Quality Magazine

The Evolution of the NDT Quality Inspector

April 4, 2011


The absence of trained nondestructive testing (NDT) quality professionals-whose mission in life is to protect their organization’s integrity, reputation and liability-is visibly evident in many of today’s companies. This trend is due mostly in part to the growing popularity of lean and Six Sigma.

I can understand why organizations fear the NDT inspector, who is always looking over someone’s shoulder with hopes of finding mistakes to justify his existence. However, this scenario does not ring true in all cases. In fact, human survival instincts will dictate that if an NDT inspector, or any employee for that matter, identifies a red flag-for example, the purchase of their company as bolt-on resource for a larger organization-this will drive that employee to justify his position.

As humans, we tend to act irrationally when we are in survival mode. For an NDT inspector, this could mean overestimating the impact of system, process or product nonconformities on an organization, which could ultimately result in a loss of inspector credibility.

I recently came across this job description while I was with a client: “The NDT quality inspector will inspect parts as directed by engineering directives and the quality/production manager and will identify, record and process identified nonconformities using tools, such as root cause, corrective actions, continuous improvement, internal audits, and other measurement and analysis techniques as applicable. The inspector will be trained in and understand statistical techniques, such as statistical process control (SPC), cause and effect, Six Sigma and standard deviation as applicable to meet the needs of the customer, organization, regulatory and statutory requirements.”

There are many things wrong with this job description that could be another article in itself.

If I had my way, I would eliminate terms used to describe positions in organizations, such as quality manager, quality management and quality inspectors. The word quality is an ambiguous term with many meanings. Quality should be determined by the intended technicians, clients or customers, and not by society in general. Even goods with low prices can be considered quality items if they meet a market need.

As many international standards have recognized the challenges of globalization and the open world outsourcing markets, it is time that we not only revise our management systems, but our custodians of these changes-the NDT inspectors. This same globalization also has produced the need to redefine what was once known as a quality manager.

In the revised international standards, such as ISO 9001: 2008, the rationale and the shift from quality requirements to customer and organization, regulatory and statutory requirements as the foundation of the mission target of all organizations is visibly evident. The mission target is always to meet the big four-customer, organization, regulatory and statutory requirements.

So where do quality assurance or quality inspectors come in as part of this scenario? They don’t.

I welcome your feedback and comments regarding the evolution of today’s NDT quality inspectors and the impact of globalization on the role of quality management in today’s companies.