What is COPQ? The ultimate guide to calculating, understanding and reducing your costs of poor quality

02 July 2019

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What is COPQ? The ultimate guide to calculating, understanding and reducing your costs of poor quality

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Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) is an essential component to understand, but exactly what is COPQ and how does it impact your business?

COPQ is a crucial business metric used by companies around the world. It determines the costs that would disappear if all failures were removed from a product, service or process and is measured either as a percentage of sales or total costs. To achieve a more efficient, resilient and profitable business, it’s important to understand what COPQ means, its significance, and how your team can calculate it.

Why have a cost of poor quality calculation?

A company's COPQ is the total sum of the associated costs which are lost due to failure. This includes all waste and variation, overheads to fix the issue, rework costs, as well as lost opportunities such as churned customer or reputation damage.

Successful companies are constantly trying to reduce the cost of poor quality - not just to be more profitable, but because it's a sign of the health and sustainability of your business. When unaddressed, COPQ can be incredibly destructive to the bottom line of the business. In fact, for most businesses the COPQ often exceeds profits.

COPQ is estimated to be around 20% or more of the costs of goods sold

It's also estimated that around 20 percent of an organisation's direct costs are the result of poor quality - primarily due to overuse, misuse and waste. By calculating COPQ, you can show management teams just how much poor quality has inflated their costs and consequently reduces their profits, demonstrating your impact on the bottom line.

Furthermore, detailed COPQ calculations provide a road map for rooting out costs and focusing on specific areas in needs of improvement. 

COPQ vs. cost reduction

Cost of Poor Quality should not be confused with cost reduction.

Organisations will often overlook the enormous costs associated with poor performance of products, services and processes. This causes a whole raft of issues such as not meeting customer requirements, not providing products or services on time, or reworking them to meet the customer needs.

With the Cost of Poor Quality calculation, you aim to improve the maturity of your management system over time so that the costs will eventually reduce. The best quality doesn't really cost more. It ends up costing less if you use core principles - known as cost of value.

In the words of John Oakland of Oakland Consulting: “Failure costs a fortune. Getting up the curve takes a lot of investment as well. That is costing your business a lot of money.”

Consider this: If your business processes and systems are operating successfully, you don't have to dedicate as many resources to fixing business issues. Quality teams can then spend their time optimising and continually improving strategy - rather than fixing operational issues. Furthermore, the results of COPQ studies become powerful drivers of new breakthrough projects because they identify specific areas in need of improvement.

How to calculate COPQ

Materials and tools for gathering information about your organisation's internal functioning are widely available and easy to use. They can calculate:

Material cost

  • Scrap cost
  • Rework cost
  • Downtime
  • Excess inventory


  • CAPA metrics
  • Complaint handling time
  • Rework time


  • Customer churn: (Lifetime value of customer and customer acquisition cost)
  • Employee morale (NPS / Kiosk scores)
  • Production

COPQ formula

Determine the time period that you're evaluating- this will narrow the scope of your data. Then add together the total waste / variation and multiply that by the amount of time spent fixing an issue. The result value should be your company's cost of poor quality.

COPQ = (Waste (materials) + defects (variation occurence))* inefficiencies (time spent fixing)

How Ideagen helps you monitor Cost of Poor Quality

Q-Pulse helps reduce the Cost of Poor Quality for enterprise companies such as Sodexo, Diageo, Honeywell, British Gypsum, and communications giant BT Global Services.

Here are a few ways Q-Pulse gives you insights into your Cost of Poor Quality to ensure it's a tangible business metric you can track over time:

  • Monitor the trends: Use a business intelligence dashboard to keep a close eye on trends, common issues and weaknesses in your management system.
  • Identify process failures: Complete visibility into failure to meet the requirements in any part of a quality chain has a way of multiplying and a failure in one part of the system creates problems elsewhere. This leads to yet more failure and more problems. Q-Pulse enables your teams to see the entire process and drill into weak areas.
  • Productivity effect of quality: Q-Pulse enables you to use more proactive methods to view the process - enabling you to get it right the first time.

Discover more about how quality management software can provide you with oversight of your organisation's COPQ, and remember to share this article with colleagues who want to know more about ‘what is COPQ?’

Written by

Alexander Pavlović

Alex produces targeted content to help Ideagen’s readers and customers navigate the complex world of quality, governance, risk and compliance.

Alex has worked with brands such as BT, Sodexo and Unilever and is passionate about helping businesses build a cohesive, collaborative culture of quality.

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