Quality Control Inspector

Quality control inspectors make sure that products meet standards of quality and safety. For example, they measure and weigh products, examine samples and test them.

Quality control inspectors work in a wide range of industries, including food and drink, pharmaceuticals and electronics.

The role

Quality control inspectors make sure that everything from raw materials to finished products meets quality and safety standards specified in the purchasing documentation. All production processes, whether large or small, require elements of quality control and all inspection and testing is carried out to specified requirements that have been agreed between the purchaser and the supplier.

Quality control inspectors normally work in a laboratory, workshop or office. They visit the factory floor to take samples of products and inspect production, and to discuss problems with colleagues.

They also inspect products purchased by their company from suppliers and maintain records of supplier performance. This data is important in helping suppliers to improve their performance and for making decisions regarding which suppliers can be relied on to meet specified requirements,

Inspectors regularly check and test samples of a product, as it would be impractical to test every single item that leaves a factory or workshop.

The testing methods that quality control inspectors use vary, depending on the type of product they are working with. For example, in the food processing industry, inspectors are responsible for making sure that products meet food safety and nutritional standards. In a pharmaceutical company, an inspector may test the safety and purity of drugs.

Some quality control tests are routine and quick. Others are more complex and lengthy. Automated systems are often used to very quickly test thousands of samples.

Quality control inspectors keep records of all the tests they have carried out. They use charts and statistics to analyse their results. They may then write and present a report to show their findings.

The inspector may be responsible for declaring that a product is not safe or is not of the specified quality.

If there is a problem, quality control inspectors meet with production staff to work out the root cause of the problem and to decide whether current processes need to be changed. They might make recommendations for improvement.

Personal skills

As a quality control inspector, you must be observant and very good at paying attention to detail. You will also need to be patient as some tests are complex and take a long time to complete.

You should have a logical, methodical approach to your work and you must be accurate when taking measurements and recording figures.

You need good number skills, for example, in order to measure and weigh samples, or perhaps to understand and use statistics. You should have good computer skills because quality control inspectors often analyse, store and display test results on computers.

Depending on the area in which you work, you may also need the ability to use technical equipment, for example, microscopes and automated testing machines.

You will need tact and discretion to point out problems to production workers. Good communication skills are important to motivate others to improve the quality of their work, as well as to explain your findings clearly. Good report writing skills are also useful.

Entry routes

Many quality control inspectors are experienced production line or shop floor workers. Entry is possible, however, as a trainee or quality control assistant, with mainly on-the-job training. Vacancies may be advertised under several titles including quality tester, fault finder and quality controller.

Some posts in quality assurance require only on-the-job training. Other positions require technicians who have a qualification in their discipline.

Progression to quality management positions may be possible and there are a number of specialist degree courses and several postgraduate courses on aspects of quality management.

The salary

On average, quality control inspectors earn in the range of £14,000 - £16,000 a year, rising to £18,500 - £22,500. Higher earners can make around £26,000 a year.

If you are already working as a quality control inspector, you could be eligible for membership of the CQI and the Chartered Quality Professional qualification.

If you are interested in becoming a quality control inspector, the CQI offers a Diploma in Quality and Certificate in Quality. If you complete the diploma, you will also be eligible to become a full member of the CQI. The CQI also offers short training courses in a wide variety of topics. 

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Please note: The CQI offices will be closed for the Christmas and New Year holidays from 24 December 2014 and will reopen on Friday, 2 January 2015.

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