Most product inspections take place at your supplier’s factory which makes sense as that’s where the products are being made, allowing a QC inspector to go in there and check during production, for example. But there are times when you may conduct an off-site product inspection. Let’s explore what this inspection is, its advantages, and some drawbacks, too.
Can an inspector check product quality without going to the supplier’s factory?
Yes, and this may happen for a few reasons:
- Some factories in China simply don’t allow visitors at the moment due to COVID restrictions in their area.
- Off-site product inspections can be used to complement traditional’ on-site inspections that have already taken place, in order to provide extra assurance on certain points if you have specific concerns about quality.
- You work with a supplier with whom you have a good relationship and trust to self-inspect product quality, but you use an off-site inspection as an occasional “quick check” to assure they’re on track.
This type of inspection has become more popular during the pandemic where we have had occasions where our customer’s suppliers will not permit access to their facility by outside inspectors. In these cases, arranging an off-site product inspection provides extra assurance to you and is better than doing no inspection at all before the products are shipped.
How can a QC inspector perform an inspection remotely?
Your inspector and your supplier’s staff will cooperate to do a real-time inspection via video. The inspector will guide them through the points he or she wants to check and follow a very similar process to what would be done with an in-person inspection.
Here are 6 advantages an off-site inspection specifically provides:
- No access restrictions due to the pandemic (we can do it with factories located anywhere).
- Shorter lead time to get it in place (no travelling, etc).
- Cheaper than other product inspections if it’s short (in some cases it takes only 2 or 3 hours). Note, we also need to spend time communicating with the factory inspector, and the speed depends on that inspector’s competence, cooperation, and pace of work.
- Can easily be arranged at several stages of production, and ideally done at the end of the assembly line. Can be in complement to an on-site inspection happening on another day.
- A good way of confirming some specific points, for example how the packaging & labeling are done. Great if a supplier is doing something for the first time and you want to keep a close eye on it.
- Can be a good complement to a self-inspection program, whereby the competence of certain inspectors is monitored and confirmed periodically.
It’s important to accept that there’s a lower ability to detect issues than an on-site inspection. Here are some other key drawbacks to remote inspections:
- Typically done on a smaller sample size. For example, level S-3 instead of II (read more about inspection levels).
- Inability to ensure the samples being checked were really pulled at random, even if we follow up ‘live’ via a video stream. This means lower assurance that the findings of this inspection are accurate.
- Inability to ensure that all defects are detected. We might be unable to see certain issues on a live video or on photos. For example, a slight color difference, a gap in assembly which is not visible at a certain angle, etc.
- Inability for our inspector to make comments on the touch & feel of the products; reliance on what the factory staff tells us.
- The inspection might be slow or unworkable if the factory is not cooperative or does not understand how to do certain tests.
- The report we prepare will be made with photos sent by the factory’s representatives. Those photos may not be clear and in good lighting as the staff probably won’t be as experienced in taking good product photos as an inspector.
Since 2020 and the advent of the coronavirus pandemic there have been more and more reasons to perform off-site product inspections (and off-site factory audits, too, for many of the same reasons).
They’re not perfect as they lack some accuracy in comparison to inspections where our inspector visits the factory in person, for example, an inspector is not able to view product color with the naked eye nor feel the finish of products.
But, as a tool to reduce your risks, inspecting products via a video feed is really valuable if the alternative is to let the supplier ship without performing your own inspections, even if they claim to have performed their own inspections. Furthermore, it’s fast, pretty easy to arrange, and very affordable.
Related blog posts to read even more on the topic
Read more about remote inspections and factory audits i these extra blog posts:
👉 Off-Site QC VS In-Factory QC: have your supplier ship products to a third-party facility and perform inspections there where they can’t interfere if you’re having serious problems with quality or there has been a breakdown of your relationship.
👉 Coping With Coronavirus 2: How To Inspect Products & Audit Factories Without Going On Site: a number of strategies to follow in order to perform product inspections and/or factory audits if you are not allowed access the factory due to COVID restrictions.
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