For answers to these pressing questions, I met with InTouch Managing Director Andrew Reich to discuss the kinds of procedures that are vital to a quality control company. Andrew brought some of his 10+ years of experience working in the quality control industry to an extended podcast interview. The following is a summation of that interview:
The Importance of Procedures in a QC company
Andrew: When we’re looking at selecting a QC company, we’re looking at various factors. And one of the most important of these factors is the managing structure and procedures of the QC company you are looking at selecting.
Generally speaking, procedures are important in any company because they serve as the backbone for the management and to ensure that the service or product the company delivers is consistent.
Procedures for Carrying out Product Inspections
Andrew: Some examples of procedures we have here are procedures for how to carry out inspections at a factory. For example, one day you might be inspecting one product, product "A”. Then at another factory you might be inspecting product "B”. There are common procedures that should be done the same way no matter what product you’re inspecting at any factory. So there are certain things that are done that might include:
- How to present yourself to the factory
- How to notify the factory in advance that you’re coming
- How to count the goods at the warehouse
- How to mark the boxes that you are going to want to inspect; and
- How to conduct a review of the defects with the factory management after inspection
All these things should be done in the same and proper way by the company for every inspection and by every inspector that carries them out. It’s very important that there are written procedures for exactly how to do these kinds of things.
John: It’s particularly important that they have procedures in place for these inspections. The inspector could find himself in a situation where they don’t know what to do otherwise. The inspector could be alone, out in the field with the factory staff who could be breathing down their neck or really scrutinizing the report. And that inspector needs to stay on top of their game.
Andrew: The inspectors really need to be on their A-game and make sure they are carrying out the service in a consistent manner and that every inspector is carrying out inspections in the same manner. And because of the variation we have in the industry, since we are managing hundreds of inspectors for possibly tens of thousands of factories across Asia, having procedures that document very clearly how something is to be carried out is very important.
QC Checklists as a Management Technique
Andrew: Another procedure-related management technique that we use in the company is the QC checklist. The QC checklist is a documented list of all the product quality expectations for a particular product. QC checklists are something that we will develop before any inspection and will work on with the client and the factory. Checklists provide a good guideline for the quality expectations of the client that is also achievable by the factory.
John: So the QC checklist not only gives important knowledge to the inspector for carrying out the inspection in terms of guidance, but also to the supplier for when they are making the product. So it’s important to have the buyer and the seller working on developing the QC checklist before even placing the order.
Andrew: Right, the buyer, the seller and your 3rd party inspection service will want to work on the QC checklist and have one documented before placing an order. And, like I said, the checklist is a documented list of all the quality expectations for a product like packaging, performance, color, and all the certain aspects of quality in a product. This checklist is very important because it not only serves as a guideline for our inspectors, but it also serves as a guideline for the factory and for the buyer as to what the acceptable quality level is. You might not have very detailed specifications, but you want – at the very least – to have a simple checklist for what are the quality expectations for the product.
Product Inspection Worksheets as a Tool
Andrew: The worksheet is a document, usually handwritten by the inspector on-site, which is filled during the inspection just to make sure all the boxes are checked. The worksheet is a document that goes along with the checklist and goes point-by-point and allows the inspector to write in his findings for each point. What the worksheet does is it ensures that the inspector checks every point on that checklist, and that’s very important.
John: Ok, so the worksheet adds a certain level of accountability; it holds the auditor responsible for following the checklist “to a T”, carrying out all the necessary tests, measuring dimensions, etc. Everything you’d see going through the QC checklist, the findings are documented in the worksheet.
Andrew: Yeah that’s right, and that’s why when our clients ask us “what kinds of steps do you take to ensure that, once we write the checklist, the inspector actually follows every point on the checklist?”, we show them the worksheet and how we use the worksheet to ensure this happens.
Other things you might want to check on are not only that procedures exist, but how does the company train those procedures. You want to be sure that not only the company has documented procedures for how they carry out that service on your behalf, but that they have procedures for training their staff so they are all carrying out the service in line with the documented procedures.
Procedures are important to the success of any organization. Some key procedures that any manufacturer should look for when choosing a third-party QC partner include:
- Product inspection procedures – including how to communicate with a supplier, how to pull product samples, how to review a report with factory management and others
- QC Checklists – to manage buyer expectations and to document specifically what aspects of a product to verify during inspection; and
- Worksheets – to document dimensions measured, tests performed and other findings based on the checklist
You may find yourself looking for a QC company to help you inspect and report on the status and quality of your order. Take the time to investigate what procedures they have in place to make sure they’re inspections are top-notch!