Business inspections come in many varieties. In some industries, you may be required to undergo government-controlled inspections, or may face surprise inspections to ensure you’re in compliance with various laws. In others, you’ll be responsible for conducting your own inspections internally.
Regardless, how you approach inspections can make a big impact on the ultimate success of your business. Not all inspections are efficient or effective, so it’s on you to understand the importance of inspections and conduct them as best you can.
The Value of Inspections
The purpose of an inspection will vary depending on the nature of the inspection and the industry it’s in. However, these are some of the most important benefits:
- Improving safety and lowering health risks. When most people think about inspections, they think about health and safety inspections, which are common in manufacturing, food service, healthcare, and related industries. Occasionally, these inspections are independently executed by the government, but it’s wise to conduct some of these inspections on your own. Not only will you prevent the possibility of a lawsuit and ensure your business remains in legal compliance, you’ll also keep your staff (and possibly customers) healthier.
- Anticipating and preventing process failures. Equipment fails, sooner or later. Anticipating those failures and making adjustments to prevent them can save your company lots of time and money. A good inspection will be able to identify pieces of equipment or parts that need to be replaced, long before they’re capable of doing damage or wasting time. You may also be able to identify process failures, independent of equipment integrity.
- Identifying and removing obstacles to employee efficiency. Finally, inspections can study your high-level processes, including how your employees work together and which workflows you follow. With enough monitoring, you’ll be able to identify points of inefficiency and correct for them.
How to Conduct Efficient Inspections
If you’re going to conduct inspections of any sort in your business, you’ll want to follow these important tips to be successful:
- Understand your goals. First, understand the main goals you have with regard to inspections. Are you hoping to save money, or are you just trying to remain in compliance with the law? Are you more worried about the possibility of equipment failure, or is your focus more on how your employees are working? When you know your goals, you’ll be able to optimize your efforts accordingly.
- Work with a true expert. It may be tempting to have one of your employees or managers conduct an inspection for your business, and in some cases, this may help you. However, for most businesses (especially larger ones), it’s much better to hire someone qualified as an independent inspector. Professional inspectors tend to be much more thorough and less likely to cut corners. They also have more experience, so they’re better able to detect things that might slip by a familiar employee or supervisor.
- Include routine and non-routine elements. Inspections are more powerful when they’re executed consistently. Accordingly, you’ll need to have at least some routine elements; for example, you might conduct an equipment inspection twice a month to make sure they remain operating smoothly. However, if your inspections are too routine, your workforce will optimize their efforts around those inspections, and there’s a risk your inspectors will “go through the motions,” missing key elements that have changed. It’s therefore good to incorporate some surprise inspections, and to alter your approach occasionally to keep things fresh.
- Inspect not just items, but people. Many inspections are focused on tangible things, like pieces of equipment or the condition of your premises. However, you should at least occasionally invest time into inspecting how your people work together. You’ll want to make sure they’re using the equipment responsibly, and try to gauge their level of performance, productivity, and efficiency.
- Document a full list of violations. No matter what, you’ll need some way to thoroughly document what was inspected and potential violations. Use an inspection data management system (IDMS) to make things easier on yourself, and make sure your inspector is using it to thoroughly account for all points of their inspection. The more details you collect, the better.
- Make the list publicly available. To hold your business more accountable and ensure that those violations get addressed as quickly as possible, make the inspection documents publicly available. While you’re at it, put a single person in charge of overseeing efforts to comply with the recommendations of the inspector.
With a good inspection program in place, you’re ultimately going to save money. Your equipment will last longer, your business will be safer, your employees will be healthier, and every process will iteratively get more productive. Take your inspections seriously, and you’ll stand to learn much.