Saturday, September 6, 2008

How Inspections Aid in Project Quality Control

Most companies receive complaints about their products or services at some time. Since this is a common event, you should learn more about how inspections can help you produce superior goods and provide better services.

Inspection forms the backbone of quality control. Without inspection, identification of problems is impossible. This can have severe ramifications for the client-producer relationship. All projects or processes can be inspected using subjective or objective criteria for weaknesses in conformance to standards. Remember, the role of inspection is to ensure results meet specifications.

Quality control is based on a plan and work results. The work results come from the mandated inspection process. Inspection activities consist of measuring, examining and testing to ensure conformance.
  • Measuring - Most products or projects require acceptance inspection against specific physical requirements, such as dimensions. Processes often have ongoing measurements of critical criteria such as pressures. The goal is to ensure machines are calibrated properly.
  • Examining - Most products or projects require examinations to determine acceptability to a set standard or criteria. This can involve measuring or examination of more subjective criteria, such as appearance.
  • Testing - Inspection testing requires that the project or product be tested to ensure conformance. This can be done at the end, at different stages or as a continual activity. Testing is often necessary to check that a new technology, process or method will meet quality expectations.
In the production of a computer, various measurements, tests and examinations are made. Measurements are made on individual parts and subcomponents, such as the thickness of circuit board circuitry. Tests can then be run on these parts or subcomponents to ensure they work. Lastly, examinations can be made to ensure subcomponents and the final product were assembled correctly.
The quality management plan should indicate what control system is needed for inspection, measuring, or testing. The plan should give information on:
  • what test equipment is to be used
  • the method of test equipment calibration
  • the method of recording test equipment calibration status
  • the documentation of calibration information to determine when equipment is out of calibration
Inspections are not random affairs. The quality management plan helps determine when inspections should occur. Inspections occur at the moment at which it is most appropriate to ensure achievement of quality goals. This is a balance between just enough quality and the high cost of continuous inspection of all aspects of a project or a product.
Inspections after a single activity are the most rigorous of inspection processes. This method ensures each step in a process is compared to the desired goal. This is most often used in highly regulated industries that require tight tolerances, such as electronics.

Inspections at each stage ensure that a project or product is conforming to the specifications before more work is done. This prevents work being done on a flawed item, eliminating rework and waste. This is often seen in the construction and metal-working industries.

Most projects or products require a final inspection before shipment or acceptance by the customer or client. This ensures that all other inspections were successful. Some simplistic products or projects may not require inspection until completion.

The quality management plan is key to developing an effective inspection or testing regime. The plan needs to indicate relevant inspections or tests needed for a project to proceed to the next level, or be ready for client acceptance. The plan can give the following information regarding inspections and testing:
  • how suppliers verify subcontractor products
  • where each inspection/test is in the process
  • what characteristics, criteria, and techniques are required
  • where the client needs to verify the product
  • where regulatory verification is necessary
  • where third party testing, verification, validation, or certification is needed
During the production of a book, whether it be a novel or a textbook, various inspections and tests occur. The objective is to produce a written work that is free of factual and grammatical errors, formatted properly, illustrated correctly, logically laid out, and has a sense of coherent style.
After the author has written each chapter, style, logic, coherence, and general grammar and spelling are checked. After each chapter is submitted to the publisher, an editor checks for style, logic, coherence, and general grammar and spelling. Once the complete manuscript is finished, a variety of people look at it. The editor again examines for style, content and logic. A proofreader comments on grammar, punctuation and spelling.

After the content has been approved, the printing occurs. Author's proofs are then checked by the author, the editor, and copy proofreaders for any last minute errors in layout and formatting, including illustrations, before the final print run.

Inspections are also called "reviews," "product reviews," "audits" and "walk-throughs." It depends on the industry, the type of process or project and the purpose of the particular inspection. These terms can have quite narrow and specific meanings.

For example, an audit can mean different things. In a firm, an accounting audit inspects the books to ensure proper procedures and bookkeeping techniques were employed. A personal income tax audit accepts or rejects entries on your taxes based on income tax laws. A quality audit does not seek to inspect any product, but rather inspects the process of quality control to ensure the methods, measurements and people are being effectively used.

Inspection is a key component of the quality control process. Acceptance and rejection of poor quality work relies on inspections. Inspection results also provide the data used in statistical analysis methods.

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