What is quality inspection?

Quality inspection is essential to international trade. They help ensure that the products you receive meet your expectations and are of high quality. These inspections can occur before, during, or after production, and buyers commonly use various inspections. It’s important to note that these inspections should be carried out by third-party QC providers appointed by the buyer or the buyer’s inspectors. This is especially crucial if you buy from countries such as China, Vietnam, India, or other low-cost countries. By doing so, you can rest assured that you receive high-quality products that meet your standards.

What is a quality inspection?

Quality inspection is the process of examining, measuring, testing, or gauging different characteristics of a product. This process aims to ensure that the product meets the specific requirements. It is important to note that inspection only focuses on checking the product, while audit involves analyzing manufacturing processes and systems.

During a quality inspection, a trained inspector uses a pre-established checklist based on the product specifications to ensure that all the necessary characteristics are met. The inspector can examine components used for production, semi-finished or finished products before they are shipped to the customer.

For instance, let’s say a company produces smartphones. As part of the quality inspection process, an inspector would check the phone’s screen size, resolution, camera quality, battery life, and other features to ensure they meet the required specifications. This ensures that the customer receives a high-quality product that meets their expectations.

Who checks the products?

As a consumer, you might wonder who checks the products you buy before they reach your hands. Generally, there are two types of quality control: first-party and second-party. First-party quality control involves the buyer’s inspectors or an external agency appointed by the buyer. On the other hand, second-party quality control is done by the supplier’s quality controllers. However, the term “third-party quality control” is commonly used to describe the first-party.

Hundreds of thousands of inspectors travel daily to factories in countries like China, Vietnam, and India to ensure that the products meet the buyer’s standards. These inspectors are trained to check for different things depending on the product. For example, they’ll check for stitching, fabric quality, and sizing defects if the product is clothing. They’ll check for functionality, durability, and safety if it’s electronics. 

As a consumer, you can have peace of mind knowing that measures are in place to ensure the products you buy meet quality standards.

What is the procedure for documenting the results of quality inspections?

Reporting on QC findings can be a hassle, but it doesn’t have to be. Most companies have a standard inspection report template that can make the process easier for everyone involved. The template typically includes sections such as conformity to specifications, where the inspector checks that the product meets all the requirements. This includes materials, workmanship, appearance, labeling, inner and outer packing. In addition to this, measurements are taken during the inspection, along with special tests for safety and function. 

To ensure everything is well-documented, capturing photos or videos throughout the inspection is important. This can be easily done in Microsoft Word by preparing the places for photos beforehand. However, it’s worth noting that if you work with a quality assurance agency, they may have the report template they prefer. In this case, seeing a sample report before starting work with them is essential. 

How much can we tolerate defective units?

To ensure product quality, manufacturers use statistical tools to determine the number of defective units that can be accepted. They conduct visual checks and basic function tests, like turning an electrical product on and off, to identify defective samples. These samples are then categorized into critical, major, and minor buckets to help manufacturers make informed decisions. 

If you purchase general consumer goods, you should know that a certain percentage of defective goods can be accepted. For example, if you buy a pack of 100 pencils, it’s normal to find a few that don’t work properly. However, too many defective pencils could indicate a larger problem with the batch. 

To learn more about AQL limits and how they affect the quality of the products you buy, check out this informative article.

Why early detection of defects is essential for quality control?

Quality management is an essential aspect of any project, and one principle stands out: the earlier we catch errors, the better. Studies across various industries have proven that there’s a high cost and time ratio for development, production, and delivery, with the ratio being 1:10:100. This means that every error caught in production will cost ten times more (in both money and time) than if it was caught in development. And if the error somehow makes its way to the customer, the cost can be as high as 100 times more.

In some cases, the multiples can be even higher. This is why waiting until the end of production to check for quality is incredibly risky. But don’t worry, you don’t have to wait until the end. You can save time, money, and resources by catching errors earlier in the process. For example, imagine discovering a major issue with your product after it’s already been manufactured and shipped to customers. Fixing that mistake would be incredibly difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. However, catching that same mistake during the development phase is much easier to fix and won’t result in additional costs or delays.

3 common types of quality inspections

quality inspection and quality compliance

Pre-production inspection (PPI)

Before starting the production process, a pre-production inspection takes place to ensure the quality and quantity of the raw materials and components that will be used in making the products. It also confirms that the factory understands the order’s specifications and requirements, and is prepared for production. Conducting a pre-production inspection can prevent any quality issues and production delays.

Pre-production inspections are particularly important for customized and complex products. However, sometimes production has already begun when the inspection takes place. In these cases, the inspector can examine the process and check a few finished products, but the factory may hesitate to stop production to avoid disrupting the lines. 

For more standard items, inspections during production are generally sufficient. By taking these steps to ensure quality inputs and proper communication between development and manufacturing teams, businesses can avoid the risk of producing subpar products that don’t meet their customers’ expectations.

During production inspection (DUPRO)

If you’re considering purchasing a product, you might wonder whether it’s best to inspect it at the end of production or earlier. Here are some things to consider:

Inspecting products early in the production process has several advantages. For one, if any issues are detected, the factory can address them right away without causing further delays. This can save time and money in the long run. Additionally, by looking at the number of products that have already been finished and the production start date, you can get a good sense of when your shipment will be ready.

Another benefit of inspecting products early on is that you can be sure where they’re being made. Sometimes, factories show a buyer one facility but then subcontract the work to another less reputable workshop. By inspecting products in-line, you can be confident they’re being made in the right place.

Finally, it’s worth noting that some parts of the production process are more important to inspect than others. While finished products are important, unfinished products can also be valuable. However, it takes a trained technician to reliably detect errors on unfinished products. That being said, it might be worth considering having a third-party inspector come in and check the first finished products that come out of the line or select samples from a larger pool of finished goods later in the production process.

Pre-shipment inspection

The final inspection is the most popular quality control inspection for importers. This inspection occurs after all the products are finished, packed, and ready for shipment. The inspector checks the conformity of the products against a list of criteria defined by the buyer, including product quantity, workmanship, function, safety, aspect, size, and packing. 

To ensure a thorough inspection, buyers are advised to ask their inspectors to track which cartons were opened. This can help with a second “spot” inspection to verify the quality control. The final inspection is the only type where the total quantity of products can be counted, and samples of finished products can be drawn randomly, making the results more reliable and representative of the whole batch. 

However, it’s important to note that even with a passed inspection, it’s impossible for inspectors to “guarantee” the quality of the whole order quantity. Dishonest factories can still substitute the contents of the cartons or ship a smaller quantity before the actual shipment. To avoid this, container-loading supervision is recommended. 

While an inspection result (pass/fail) is not 100% reliable, buyers can still benefit from the final inspection. Inspectors might make mistakes or get bribed by the supplier, but the random sampling method used in the final inspection is still a better option than the average product.

Conclusion: What is Quality Inspection?

Quality inspection is crucial in the manufacturing process. By conducting quality control and inspection, buyers or manufacturers can ensure product quality. If you need more help with ensuring your product quality, contact our professional quality control team today.

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