I have talked with people from many different companies that employ an inspection team. The way their quality department is organized can differ a great deal. But some elements are the same across 98% of companies.
When it comes to technology, I see all kinds of solutions:
- Many companies use Excel spreadsheets and emails.
- Others make use of an existing all-purpose software, such as support ticket software, repair software, project management software, etc.
- A few have invested in custom development of their own IT system.
- Yet a few others have adopted a existing IT system that was developed specifically for quality inspections (one of which is our solution, Syncontrol).
Whatever technology is used, three areas need to be managed.
1. The planning
Some importers require their suppliers to book inspections formally (this is possible for large buyers, but not realistic for smaller buyers). Others push their suppliers for a date (this is obviously more time-consuming).
Ideally you have standardized conditions for suppliers to respect as well as booking forms and confirmation emails.
In case you subcontract some inspections to a third-party agency, you need to have a way to pass the information to them and get the confirmed information back in your system.
Finally, you need to allocate your inspectors in the most efficient way possible. Ideally you can have a view of the whole, with details per day and per area.
2. The technical information
Many people have told me that “QC inspections are not rocket science”. And I agree. Nevertheless, a quality manager needs to be able to adjust many parameters:
- What items to group in 1 lot
- What inspection settings (level, AQL limits…) to choose
- What can be checked in 1 day of work
- What inspector can be sent to check what products
- What product information to give inspectors
- How and when to send approved samples — and what they can (and cannot) be used for as reference
- What checkpoints to apply, with what sampling
- What equipment should be provided by factories vs. brought by inspectors
- What potential defects to look out for, with what severity
3. Human resources
Inspector expenses can quickly get out of hand. Have you set up a fair set of rules, and have you got a way to verify its effectiveness?
Ideally, an IT system would also manage the following issues:
- What are each inspector’s competencies?
- Does each employee do a good job? Can they see a few KPIs relating to their work?
- Is there a minimum level of rotation of inspectors among your supplier base?
Have I forgotten something important? Ideas/suggestions are most welcome!