A QC inspection can be very useful in preventing a batch of defective or dangerous products from being shipped. But some importers seem to have excessive expectations as to what a QC inspector can do.
What is an inspection of finished products in a factory? It is the examination of these products’ characteristics against a set of specifications and/or an approved sample. Nothing more.
Now, what happens when the product’s design is sure to create problems? Is it the inspector’s job to catch that issue?
For example, let’s say a computer bag only has 3mm of padding as protection against shocks. This is insufficient for most consumers. But what if these bags are distributed in discount stores in India? It might be just what the buyer expects.
There are two implications:
- If the factory was allowed to make bags with such a thin padding protection (for example it was in your design files, or your organization approved samples with such a thin padding), there is a serious problem in your internal QA systems.
- If you employ your own inspectors and you train them to “see the products with a consumer’s eyes”, they might catch this issue. But you can’t complain to an inspection company (whose staff works for many different clients with different quality standards) to catch it.
I would also argue that it can be unhealthy for end-of-line inspectors to comment on product design, for the simple reason that they need to remain objective. If they advise a change in the product’s design, they are no longer purely independent observers.
That’s why the ISO 17020 standard warns to keep “the design, manufacture, supply, installation, purchase, ownership, use or maintenance of the items inspected” outside the scope of an inspection body.
And that’s why many buying offices have 2 separate teams:
- A QA team for explaining a design to a supplier, reviewing samples, providing advice for corrections/improvement, writing down the specifications, and approving a “golden sample”.
- A QC team for checking whether production conforms to the specifications and the golden sample.
For further reading on this topic, I suggest to read this article.