What is a Product Inspection?
A product inspection refers to a systematic process of checking the quality of a product based on a specified set of standards. In this procedure, the inspector examines a product sample in terms of its appearance, construction, function, and other conditions to see if they meet the buyer’s requirements. This way, they can identify defects early on and ensure that the product is in good working condition before being released to the market.
Product inspection is integral to Quality Control (QC) for manufacturing businesses. This procedure helps ensure that products are of acceptable quality at all levels of production before they reach the customers. By identifying and resolving problems during the production phase, quality issues and possible supply chain disruptions can be avoided.
Product quality inspection also offers the following advantages:
- Ensure that mass-produced goods satisfy quality requirements.
- Avoid having defective or malfunctioning products in the market.
- Prevent product recalls and damage to brand and reputation.
- Anticipate and prepare for potential shipping delays.
- Maximize the value of the budget for quality control.
Product testing and product inspection may sound like they’re the same thing, as they go hand in hand to ensure product quality during manufacturing operations. However, these two processes have striking differences from one another.
In a nutshell, product inspection involves a randomized quality check of products from the manufacturing site. Meanwhile, product testing takes place in a controlled setting (e.g., a certified laboratory) to see if the product passes relevant safety and quality regulations.
For a closer look, the table below compares product inspection and product testing in terms of purpose, setting, process, and some examples.
|To determine if a product fulfills the specifications of the buyer
|To verify if a product meets a specific regulation or standard
|Third-party certified laboratory
|Take a random product sample from the factory and assess if it complies with the buyer’s standards for safety and quality.
|Provide a sample to a certified laboratory to see if it meets mandatory safety and quality requirements.
|Carton drop test, dielectric voltage withstand test, balancing test
|Environmental stress screening, mechanical endurance test, reliability growth testing
Types of Product Inspections
Product inspections come in five different types based on the manufacturing stage they occur in: pre-production inspection, in-production inspection, pre-shipment inspection, container loading control inspection, and production monitoring. This section will explore each of these types in detail.
Also known as initial production inspection, the pre-production inspection occurs before the start of the manufacturing process. It helps determine the readiness of the factory and the quality of procured raw materials for production. This inspection type also allows you to identify and anticipate potential issues in materials, management, and timelines before production begins.
As the name implies, an in-production inspection involves quality checks while production is taking place. Also called a during-production inspection, it helps product teams spot and correct defects and quality issues before manufacturing ends. This inspection method is ideal for the mechanical and similar parts of products.
A pre-shipment inspection is considered to be the most common type of product inspection. This process is done for finished goods that are ready for delivery. Before shipment, inspectors run checks to ensure that the products work as intended and satisfy quality requirements.
In a container loading control inspection, quality officers verify the quantity and quality of goods being loaded on containers. They also confirm if the products have proper labels and barcodes in their packaging materials. Doing a final run-through at this stage allows them to decrease the risk of damaging these goods during transportation.
The final type of product inspection, production monitoring, deals with the manufacturing site. On a daily basis, inspectors check the production facility to enforce quality standards and eliminate defects in the site’s manufacturing operations. Doing so ensures that products manufactured at that factory are standardized and consistently meet quality requirements.
After learning the types of product inspections, it’s time to learn how product inspections work. This section will walk you through the process of inspecting products in five steps:
1. Select a Product Sample from the Factory.
The first step in any product inspection is to retrieve a random sample of the product from the manufacturing facility. This sample will set the benchmark for the acceptable level of quality for the rest of the products. Inspectors can choose from various sampling methods, such as Acceptable Quality Limit (AQL).
2. Review the Design and Quality Specifications.
Next, QC inspectors must read through the product specifications for quality control and design. A product inspection checklist can help simplify this task for inspectors, as it outlines the items needed when performing quality checks and on-site testing. With a clear list of criteria, they can conduct product quality inspections more efficiently.
3. Run a Visual Inspection of the Product and Its Packaging.
After clarifying the design and quality requirements, QC officers can proceed with the inspection. It typically begins with visually inspecting the packaging and the product itself. During this process, inspectors must check if the products follow the specified requirements and mark non-compliant or malfunctioning goods.
For one, packaging items must fit all specifications for labels, markings, dimensions, and artwork. On the other hand, visual inspection of products entails looking into their appearance, completeness, and dimensions.
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4. Perform Physical Testing.
Following the visual inspection is the physical testing, typically completed on-site. These testing methods come in many forms depending on the product type, from general procedures to highly technical methodologies for special items. For example, inspectors carry out a dielectric voltage withstand test for electronics or an egg test for pans and skillets.
5. Document and Share Their Findings.
After carrying out a visual inspection and on-site testing, the inspector must compile the data they gathered into a single document. Through a product inspection report, they can discuss the results of the inspection—if the product has satisfied the set requirements. They can also attach photos as proof of compliance/non-compliance and videos of the inspection conducted.
Once the report is complete, they can forward it to their client for review and the next steps.