Put yourself in the shoes of an importer for a moment. You’re manufacturing high-end tote bags in a factory overseas. The order is supposed to ship one week from now. You’re on a tight budget, but you’re concerned about quality. At what stage should you inspect your products?
Many buyers have some understanding of product inspection and the processes involved. But what buyers seldom consider is when to inspect products. Few buyers know of the difference that inspection type can make in the result of their finished goods. That’s why in this article, you’ll learn about the three common types of product inspections and when and why they’re done.
Product Inspection Type #1: Pre-production
Pre-production inspection starts earliest and inspects raw materials and components before production begins. Many buyers with concerns about the quality of raw materials will choose to inspect at this pre-production stage. Early inspection here helps the buyer prevent quality issues later down the road before mass production.
An example of a product for which pre-production inspection might be necessary is jewelry. The retail value of jewelry largely depends upon the quality of materials used, e.g. precious gems and stones. Therefore, a product inspection done before jewelry items are assembled is often necessary to ensure quality of the finished product. Composition testing would likely be carried out at this stage as well.
Product Inspection Type #2: During Production
During production, or “DUPRO”, inspection takes place when 20 to 60 percent of production has been completed. Inspection at this middle stage allows for checking the goods during various production processes, in addition to checking material use and workflow. This type of inspection is beneficial for:
- Shipments of large quantities with continuous production
- Products that involve many different processes; and
- Products that are vulnerable to defects that can’t be reworked at the later stages of production
An example of a case where during production inspection would be encouraged is products that require injection molding. Many products made with plastic, such as signs and displays, are injection molded. After molding, these products often go through other processes like powder coating and assembly. A defect like “short shooting” a mold cavity may be introduced during the molding process. But if inspection isn’t carried out at this stage, it may be too late to correct the issue and prevent its recurrence. This is especially likely if the injection process is done at a different factory. During production inspection allows a buyer to identify issues as they occur during manufacturing.
Product Inspection Type #3: Final
Final inspection is the most commonly performed inspection type. Final inspections are generally carried out when an order is at least 80 percent completed. Inspection this late in production usually happens when the goods are 100 percent finished and shortly before they’re loaded into containers for shipping. Inspection during or shortly after the final stages of production allows any defects found to be reworked if needed. This also allows the buyer to have the most up-to-date order status and realistic expectation about work quality. For this reason, it’s common for buyers to carry out final inspection in conjunction with other inspection types. At the very least, a final inspection of the finished goods is always advised.
Now let’s return to your order. Remember, you need these tote bags to leave the port in one week’s time. The bags are almost finished, so a pre-production inspection is off the table. And since the bags are expected to ship soon, it’s not likely that a product inspection during production is feasible either. What is feasible and highly suggested, in your case, is a final inspection. A final inspection carried out right away will give you the added benefit of having several days to rework any defects that are found. Then, if it’s within your budget, you might want to carry out re-inspection to verify those defects were corrected.
A Word of Caution about Product Inspections
An article offering advice about product inspections wouldn’t be doing the topic justice without mentioning a couple of caveats. Consider the following before carrying out a product inspection:
- Product inspections can actually introduce new defects to an order; and
- Product inspections need to be carried out with adequate lead time prior to shipping.
New defects can arise as a result of inspection because a lot physical handling of the goods is involved. Also, product inspections will be able to identify defects. But the factory needs time to rework and repair those defects. Without leaving enough time between inspection and shipping, defects can’t be reworked and reworking can’t be verified. Keep these points in mind when you’re considering product inspection.
Buyers often understand the importance of inspecting their products for quality before shipping. Fewer buyers understand the importance of when product inspection is carried out. The three commonly known types of inspection are:
- Pre-production inspection – inspection of raw materials and components before production begins
- During production inspection –? typically carried out when an order is 20 to 60 percent complete; and
- Final inspection – generally carried out when an order is 80 to 100 percent finished
Keep your product and timeline in mind when selecting inspection types. And don’t forget to consider the risk that handling the product can bring about new defects.
This article originally appeared in Quality Magazine