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Visual Inspections: The Unsung Hero of Quality Control

The realm of quality control is teeming with jargon and technicalities, but at its core is one critical process that often receives far less attention than it deserves: the humble visual inspection.

What Is Visual Inspection?

At its heart, visual inspection is an observation-based assessment method. It’s a form of non-destructive testing (NDT), which means it allows inspectors to evaluate products and equipment without inducing any permanent alterations or damage (which is the domain of destructive testing methods).

In its most basic form, visual inspection relies only on the human eye and the keen sense of observation and intuition of the person performing the inspection. But because the human eye is in many ways limited, most real-world inspection techniques rely on specialized equipment, such as magnifying glasses, microscopes, or infrared cameras, to explore areas not easily visible.

Visual inspections are commonly performed by:

•  Maintenance technicians: These professionals regularly conduct visual inspections of equipment and machinery as part of their preventative maintenance routines.

•   Quality control inspectors: In manufacturing, quality control inspectors are specialized professionals who examine products to ensure they meet specified standards.

•   Assembly line workers: Serving as the first line of defense against defects in the manufacturing process, assembly line workers perform basic visual inspections on each item that passes through their station.

In the era of technology, it’s not uncommon to utilize remote visual inspection methods in certain circumstances. These methods allow for visual inspections to be conducted in areas that are difficult, hazardous, or impossible for a person to access directly. Examples include inspections of pipelines, large machinery, or confined spaces.

What Is the Goal of Visual Inspection?

Regardless of who performs the visual inspection procedure, its goals are always similar, and they include:

•             Identifying defects: This is the primary goal of any inspection. By observing a product, machine, or structure, inspectors can identify visible defects that may affect performance or safety.

•             Assessing condition: Visual inspections provide a snapshot of the overall condition of a system or object. This can include determining wear and tear on a machine, evaluating the condition of a building’s exterior, or assessing a finished product’s quality.

•             Ensuring compliance: In many industries, products and procedures have to meet certain standards or regulations. Visual inspections are often used to ensure these standards are being met.

•             Enhancing safety: Safety is paramount in virtually every industry, and visual inspections play a crucial role in maintaining it. By identifying faulty equipment and other potential hazards, visual inspections help to create a safer working environment.

•             Reducing costs: When issues are proactively identified and addressed early on, it’s often possible to prevent more serious, and consequently more expensive, problems down the line.

How to Standardize Visual Inspections?

While the task of standardizing visual inspections may seem challenging due to their subjective nature, it’s a journey well worth embarking on because consistency is key to maintaining quality control and ensuring safety.

The creation of standard visual inspection procedures makes sense for all inspections that take multiple steps to complete, such as those involving complex equipment. Of course, it’s not necessary to document basic visual inspections that take just a few moments to complete and are performed over and over again.

When standardizing visual inspections, it’s a good idea to follow these key steps:

1.          Identify all assets that require inspection. Start by creating a list of all assets that need regular visual inspection. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. You don’t want to miss an important piece of equipment that might fall into disrepair or cause a safety issue if not regularly monitored.

2.          Define which criteria trigger an inspection. Specify what factors or conditions should trigger an inspection. This might include regular intervals (e.g., daily, monthly), after specific events (e.g., after equipment usage or post-assembly), or in response to identified issues (e.g., following a system malfunction).

3.          Establish clear defect guidelines. It’s important to provide clear criteria for what constitutes a defect. Visual guides, photographs, and descriptions can all be used to assist visual inspectors in making accurate and consistent assessments.

4.          Create standard visual inspection procedures. Develop clear, step-by-step procedures that inspectors should follow during a visual inspection. This could include directions on using specific inspection equipment, how to approach different areas of the asset, and how to document and report findings.

5.          Integrate visual inspections into maintenance routines. Make visual inspection a core part of your regular maintenance procedures. This could be as simple as adding inspection tasks to your existing maintenance checklists, but there are modern digital solutions that can be used to automate scheduling, issue reminders for inspections, and facilitate more efficient documentation and tracking of inspection results.

One such solution is ROO.AI, a next-generation visual inspection platform that shows workers exactly what to do and when they need to do it.

Enhanced Visual Inspections With ROO.AI

ROO.AI makes it easy to integrate visual inspections into maintenance routines thanks to its unique visual, data-driven approach that’s designed from the ground up to be intuitive, efficient, and mobile-native.

Instead of sifting through endless manuals or trying to recall the specifics of a training session, technicians can simply use ROO.AI to navigate standard visual inspection procedures right on their mobile devices.

ROO.AI provides guided assistance to ensure process standards are adhered to, and it collects valuable data that can be used to further enhance quality control processes.

When a technician empowered with ROO.AI identifies an issue, they can take immediate corrective action on the spot, ensuring the issue is addressed swiftly and thereby reducing downtime and potential subsequent damage.

In essence, ROO.AI brings visual inspections to the 21st century by harnessing the power of digital technology and intuitive design. 

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Well known analysts and consulting firms, such as McKinsey, cite observed improvements in their research including:

10-20%
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10-30%
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15-30%
labor productivity increases
30-50% reduction in machine downtime
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