Here we can talk about different types of quality inspections (before, during/In, and after production) most widely used in the plywood international trade.
They should be performed by 3rd party QC providers (appointed by the buyer), or by the buyer’s own inspectors.Especially for plywood industries to the North America and Europe and Middle east ,so many agencies for QC service .
What is a quality inspection?
The term “inspection” generally refers to the activity of checking products, whereas “audit” applies to analyzing manufacturing processes and organizations. The quality inspector usually follows a pre-established checklist that is based on the product specifications. Inspected products can be the components used for production, semi-finished goods, or (most often) finished goods before shipment to a customer.
An inspection is “activity such as measuring, examining, testing or gauging one or more characteristics of a product or service, and comparing the results with specified requirements in order to establish whether conformity is achieved for each characteristic”.
An important concept: why inspecting earlier is generally better
As a preliminary, I want to emphasize an essential principle of quality management: “the sooner we eliminate errors, the better”.
There are only six ways to deal with defects. They can be either prevented or corrected, and they fall into three broad categories: development, production, and delivery.
The 1:10:100 ratio
Many studies across all industries have demonstrated that there is a cost and time ratio for development:production:delivery of 1:10:100. It means each error will cost 10 times more (in dollars and in time) to fix in production than it would to fix in development, and 100 times more if the error actually reaches the customer.
That’s why checking quality only at the end of production is very risky. But you don’t have to wait until everything is done… As you can see below.
The three most common types of quality inspections
There are mainly three tools at the disposal of buyers, to check on the quality of their suppliers’ products. Each buyer should try to choose the solution(s) that best fit(s) her needs.
Pre-production inspection (a.k.a. “initial production inspection”)
“Garbage in, garbage out”: a factory usually cannot turn defective inputs (components, or raw materials) into good products. And the problems are much harder to detect once the materials are embedded in the final product.
Thus, to decrease quality risks, the inputs can be inspected prior to production. Some samples can be taken randomly and checked visually (or sent to a laboratory for tests). Also, the buyer should clearly define what inputs are acceptable, before he gives any order.
An experienced inspector can also examine the making of a prototype/sample, to make sure of two things:
- Has the factory understood the technical files? Do they know what product the client wants?
- Has the development team clearly communicated the requirements to the manufacturing team? Is the equipment for mass production similar to that used for making prototypes?
Usually, production has already started when a pre-production inspection takes place. It allows the inspector to examine the process, and sometimes to check a few finished products. However, in this case, the factory might refuse to stop production (to avoid disruption of the lines), even though the inputs are not conform or the process is not satisfactory.
Generally speaking, pre-production inspections are adapted to customized and complex products. More standard items should be inspected during production (see below).
During production inspection (a.k.a. “in-line” or “in-process” inspection)
Should a buyer wait until the end of production, before doing an inspection? In case products are defective, the following problems might arise:
- The factory has to rework (loss of time).
- If the products cannot be repaired, the factory should re-order components, and re-produce (which means long delays, and a financial loss for the factory).
- The supplier might refuse to repair or re-produce, particularly if the previously-agreed specifications are ambiguous.
Typically, in an in-line inspection, the first products that got out of the line are inspected for conformity. If issues are raised at this stage, the factory can immediately take some corrective actions and avoid delays.
Also, based on the production start date and the number of products already finished, the buyer can have a fair idea about the shipment schedule.
A third advantage of in-line inspections is that the buyer knows where the goods are produced. Some suppliers show a factory to a buyer, and then sub-contract the production in another workshop (this happens every day in China).
Note: some companies make a distinction between inspections performed at the beginning of production and inspections during production. I pasted below an extract of a brochure from the industry leader (SGS) for illustration:
‘Initial Production Check’ permits timely corrections of any non-conformities detected.
‘During Production Check’ allows evaluation of the average product quality during manufacturing.
What it means is that third-party inspectors can either check the first finished products getting out of the line, or come in at a later stage and select samples from a larger pool of finished goods.
In any case, in-process products are rarely checked. It takes a technician to reliably detect errors on unfinished products.
Final random inspection (a.k.a. “pre-shipment inspection”)
This is the most popular type of QC inspection for importers. It takes place once all the products are finished and ready for shipment.
Note: A “packed product” is ready for shipment (i.e. in a closed export carton with full shipping marks). In many cases, the inspector accepts up to 20% of unpacked products per reference. This way, the inspection can often take place without delaying the shipment.
The conformity of the products is checked against a list of criteria defined by the buyer (product quantity, workmanship, function, safety, aspect, size, packing…).
Buyers are advised to ask their inspectors to keep track of which cartons were opened. This way, a 2nd “spot” inspection can give an idea of how seriously the control was performed.
Of the three inspections presented in this article, this is the only one where the total quantity of products can be counted, and where samples of finished products can be drawn in a truly random manner–and thus be representative of the whole batch.
