September 2013 - Inspection upon products’ arrival

Written by Administrator
Saturday, 17 August 2013 06:17

The recent European scandal of the horse meat sold allegedly as beef has shown the current limits of the Quality Assurance and the traceability based only on the review of documents issued by the manufacturers and the suppliers.

With the globalisation of the markets, this trickery has affected many European countries, some manufacturers, many distributors and a huge number of consumers.

The whole system is based on the trust and the reliability that every company puts into its suppliers. Are yearly or more frequent audits sufficient enough to avoid this kind of anomaly?

This scandal will have thus highlighted a major weakness in the system of the control of foodstuffs placed on the market.

In the seventies and eighties, particularly in the penetrant testing (PT) and the magnetic particle testing (MT) areas, the concepts of quality assurance and traceability were not yet in force. We remember some companies from various industrial sectors, which did not make do with the certificates of compliance and the laboratory test reports issued by manufacturers and suppliers.
Some of them required also that the supplier send for analysis, at his own expense, samples of batches of materials before shipment, to independent laboratories approved by the prime. The user was, then, supposed to receive only satisfactory batches.
Others performed by their own some tests on samples, which came along with the relevant batches of materials, before any green light for use. If the tests results were satisfactory, the materials could leave the warehouse for use. If the tests results were non-compliant, the supplier had to take back, at his own expense, the faulty batches. In addition, the supplier should explain the causes for discrepancies, and detail the corrective actions that it would commit to undertake to avoid recurrence of such anomalies.

Of course, this system had its drawbacks: the prime had to duplicate, at his own expense, some of the tests that the supplier or manufacturer had already performed; add to this the time wasted for these checks. It is obvious that in order to meet cost and labour cutting down, the system could not go on this way.

This is why a simplified procedure was set: the prime would just perform some checks at random on some batches, especially as soon he got confidence enough in his supplier. If any doubt, the prime switched to another supplier.
Later, the ISO accreditation made it practically useless to perform any inspection upon arrival, with the consequences that we know: fraud or error on the materials. The era of the paperwork management was born.

As early as 2006, in their paper(1) Nathanael RIESS, Andre IVANKOV and Harri HAACKE had issued a warning, which highlighted the quality problems concerning PT and MT materials, caused by:

- “The actual market situation, characterised by rising cost, price war and predatory competition, On the other hand, that buyers tend to an excessive “low-price-mentality” while believing to get the same quality for less money. More and more the purchase departments are making the decision- not the NDT-experts, if still available at all.”

The authors pointed out: “there are media of different price level available on the market – all with declaration of conformance with the relevant EN ISO Standard. But an evaluation shows, that some of these - especially some of the low-price products – do not fulfill standardized requirements, there are simply unsuitable!”

And they claimed: “it remains an old law: quality required its price!”

We can go even further. A quality auditor, be he a third party or an auditor of the prime, has just to check the compliance of the operations with the standards, codes, specifications required by the prime, and in accordance with the internal procedures of the company.

He is not allowed to criticize a procedure, but just to make sure it is applied.
Let us take an example: the procedure requires the user using a colour contrast penetrant, with a fluorine + chlorine content less than 200 ppm. It does not state either the brand of the penetrant or its reference, or the method of analysis.
An untrustworthy manufacturer or supplier, or one with a great sense of humor, sent a vaguely red product, labelled "Colour contrast penetrant XYZ". A certificate of conformance regarding the chlorine + fluorine content is attached.
The auditor finds out that the "color contrast penetrant" is just water with a hint of red dye. What may he do?
Nothing, if the inspection upon arrival, as laid down in the procedure, is perfectly followed.
Oh, we forgot to tell you that that water was a well-known mineral water, which we will not quote the brand of, with a guaranteed low chlorine + fluorine content. Real-life case ...


(1) Nathanael RIESS, Andre IVANKOV and Harri HAACKE, Rising Costs and Price War - To the Debit of Quality, in Spite of European Standardisation? (Quality Requires its Price; Critical Views; Negative Examples by Means Of MT- and PT-Inspection Media), 9th European Conference on Nondestructive Testing (ENCNDT 2006), Th. 1.8.2, Estrel Convention Centre (ECC), Berlin (Germany), September 25-29, 2006: on this Webpage.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 17 August 2013 06:29 )