One of the biggest mistakes that companies commit when it comes to inspection, is building an inspection workflow, follow it through, and stop there. As Cary Usrey wrote in an article for ohsonline.com about inspection, he said: “The quickest way to making the entire process ineffective is to fail to look at what is collected or act on what is found.”
Inspection is all about Quality Monitoring and Control. To effectively do that, you need to analyze and understand the outcomes of your inspection process and how to take further action to correct the situation.
Dr. W. Edwards Deming, considered The Father of Modern Quality Control, fostered a process known as Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA). It’s a continuous improvement cycle to ensure the full process is done correctly and the right post- action is taken.
The first step of the PDSA is to define a plan or purpose for the inspection process. Is the purpose of your inspection to identify violations or to prevent certain practices? Is it only about the satisfy regulations? The next step is to define the expectations around the process. What is the expected output or result of each phase? The collected data from your inspection must be able to help you improve upon your plan in the future.
The next step of PDSA is to perform the inspection and collect the data. The more accurate the data, the easier it is to identify patterns and trends. Following a predefined process and collecting data with defined validation rules, helps maintain the quality of data collected.
Most companies stop after the inspection is done and the problem is solved. This is a huge mistake! It’s crucial that you truly understand and evaluate the real quality of your work by looking for recurring trends and observations. Are your inspection visits successful? Are you truly solving the big problem or just achieving small fixes with each visit? Ideally, the outcome of the study step should match or go along with the expectations you set in the planning step.
The last but most important step in achieving improvement is to take necessary actions. Develop an action plan to address deficiencies and shortages, as the results of the action should be measured with another inspection visit a few days later. If the issue remains, come up with a different action plan until the issue is resolved.
It’s a lot more complex than just applying this model to your existing process. Your entire organization needs to support this type of commitment, from management providing resources, analyzing data and recommending corrective action, to inspectors receiving proper training and sticking to guidelines on the field.