What impacts the consistency and value of inspection services?

Peter Lyons - Founder NECIT Services

In this post, I have reflected on past experiences as both an inspector and inspection lecturer at The Welding Institute (TWI) to share what I think creates both consistency and value when it comes to service delivery.

Factors to consider

First off, it is worth sharing some of the factors that create issues with inspection standards and compromise how both consistency and value are delivered:

  1. Oil Prices slump changes requirements
    During the slump in oil price, many clients in that sector needed to become leaner and cut back on inspection costs. They looked to reduce inspection time on projects through less manpower but also the use of multi-disciplined inspectors who could cover all aspects of their projects. This was more often than not, delivered on an ad hoc flexible basis and there was limited pool of such highly skilled talent who were both trusted by suppliers and willing to work on such terms.
  2. Inspection services changed offering
    Inspection companies, feeling the squeeze of the reduced oil price through lowered volume of work and a change in client expectations, lowered the charge out rates on inspectors. This created a day by day, job by job approach to rates negotiation which often, resulted in multiple inspectors covering an ad hoc position.
  3. Price competition in the market
    Less work causes a race to the bottom for inspectors who are struggling to fill their calendars up. This ultimately ends up with highly qualified and highly experienced people being priced out of the market by those willing to work for bottom dollar. Unfortunately, low cost often means cutting corners through lack of focus or detailed approaches. And that means low quality.

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Consistency and value

Working as a client in the past, I experienced first-hand the frustrations of project teams constantly needing to review and approve CV’s for different manufacturing stages of a product. This was either down to an inspector being ” no longer available” or the inspector not being experienced in a particular manufacturing aspect.

As an inspector, I am aware that availability is often secured by the rate charged. A sudden change in availability of an inspector on a project is usually down to a change in payable rates. This is something that clients are very aware of and we all need to work together to create the right level of value for all parties if quality is to be maintained. Clients do not want to increase risk to their project, but they do want to achieve the right balance of value alongside service consistency.

Creators of Engineering projects (the clients) need to be able to trust suppliers to deliver a quality product or service, on time and to budget. Delays or poor quality can cost them dearly. At the start of any client/supplier relationship, there needs to be time to nurture a trusting relationship. It is impossible for an inspector or a supplier to grow trust with a client during a 1 day or ad hoc inspection.


How to achieve consistency?

Having recognised some of the causes of a drop in consistency and how clients and service delivery partners try to deliver value, I’ve put together a few of the (not exhaustive!) things that I know help to deliver consistency of inspection service quality whilst delivering long term value.

  • Relationships
    By investing in long-term relationships and having consistent named contacts at third party providers, clients can build up trust and confidence as well as save time repeating requirements
  • Qualifications
    Using third party services who provide inspectors with the right qualification and experience means you are more likely to gain tangible value even if the cost of the inspection itself isn’t the lowest in market
  • Multi-skilled
    Using multi-skilled inspectors that are at least level-2 trained means you can create efficiencies on site by not constantly changing people; that in turn drives consistency of delivery through knowledge gained
  • First hand knowledge
    Having hands on experience as an engineer or inspector gives that insight to quickly grasp what 3rd party inspection clients are looking for and need – you speak their language and can confidently deliver

You can read more here about our views on inspection competency which when managed properly, can have a significant impact on the consistency and value of delivered third part services.

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