Prior to the Industrial Revolution, items were produced by an individual craftsman, who was responsible for material procurement, production, inspection, and sales. In case any quality problems arose, the customer would take up issues directly with the producer.

The Industrial Revolution provided the climate for continuous quality improvement. In the late 19th century, Fredrick Taylor’s system of Scientific Management was born. It provided the backup for the early development of quality management through inspection.

At the time when goods were produced individually by craftsmen, they inspected their own work at every stage of production and discarded faulty items. When production increased with the development of technology, scientific management was born out of a need for standardization rather than craftsmanship.

This approach required each job to be broken down into its component tasks. Individual workers were trained to carry out these limited tasks, making craftsmen redundant in many areas of production. The craftsmen’s tasks were divided among many workers.

This also resulted in mass production at lower cost, and the concept of standardization started resulting in interchangeability of similar types of bits and pieces of product assemblies. One result of this was a power shift away from workers and toward management.

With this change in the method of production, inspection of the finished product became the norm rather than inspection at every stage. This resulted in wastage because defective goods were not detected early enough in the production process.

Wastage added costs that were reflected either in the price paid by the consumer or in reduced profits. Due to the competitive nature of the market, there was pressure on manufacturers to reduce the price for consumers, which in turn required cheaper input prices and lower production costs.

In many industries, emphasis was placed on automation to try to reduce the costly mistakes generated by workers. Automation led to greater standardization, with many designs incorporating interchanges of parts. The production of arms for the 1914–1918 war accelerated this process.

An inspection is a specific examination, testing, and formal evaluation exercise and overall appraisal of a process, product, or service to ascertain if it conforms to established requirements. It involves measurements, tests, and gauges applied to certain characteristics in regard to an object or an activity.

The results are usually compared to specified requirements and standards for determining whether the item or activity is in line with the target. Inspections are usually nondestructive. Some of the nondestructive methods of inspection are

• Visual
• Liquid dyed penetrant
• Magnetic particle
• Radiography
• Ultrasonic
• Eddy current
• Acoustic emission
• Thermography

The degree to which inspection can be successful is limited by the established requirements. Inspection accuracy depends on

1. Level of human error
2. Accuracy of the instruments
3. Completeness of the inspection planning

Human errors in inspection are mainly due to

• Technique errors
• Inadvertent errors
• Conscious errors
• Communication errors

Most construction projects specify that all the contracted works are subject to inspection by the owner/consultant/owner’s representative.

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