide training and communicate the long-term benefits of quality improvements.
  1. Inadequate Training and Resources:
  • Challenge: Lack of proper training can lead to ineffective quality management practices.
  • Solution: Invest in comprehensive training programs for employees at all levels. Ensure that adequate resources are allocated for ongoing education and quality improvement initiatives.
  1. Balancing Cost and Quality:
  • Challenge: Finding the right balance between investing in quality and controlling costs can be challenging.
  • Solution: Use cost-benefit analysis to identify high-impact areas where quality improvements will yield significant cost savings. Focus on preventive measures that provide long-term benefits.

How can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) effectively manage and reduce their Cost of Quality with limited resources?

  1. Focus on High-Impact Areas:
  • Strategy: Identify key areas where quality issues are most costly and prioritize improvement efforts there. This could include critical production processes or customer-facing operations.
  • Action: Conduct a Pareto analysis to pinpoint the most significant sources of quality-related costs and address them first.
  1. Leverage Technology:
  • Strategy: Utilize affordable quality management software to streamline processes, collect data, and monitor quality metrics.
  • Action: Implement cloud-based solutions that offer scalability and lower upfront costs compared to traditional systems.
  1. Employee Training and Involvement:
  • Strategy: Invest in training programs to equip employees with the skills needed to identify and address quality issues.
  • Action: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement by involving employees in quality initiatives and recognizing their contributions.
  1. Collaborate with Suppliers:
  • Strategy: Work closely with suppliers to ensure the quality of raw materials and components.
  • Action: Establish clear quality standards and conduct regular audits. Develop strong relationships with key suppliers to foster collaboration on quality improvements.
  1. Implement Lean Practices:
  • Strategy: Adopt lean manufacturing principles to eliminate waste and improve process efficiency.
  • Action: Use tools like 5S, Kaizen, and value stream mapping to identify inefficiencies and streamline operations.
  1. Utilize External Expertise:
  • Strategy: Engage with external consultants or industry experts to gain insights and best practices for quality management.
  • Action: Leverage government grants or industry programs that support SMEs in quality improvement initiatives.

By focusing on these targeted strategies, SMEs can effectively manage and reduce their Cost of Quality, even with limited resources, and achieve significant improvements in operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.