There are a couple of different ways to manage quality and many debates as to the benefits of the various ways. The most economical way in the long run is to build quality in right from the start by involving all employees at all stages. Let’s look at the different approaches suggested in the title.

Inspecting for Quality
Inspecting for quality normally consists of operators doing their thing with a quality person doing some kind of final product inspection. They will often be from a different department than the production people and they may inspect every part, or representative samples.

While having a second set of eyes looking for issues may seem like a good idea, this can mean a lot of additional employees. Also, the quality folks may not have as their responsibility the goal of solving the issues, only finding nonconforming product. Worse yet, this system can set up the mindset in the production group that they do not need to be as diligent with the quality aspects of their job because someone else will catch the problem if something gets through, which is too late, and results in unnecessary scrap or rework.

When the quality inspectors find something off spec, their normal reaction is to quarantine everything between them and the production operator. That might be a lot of product, and there is often a time lag in the communication while more bad product is produced.

Building in Quality
This approach to quality management is focused on the person making the product also being responsible for the quality of the product they produce, in real time. There still maybe some limited secondary inspection based on limited samples, but each operator at each step is responsible to ensure that what they do meets all the specifications and most importantly, they never pass along bad or suspect product, but stop it right at the source.

Production operators make sure that their machines are set to the right specifications at all times, and are likely tracking the trends of what they are producing. This means that not only does each production person know what good quality looks like, they also have the right and the responsibility to stop any bad product, including shutting down the production process if deemed necessary.

So what are the benefits?

First, this is a very empowering way to work for the production operators. They feel more connected to the final customer and also feel a sense of responsibility for what is being produced. There is usually more pride in their own work knowing that they are releasing the product instead of someone else doing a quality inspection for release.

Second, the impact of a single piece of bad product is reduced as there is no time lag between production and inspection and all the inventory that might have been involved.

Third, it also lowers overall costs as fewer inspectors are needed.

When quality is built in at each step of the process, overall quality improves and the speed of reaction to an abnormal situation is much quicker. The quality folks will spend more time teaching what good quality looks like and why it is important to the company and the customer, and less time on inspection. In fact, everyone becomes part of the quality team looking for good quality product and solving the issues that lead to bad quality in a much quicker and cooperative fashion.