5 Ways to Improve Your Quality Inspection Process

If you work in manufacturing and are struggling to with rising costs, returned products, and unhappy customers, check out some of my ideas below on how to improve your quality inspection process. If you have any other ones to add, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

1. Identify KPIs and Loopholes

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are used to measure a process’ success. One problem with KPIs is that while they may track progress towards a goal, they can often be gamed and measurements can be tweaked to make a metric look better than it truly is. A good KPI is something that is automatically captured from machines and requires little if any human input. To help identify a good KPI, first ask your team what the goal is. For some groups, this may be reducing the amount of defective product shipped to a customer. Others may just want to generate the most value for the plant. These are both great goals, but they are too slow to be effective KPIs.
Once you have the end goal in mind, dig a layer deeper. What actions go into improving that goal? Let’s use shipping less defective product to end customers as our example goal. This is a worthy goal, but how do you know if you are moving in the right direction? An effective KPI will help answer that question hourly or daily rather than quarterly. Maybe your plant currently has a lot of manual inspection throughout the production line. If this is the case, tracking the amount of product being discarded at each station may be a good KPI to track. A loophole here might be that more product is let through from one station to the next. Keep these potential loopholes in mind and mitigate them where possible. Each plant is different and the best KPIs to track will often differ. Consider what your goals are, what can be tracked to help reach that goal, and what types of unintended consequences could result.

2. Create a Process Diagram

Work with your team to create a Swim Lane Diagram. This will give you a better idea what tasks need to be done by what team at what point in the process. If there are multiple tasks that are done in parallel, which task takes longer to complete? Focusing on the tasks and teams that are involved in a process will help to understand where resources should be put in order to speed up the overall process.

3. Simplify the Tasks

“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler” - Albert Einstein

Once you have identified your process bottlenecks, work with your team to break the task down. The goal here is to ensure that any work that is being done is adding value to the process and requires a person. At this point, start considering whether a process can be either partially or fully automated.

4. Focus on Quick Wins

One mistake that many companies make when improving their quality inspection process is that they try to tackle too hard of a problem right away. This is an advanced strategy and unless you have a very solid team, it is probably better to start with a smaller process and generate value quicker. Once your team has started improving the workflow, the larger processes will be easier to optimize. If you feel like there are no smaller processes that need to be optimized, this probably means that the tasks should be broken down into smaller pieces.

5. Work with Your Subject Matter Experts

Don’t try to improve the process without working with the people that know the process best. There are typically years of expertise ready and willing to assist in process improvement. If you want to generate the highest return on investment from your quality inspection improvements, these team members will help you get there.


Hopefully these tasks give you some ideas on how you can improve your quality inspection process. If you are thinking about diving into your quality inspection process and you want an outside perspective to help you, I would love to hear from you. We can help you automate your quality inspection process whether you need deep learning to differentiate defects, a custom application built to make it easier to track your data, or a web scraping tool to retrieve data for you before you even request it. We will work with you no matter what stage of your journey you are in and will align our pricing to ensure we are both working towards the same goal