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Week of 12 June 2017: Inspect inspections

Email Jim at jthompson@taii.com

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If you are buying inspection services, make sure you are getting them. I was in a facility once where I saw what happens when these things go wrong. This facility had some high priced instrumentation for which they had an annual inspection contract. It just so happened that I was very familiar with one piece of instrumentation that was on this inspection cycle and I was standing beside it when the inspector came by. I knew every flaw this instrument currently suffered. The inspector's entire activity, as I observed it, was to take off last year's inspection sticker and put on this year's.

As he started to walk away, I challenged him on his "inspection." I told him everything that I knew was wrong with this instrument. He told me his company's contract was such that he only had time to change inspection stickers! This gentleman's company, the one with the inspection contract, is a very famous mega-corporation. They are allegedly heavily involved in Six-Sigma and other buzz-word quality programs. Yet they get themselves entangled in contracts such as this.

There are several important points here.

We will start with contract negotiations. It is obvious from this example that you must not take your negotiations to a level such that the supplier cannot do anything. In other words do not get so cheap that you will receive no services.

A second point is to make sure you have a qualified inspector. I am not saying this inspector was not qualified, but he was certainly unethical in my book. I would ask for five resumes to approve and only let one of the five approved inspectors on site. Write this into the contract.

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Agree on an inspection protocol. Exactly what will be done by the inspector? What will be the course of action if the inspector finds defects? Who buys replacement parts and from whom do they buy them? How long will the item being inspected be out of service? Who pays for additional downtime?

There needs to be a special method for your mill's own people to spot check the inspections (unless you plan on having someone follow the inspector around, which is not a bad idea). Quality checks on the inspector's work may well be worth it.

There are many questions to be asked and they are all important. You have two choices: do inspections correctly or do them the way I observed. The way I observed will no doubt save money in the short term, but heaven help you if get caught due to a failure.

I hope you are having your safety equipment inspected regularly, especially fire extinguishers, Scot air packs and vessel "sniffers." These are short term life-and-death matters and should not be fooled with under any circumstances.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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