Quality Control Inspector

The Job and What's Involved

A quality control inspector makes sure that manufactured products meet the specified standards before they progress to the next phase of production or are sent out to customers.

The role varies widely, depending on the sector. For example:

A quality control inspector working in engineering might use special gauges and other equipment to check that parts have been properly assembled or welded.

In the food sector, an inspector might make sure that cakes are a standard size and colour, and that they have been packaged in line with the specification.

In the clothing industry, an inspector might examine seams and stitching to ensure they are neat and strong, or check that all products are produced to the same size and standard.

In a pharmaceutical company, an inspector might check test records to decide whether batches of drugs are safe for use by patients.

An inspector's tasks are likely to include:

  • Ensuring that their measuring and testing equipment is set correctly.
  • Selecting a sample from a production batch for inspection or testing.
  • Checking and testing materials and parts from outside suppliers to ensure they meet specification requirements for quality and, where appropriate, safety.
  • Monitoring the production process at different stages.
  • Carrying out tests on products that come off the production line - by observing or measuring dimensions, weight, or physical or chemical characteristics against specified requirements.
  • Keeping accurate records of checks.
  • Producing statistics of the results, and analysing them to decide whether products are acceptable.
  • Writing reports on test results.
  • Identifying inconsistencies and faults, and discovering their root causes.
  • Discussing any problems with suppliers or production staff.
  • Helping to develop solutions to problems.
  • Reviewing current work practices to improve quality standards.
  • Developing systems to monitor customer satisfaction levels.

Besides production staff, quality control inspectors may work closely with other colleagues. For example, sales or account managers may liaise with the inspector to pass on concerns from a client that need to be addressed in the production process.

Inspectors may also deal with external auditors and customers' inspectors, who visit to check the production process and quality control systems.

Quality control inspectors usually work 35 to 40 hours a week. They often work shifts, including evenings, nights and weekends. It may be possible to work part time.

Inspectors are usually based in a workshop, laboratory or office. However, they often visit the factory floor or warehouses to check the production process, collect samples and talk to production staff. They may spend a lot of time on their feet.

Depending on the sector, factory premises may be clean and airy, or dirty and dusty. They can also be noisy. Protective clothing, such as overalls, plastic overshoes and hairnets, may be worn, for the inspector's safety and to avoid contaminating the products.

Salaries for quality control inspectors may start at around £20,000 a year. Additional payments may be given for working shifts and overtime.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employers include manufacturers in many sectors, including:

- Pharmaceuticals
- Cosmetics
- Building and construction
- Food and drink
- Automotive
- Aerospace
- Textiles
- Electrical
- Plastics
- Oil and gas

The number of quality control inspector posts has been falling as more sophisticated equipment has been developed which is better able to pick up inconsistencies. Most companies are also now requiring workers to take full responsibility for the quality of their own output so that inspection activities can be reduced.

Job vacancies can be found in local and national newspapers, Jobcentre Plus offices, on recruitment agency websites (often for specific industries such as engineering, pharmaceutical and automotive), and in magazines such as Quality Manufacturing Today and Qualityworld. Many of these vacancies are also listed on the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) website.

Education and Training

The role of quality control inspector is usually taken on by people with experience in the relevant industry. They often start out in production or engineering roles.

Some employers may ask for four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths, English and a science subject. Quality control inspectors in more specialised and technical industries, such as pharmaceuticals or aerospace, may need A levels/H grades, a BTEC/SQA national qualification, an HNC/HND or a degree in a science or technology subject.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is generally provided on the job by the employer. The length of training depends on the nature of the work.

Quality control inspectors may also study part time to extend their knowledge and advance their careers. For example:

  • The City & Guilds Certificate in Quality Assurance provides a grounding in quality techniques.
  • The CQI runs short courses on general and industry-specific subjects, and offers study towards a Certificate in Quality (at local education centres or through distance learning), completion of which allows inspectors to apply for associate membership of the CQI.
  • Some inspectors work towards NVQ's/SVQ's in Business Improvement Techniques (Quality Improvement) at Levels 2, 3 and 4.

Professional Development Awards in Quality are available in Scotland.

All CQI members are encouraged to participate in the Institute's Continuing Professional Development scheme.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A quality control inspector needs to be:

  • Responsible, accurate and thorough, with a sharp eye for detail.
  • Methodical and willing to work within set procedures and time constraints.
  • Able to stay alert while doing repetitive tasks.
  • Skilled at communicating with others verbally and in writing, and influencing people to improve standards.
  • Good with numbers and able to analyse and interpret statistics.
  • Equipped with the right technical or scientific knowledge, depending on the sector they work in.
  • Computer literate.
  • Able to act on their own initiative and work as part of a team.

Your Long Term Prospects

Quality control inspectors may progress to become a supervisor, team leader or trainer. Some become self-employed.

With experience, an inspector may progress to a wider quality management role, or into related areas such as auditing management systems, technical sales or production management.

There may be opportunities to work abroad in some sectors.

Get Further Information

Chartered Quality Institute,
12 Grosvenor Crescent, London SW1X 7EE
Tel: 020 7245 6722
Website: www.thecqi.org

Engineering and Technology Board
Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Improve Ltd (Food and Drink Sector Skills Council),
Ground Floor, Providence House,
2 Innovation Close, Heslington,
York YO10 5ZF
Tel: 0845 644 0448
Website: www.improveltd.co.uk

SEMTA (Sector Skills Council for Science,
Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies),
14 Upton Road, Watford WD18 0JT
SEMTA learning helpline: Tel: 0800 282167
Website: www.semta.org.uk

Skillfast-UK (Sector Skills Council for Fashion and Textiles),
Richmond House, Lawnswood Business Park,
Leeds LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 239 9600
Website: www.skillfast-uk.org

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