As a result, the results of final inspections are more reliable. And some buyers assume that the inspectors should “guarantee” the quality of the whole order quantity, when the inspection is passed. Unfortunately, it is impossible for several reasons:
- After the inspection is done, and before shipment, many things can happen. A dishonest factory can ship a smaller quantity, substitute the content of the cartons, etc. There is a solution to avoid this: a container-loading supervision.
- An inspection result (pass/fail) is not 100% reliable: even a random sample might be better than the average products; the inspector might make a mistake; an inspector might get bribed by the supplier, etc.
- An inspection fee (around USD300 for one day) is totally out of proportion with the total value of the goods at stake (sometimes over USD100,000).
Quality control inspectors examine products and materials for defects or deviations from manufacturer or industry specifications. They ensure that your food will not make you sick, that your car will run properly, and that your pants will not split the first time you wear them. These workers monitor quality standards for nearly all manufactured products, including foods, textiles, clothing, glassware, motor vehicles, electronic components, computers, and structural steel. Specific job duties vary across the wide range of industries in which these inspectors work.
What does a Quality Control Inspector do?
Quality control inspectors:
- Read and understand blueprints and specifications
- Monitor or observe operations to ensure that they meet production standards
- Recommend adjustments to the process or assembly
- Inspect, test, or measure materials or products being produced
- Measure products with rulers, calipers, gauges, or micrometers
- Accept or reject finished items
- Remove all products and materials that fail to meet specifications
- Discuss inspection results with those responsible for products
- Report inspection and test data
Quality control workers rely on a number of tools to do their job. Although some still use hand-held measurement devices, such as calipers and alignment gauges, they more commonly operate electronic inspection equipment, such as coordinate-measuring machines (CMMs). Inspectors testing electrical devices may use voltmeters, ammeters, and ohmmeters to test potential difference, current flow, and resistance, respectively.
Quality control workers record the results of their inspections and prepare test reports. When they find defects, inspectors notify supervisors and help to analyze and correct the production problems. In some firms, the inspection process is completely automated, with advanced vision inspection systems installed at one or several points in the production process. Inspectors in these firms monitor the equipment, review output, and do random product checks.
How to Become a Quality Control Inspector
Prospective quality control inspectors improve their chances of finding work by studying industrial trades, including computer-aided design (CAD), in high school or in a postsecondary vocational program. Laboratory work in the natural or biological sciences also may improve analytical skills and increase the chances of finding work in medical or pharmaceutical labs, where many of these workers are employed.
Education and training requirements vary with the responsibilities of the quality-control worker. For inspectors who do simple pass/fail tests of products, a high school diploma and some in-house training are generally enough. Training for new inspectors may cover the use of special meters, gauges, computers, and other instruments; quality-control techniques; blueprint reading; safety; and reporting requirements. Some postsecondary training programs exist, but many employers prefer to train inspectors on the job.
As manufacturers use more automated inspection techniques that need less inspection by hand, workers in this occupation will have to learn to operate and program more sophisticated equipment and software applications. Because these operations require additional skills, higher education may be necessary. To address this need, some colleges are offering associate’s degrees in fields such as quality control management.
What is the workplace of a Quality Control Inspector like?
Work environments vary by industry and establishment size. As a result, some inspectors examine similar products for an entire shift. Others examine a variety of items. In manufacturing, it is common for most inspectors to stay at one workstation.
Inspectors in some industries may be on their feet all day and may have to lift heavy objects. In other industries, workers may sit during their shift and read electronic printouts of data. Workers in heavy-manufacturing plants may be exposed to the noise and grime of machinery. In other plants, inspectors work in clean, air-conditioned environments suitable for testing products. Although the work is generally not dangerous, some workers may be exposed to airborne particles, which may irritate the eyes and skin. As a result, workers typically wear protective eyewear, ear plugs, and appropriate clothing.
Although most quality control inspectors work full time during regular business hours, some inspectors work evenings or weekends. The most desirable shifts are generally given to workers who have seniority. Overtime may be required to meet production deadlines.
“No, I specifically said the promotional keychains were supposed to be 3 inches tall and 5 inches wide. I didn’t say they were supposed to be 5 centimeters tall and 3 centimeters wide. Weren’t you listening to me when I told you about what I wanted?”
If this conversation sounds familiar to you, you don’t need to be told that communicating with suppliers can be difficult. Details about product quality and specifications can get lost in translation—or unheard altogether. The result is often dissatisfaction with products that you don’t want.
A quality control inspection checklist can be an easy remedy to this problem. Sometimes referred to as an inspection criteria sheet (ICS) or simply a QC checklist, this document outlines quality requirements and specifications in a way that makes them clear, concise and user friendly for your supplier. It’s one of the simplest, yet most effective, ways to prevent defects in your goods.