Product Inspection vs. Testing: What is the Difference?

by | Jan 25, 2021 | Quality Control

If you’ve developed a product and want to get it into the hands of consumers, you need to learn how to manage product quality and compliance. You may have heard the terms ‘product inspection’ and ‘product testing’ thrown around and been unsure about whether they were the same thing.

They are not, but as an importer, you should be well informed about both.

In this article, we explain the differences between inspection and testing. We talk about what each entails, and the key factors you should consider to help you make the best decisions regarding inspection and testing for your product.

Product Inspection vs. Testing – Key Differences

Product inspections involve verifying the quality of your product at the various stages of the manufacturing process. Inspectors check random samples of your product to ensure that their appearance and function meet pre-set requirements.

Product inspectors checking the weight of a product

Inspectors checking the weight of a product during inspection

For example, an inspector might take measurements of your product, verify that its colors match your samples, and make sure that it works as expected. They might also check your packaging and ensure that the labels and barcodes are correct.

Product inspections can help to identify any flaws or quality defects before your product reaches consumers. And it’s important to note that having a third party conduct these inspections helps ensure impartiality.

What about product testing?

Product testing involves testing your product at a laboratory to confirm whether it complies with relevant standards or regulations. For example, garments might be tested to flammability standards, or plastic toys might be tested to ensure they do not contain lead paint. This testing should be undertaken by a certified laboratory.

Testing can help you verify which raw materials are going into your product and whether it contains hazardous chemicals — it can also make you aware of any potential safety risks associated with your product.

Product Inspections – How They Work

Your manufacturer will generally have their own internal inspectors or quality control officers. This helps them to ensure product quality, however, they are beholden to factory management and you will have little insight into their activities.

As an importer, it is recommended that you take additional measures to ensure the quality of your products. These can include hiring your own in-house inspectors or arranging for third-party inspections through a provider like Insight.

How do third party inspections work?

There are different types of inspections to consider, but the most common among them is the pre-shipment inspection, also called a Final Random Inspection. An inspector goes to the factory and runs through a series of checks from your inspection checklist.

They check packaging & labeling, physical requirements, product function, and more. Once they’ve finished their inspection, they send you an inspection report which gives you a detailed breakdown of their findings.

Be aware that most credible inspection firms will use an international standard for inspections called AQL (Acceptable Quality Limits). This method is used to determine how many units an inspector will look at, as well as how many defects it will take to trigger a failed inspection.

It is important to understand product inspections and how they apply to your business, but product testing may be equally important.

The Importance of Product Testing

Product testing, or lab testing, involves testing your raw materials and products at an independent, certified lab. Product testing usually takes place during pre-production or after mass production.

Chairs being tested to performance standards

Chairs being tested to performance standards in a lab

As with product inspections, testing your product early can help you prevent issues that may affect your entire production line. Testing can also provide you with product safety and performance certification.

The type of testing that is necessary depends on the type of product you sell and the regulations that apply to it. Make sure you are familiar with your product, its intended use (and users), and any required standards. If you are in the US, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, provides a number of helpful resources on their website.

When getting your products tested, it is important to consider laboratory accreditation. And when choosing a lab to work with, look for those that have ISO 17025 certification or are on the list of CPSC-Accepted Testing Laboratories. This will help you ensure the quality, safety, and regulatory compliance of your products.

Product Inspection and Testing Both Play Important Roles

Product inspection and testing are two different processes that all importers should be aware of. They can play equally important roles within your broader quality control and compliance efforts. To ensure the credibility of inspections and testing, it is important to have them carried out by accredited or independent bodies.

To learn more about each of these services, you can visit our product inspection services and lab testing services pages.

When it comes to product inspections, it is important to keep in mind that they will help you to ensure the quality of the product you are importing — and this ultimately reflects the quality of your business.

If you’re thinking about conducting inspections, we recommend you download our Guide to Successfully Preparing for a Product Inspection.

Free Guide: How to Prepare for an Inspection

Are you thinking of hiring a third-party inspection company? If so, you need to be properly prepared. No one knows your product better than you do. So, make sure you give your service provider the information they need to ensure that your inspections are a success.

Download this free guide to successfully preparing for your product inspections.


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