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Inspection and Test Plans

An Inspection and Test Plan lays out a schedule of inspections at critical control points or 'hold points' within a process, in order to verify that things are progressing as they should be. We look at an example ITP.

An "Inspection and Test Plan" (ITP) might also be called a "Quality Inspection Plan".

Inspection and Test Plans set out critical control points or 'hold points' at various stages within a process. Each control point is a scheduled inspection or verification activity where you will make sure that things are progressing as they should be.

Inspection and Test Plans are often used as a way to satisfy the requirements of the ISO 9001 standard related to control of production and service provision.

In ISO9001:2015:

8.5.1 Control of production and service provision

"... c) the implementation of monitoring and measurement activities at appropriate stages to verify that criteria for control of processes or outputs, and acceptable criteria for products and services, have been met; ..."

8.6 Release of products and services

"The organization shall implement planned arrangements, at appropriate stages, to verify that the product and service requirements have been met. ... "

In ISO9001:2008 version, it was:

8.2 Monitoring and Measurement

"The organisation shall monitor and measure the characteristics of the product to verify that product requirements have been met. This shall be carried out at appropriate stages of the product realisation process in accordance with the planned arrangements (see7.1)."

Did you notice "at appropriate stages"? This means that checking happens throughout the process and not just on the final output. That's a good strategy as the earlier you pick up mistakes or problems, the less it costs you.

There is also a requirement to keep evidence of the check, which means a record of some kind.

What the standard is saying is that you must plan when, and what, and how you will check that your product or service is meeting requirements. Planned and executed properly, an ITP will ensure a consistent output. It's up to you to determine where these appropriate points are in your process. It's also up to you to determine what your records will be.

How to prepare an ITP

In general the ITP should follow the sequence of operations and clearly define who is responsible for signing off each check.

First decide when in the process you want to conduct an inspection or check. Common hold points are prior to a phase of high cost/ high value work, where any pre-exisiting problems will create difficulties at the next stage, or will mean a high cost of re-work when discovered later in the process.

For each check point you need to specify exactly what to look for (perhaps refer to another document for details), how the check is recorded, and who must perform/signoff the inspection.

Plan vs. Checklist

An Inspection and Test Plan is not the same as an Inspection Checklist.

An ITP tells you when in the process to perform an inspection. The details of the inspection are contained in the checklist, and are typically recorded there.

An ITP might refer to different checklists for each inspection point, or could refer to a code or standard that sets out the requirements for what and how the check must be performed, e.g. AS1012 - Methods of Testing Concrete. A simple ITP can closely match the checklist.

The Inspection and Test Plan is like a Work Instruction and the Checklist is a form that becomes the actual record. Both the ITP and Checklist are documents that must be controlled.

For Example

A common critical hold point is 'Incoming Goods" - particularly for manufacturers. Before you start working with the raw materials, you want to be sure that the supplier has delivered what you asked for. If the wrong material has been shipped, it's better to send it back at the beginning rather than after you've spent time and money working on it. A minimal inspection in this case would be to examine the supplied Material Certificates.

In construction, an inspection hold point usually comes after significant work as been done and prior to covering it all up in the next stage or work. e.g. prior to internal lining of the walls; prior to tiling going over the waterproofing.

Here's an example ITP:

Activity Method Acceptance Criteria Record Inspected By
Prestart documentation Visual Check Hard copies of documentation in project binder F-12 Doc Controller
Establish Site Visual Check Checklist items 1-15 completed F-34 Site Manager
Excavation Dimensional check As per site drawing drawing Site Manager
Pre-pour Visual Check Pre-pour checklist, site drawing F-72 Engineer
Foundation pour Measure Slump test - 50mm +/- 10mm Delivery record Engineer
Foundation pour Strength test Specification, 30 MPa minimum NATA lab Test Report Engineer

The detailed inspection instructions for each step in this example are contained within separate checklists. e.g. F-12 is a simple list of all the documentation that must be present before the site preparation can commence. The Pre-pour checklist, F-72, includes a space to record any rectification required. Both items are important records for the project and can help to resolve any later disputes.

e.g. Pre-pour Checklist:

Check Item Description Who? Sign Pass/Fail Details of Rectification
Formwork dimensions check
Formwork grade and alignment
Forms clean, smooth, watertight
Reinforcing steel placed as per drawings
Re-bar clean
Critical cover 30mm at all locations
Re-bar tied and supported (chairs) as per plans

Each checklist will also include a header to collect project information, date, final signoff, and other identifying information.

Another ITP for a welded frame:

Activity Inspected By Method Acceptance Criteria Record
Check correct material spec, size Quality Control Visual Check, Tape measure As per drawing Checklist QC-22
Check cut lengths Operator Tape Measure +/- 1mm from drawing Q-22
Check hole locations & sizes Operator Tape Measure +/- from drawing QC-22
Final Inspection Quality Control Visual check As per drawing, specs QC-22

And a closely matching Checklist:

Description Who? Sign Pass/Fail Details of Rectification
Check correct material spec, size
Check cut lengths
Check hole locations & sizes
Final Inspection

What's the difference in the "who" in the plan versus the "who" in the checklist? The plan says which role is responsible for performing the inspection, and the checklist records the actual person who performed the inspection on the day.

For technical production work, the checklist can include values to be measured and the range of accepted values - e.g., for a circuit board assembly:

Description Criteria Measurement Pass/Fail
Resistors #1-3 110 - 130 ohms
Resistors #4-8 200 - 240 ohms
Box weight 95g - 105g
Display zero defective pixels

In this case, the "who" and rectification details are contained in the header and footer sections of the checklist.

Other resources

qualityinspection.org has a great infographic on Preparing a Quality Inspection Checklist

with some more Examples of inspection checkpoints here.