In the world of manufacturing and industry, quality control tests are as varied as the products for which the tests are designed. Quality control tests are used to determine whether a product is safe for the consumer, is manufactured to specifications and meets guidelines for usefulness or other measures of quality. Quality control tests are an important part of the manufacturing industry because these tests ensure the end-users' safety and satisfaction with their purchases.
Quality control tests and methods are usually divided into three basic categories. These categories are in-house, outsourced and user test panels. Although not all manufacturers utilize all three types of quality control testing, nearly all manufacturers implement some form of quality control auditing in the manufacturing process.
In-house quality control tests might be something as simple as visual inspection of the product for the correct number of pieces, correct coloration or visible damage, or this type of testing might involve a complex series of carefully calibrated laboratory tests to determine chemical compositions and other properties of a manufactured product. In-house quality control testing is the most commonly employed form of quality control. A manufacturer might choose to have a separate quality control department, or quality control testing might be done along various parts of the production line.
Outsourced quality control testing is a method of quality control used commonly in industries such as the food industry or medicine production industry. An outside quality control auditor is assigned to run a series of tests on the products to determine whether the product meets the quality guidelines and claims of the manufacturer. In the case of specific industries, this outsourced quality control testing might be mandated by the government to ensure consumer safety of pharmaceuticals or food products.
The third category of quality control testing is user test panels. In this type of quality control testing, the product, or a functional prototype of the product, is given to a user to test and then deliver a report based on his or her personal experience. This test is almost always the last test in the series and is used to better understand how consumers will use a product and what concerns the product might present. When products are tested in user test panels, the sample product usually is given to the test panel members in exchange for participating in the quality control test. In other cases, the test panel member might receive other rewards or cash payment for his or her services.