As an importer that uses an independent party for product inspection, you may be wondering how your quality inspectors are recruited.
What qualifications do they need to become a quality control inspector?
And what traits should you look for when deciding who to trust with your product quality?
Overview of quality control inspectors
Quality control inspectors do everything from weigh and measure products to check production samples and conduct on-site testing.
They work in a wide range of industries, including furniture, electronics, toys, kitchenware, consumer goods, cosmetics, food and more. They make sure that products conform to the client’s requirements, standards and safety regulations. They are the ones on the front line, traveling from factory to factory, finding and reporting any issues. They act as your eyes and ears, and their mission is a reflection of your expectations.
Requirements for hiring a quality control inspector
Being a QC inspector takes extensive training. And there are certain skills you’ll want your inspection staff to have prior to working with your product. Likewise, if you’re hoping to become a professional product inspector, make sure you satisfy the below requirement.
1. English language ability
To become an inspector, a candidate typically needs to have excellent English language skills in both reading and writing. Importers generally provide all of the following inspection materials in English:
- Item specifications
- Inspection criteria/requirements
- Inspection standards/tolerance, and
- QC checklists
The inspector will need to understand all details of the inspection materials.
The candidate also needs to be proficient in written English because inspectors need to accurately document their findings in a written inspection report.
2. Logic and attention to detail
As a quality control inspector, they must be observant and detail oriented, with a logical approach to their work. It’s easy to see why attention to detail is so vital in quality control. Minor product defects are often subtle, and you need a trained eye to spot them (for more about classifying defects, see 3 Types of Quality Defects in Different Products).
Attention to detail is also important in determining possible causes for defects. For example, a quality control inspector might notice that cartons of ceramic cups and bowls are being stacked too high and crushing the packaging of those below.
3. Effective communication skills
A QC inspector needs to have effective communications skills. They’re often sent alone to work in a factory for several hours or more at a time. If something goes wrong or if they have a question, they need to be able to communicate with factory staff and their manager.
If an inspector is reluctant to voice questions or concerns, they end up relying on their instincts or making a judgement call, neither of which are ideal.
An effective inspector is absolutely objective."An effective inspector is absolutely objective"
They rely on information provided by their supervisor and the importer they’re inspecting on behalf of. And their responsibility is simply to report what they find. If they encounter uncertainties in procedure, they’re required to communicate these to factory staff or their supervisor.
Honesty is an important characteristic in a competent quality control inspector. But integrity is a broader term that deserves to be a point on its own.
The manufacturing industry is more susceptible to corruption issues than most others, particularly in Southeast Asia. Suppliers might substitute inferior materials for those specified for production. They might even false claims about certification or the safety of the product."The manufacturing industry is more susceptible to corruption issues than most others"
When a QC inspector is working in a factory, they might be pressured–either directly or indirectly–to inaccurate report results. They could be visiting the same factory multiple times and becoming close to the factory staff. It’s important that the inspector remains objective and doesn’t allow the people working alongside them at the factory to influence their reporting.
And although less common than 10-20 years ago, if an inspector is offered a bribe from factory, they must report it to their manager who will in turn inform you about it. Learn more about signs of integrity in an inspection company in the related podcast.
5. Technical ability
You might think that QC inspectors need to have a detailed technical background in your specific product type before they begin inspecting. But actually, unless your product is especially unique or complicated, most anyone should be able to carry out inspection as long as they have the above traits and inspection materials.
Of course, any prior expertise in an area like garments or furniture is always a plus when dealing with those kinds of products.
There are some fairly basic technical skills that a quality control inspector should have, including:
- Skills working with MS Office
- Ability to use a digital camera, and
- Familiarity with devises for measuring dimensions
Inspectors should know how to use MS office because documents related to inspection are typically sent digitally as Word or Excel files. For some services, a product inspector may need to enter the data of their report into a template specified by the importer, often in a format of MS Office.
Inspectors also generally need to know their way around a digital camera so they can take relevant inspection photos and upload them to the report.
And a QC inspector needs to be familiar with taking measurements, as this is a basic requirement for most products being inspected.
Inspecting products takes more than just professional training. There are certain characteristics to inspecting products that are inherent to effective QC inspectors.
Make sure the people you hire to check your products at the factory have the necessary traits to be competent quality control inspectors.