QC inspections are simple, right? Counting products, looking for defects… it's child’s game. Or is it?
Many managers think their quality control activity requires little attention. The activity is simple and it’s all about picking the right people. Well, this is not exactly true. Quality inspections need to rely on strong and well-thought processes.
In the diagram below, we assigned an entire branch to “management”.
Let’s look at the way a good inspection management system prevents mistakes.
1. Planning for sufficient time
Some companies let their suppliers schedule QC inspections. Not surprisingly, if the closing date is on Friday night, the inspections will all be scheduled on Friday afternoon! And inspectors can’t do a good job checking those 50 SKUs in 5 hours.
The solution is simple:
- Set some rules for suppliers, who should schedule inspections in advance and spread them on a sufficient number of days. In some cases penalties might have to apply.
- Have someone in your office to review the planning and make adjustments. Obviously this is easier with a specialized software like SynControl than in Excel.
2. A documented process that should be followed
You are not paying your staff to “find problems”. You wouldn’t give them a bonus when they find more issues, right? Imagine the perverse effects (some of them might create or enlarge defects on purpose) and the conflicts with manufacturers.
So, what is the inspector’s responsibility? To follow a certain process. That’s his sole objective. Not skipping the sampling, not rushing the tests, etc.
And yet, I would estimate that 80% of buying offices don’t have any type of documented process regarding the way inspections are supposed to be performed, from the opening meeting to the closing meeting.
What happens when an inspector takes a shortcut and gets caught (or admits it once a quality issues has slipped by and was caught in the importing country)? His supervisor says “don’t forget it next time”. That’s not the way to build an inspection management system…
3. A clear and detailed quality standard to follow
What is the number one source of conflict with suppliers? An unclear quality standard.
The discussion sometimes goes like this:
- Inspector: This is a major defect.
- Factory: No, I can barely see it. We think it’s fine.
- Inspector: Well, usually we count is as a major. That’s the way we do in our company.
- Factory: We don’t agree. For our other customers, this is not even a minor defect.
How to avoid this?
- Build a defect list that includes photos and get each supplier to confirm it in writing;
- Write your product specifications like a checklist, with target values/findings and tolerances if applicable.
4. Proper training, coaching, and auditing programs
This, again, is something most buying offices are lacking. They typically hire an experienced inspector to manage the team. Conducting inspections together with more experienced employees is good, but it should only be a part of an overall program.
If the inspection process and the quality standard are documented, new inspectors can be trained accordingly. And then they can be evaluated during a coaching session or during a surprise audit of their work. If nothing is documented, how to evaluate their performance?
In other words, the process they are supposed to follow is the checklist for their manager to evaluate their work. As I wrote above, their responsibility is to follow a certain process, not to reach a quantifiable goal.
What about you? What kind of quality inspection management system do you use? Have you experienced other shortcomings that can only be addressed by management? I am sure I forgot a few, but I hope I covered the most important.
Please leave your thoughts or experiences as a comment below, we'd be happy to reply!