Visual inspection means simply looking at things with the naked eye and following up on what you see. It is a basic inspection tool with many benefits.
Visual inspections in asset maintenance help ensure your equipment is functioning correctly and safely, provide maintenance teams with valuable information, and help prevent breakdowns and prolong equipment life.
In quality control, visual inspection techniques allow companies to identify and correct any defects or discrepancies in their products before they reach the customer.
When doing real estate inspections, a real estate agent needs to visually inspect the property to understand its condition thoroughly. It helps her to advise the client and market the property.
In this blog, you will learn about the following:
Pros and cons of visual inspection
Visual inspection workflow and its adoption
Case studies on the benefits of visual inspection
Not only seeing
Although the term visual suggests it is about seeing, you can use all senses to determine if something is wrong during a visual inspection.
Smell: melting of overheated plastic, leaks of gas
Hearing: unusual sounds of worn-out or loose parts
Touch: machine hot to the touch, rough edges
Vibrations: machines vibrating in untypical frequencies
Definition of visual inspection
Visual inspection is a standard method of quality control, data acquisition, and data analysis. Visual Inspection, used in the maintenance of facilities, means inspection of equipment and structures using either or all of the raw human senses such as vision, hearing, touch and smell, or any non-specialized equipment.
Pros and cons of a visual inspection
The biggest advantage of a visual check is its simplicity. It is often the easiest inspection type to perform. It is feasible, fast, and portable.
Also, a visual inspection is cost-effective. It does not require special equipment or expensive tools. In addition, an inspection saves you money by identifying and addressing issues early on before they become more serious and expensive to fix.
It is a non-destructive method. You don’t need to permanently alter your asset to perform a visual inspection – it will stay exactly the same.
On the other hand, the outcomes of a visual inspection depend on the individual interpretation of sensory income. That makes it subjective. Moreover, the inspector needs to know what to look for. That requires a specialized skill set, experience, and training.
Also, it may be impossible to inspect machines while they are in operation. Turning them off comes hand in hand with raised costs and delays in production.
When looking at assets with a human eye only, you might overlook structural problems. The failure might already be well in progress before you spot rust, mold, noise, or smoke.
Integrating visual inspection with other inspection techniques
Visual testing may not be thorough enough for all scenarios. In some situations, you will need input from other types of inspections. The good news is you can combine various types of inspection in one procedure.
Visual inspections only look at the surface. When designing the inspection procedure, you can consider other methods of non-destructive testing (NDT):
Manipulation – You may need to move parts of your asset – either to reach the area you want to inspect or to see the alignment, friction, levels of liquids, etc.
Software diagnostics – If you look after complex assets, you may be able to plug them into diagnostic software. These programs are used to identify problems, test the onboard systems for issues and help to alert users of potential problems or breakdowns.
Quality control techniques – Submerging to check waterproofness, filling with liquid to detect leaks, applying pressure, plugging into electricity – the methods you use depend on the feature you want to test.
Remote visual inspection (RVI) – If your piece of equipment is hard to access, e.g., in a remote location, or it is dangerous to inspect it visually, you can use inspecting equipment such as remotely operated cameras, borescopes, drones, or even robotic crawlers to do the job for you.
Automated visual inspection (AVI) – This type of inspection is typically used in quality control. The human inspector is replaced with ai visual inspection using cameras, image processing methods, and machine learning algorithms.
Imaging techniques – You can use radiographs, X-rays, infrared light, and ultrasound to look under the surface.
You can also use destructive testing methods when you destroy your specimen to learn more about its performance or behavior under pressure.
How to perform a visual inspection
No two industries and organizations use the same process. However, there are a few points that almost all inspections have in common. Incorporate them to make your inspections focused and effective.
Why are you inspecting?
Define the goal of the inspection. What is its purpose? This will inform you on what to look for and help you focus on identifying the most crucial defects and issues.
What will be inspected?
Round up all assets that need an inspection.
When to look?
Make a rule on when an inspection is necessary and how often you will perform it.
When is it wrong?
Make clear guidelines as to what constitutes a defect. Consider types of defects or issues you may stumble upon. Make a list of features that need to be examined. These may be surface cracks, rust, leakage, misalignment of machine parts, or any issues that are related to compliance with standards and regulations.
Once you have answers to all these questions, you can start developing the inspection procedure and thinking about the necessary tools.
The inspection procedure
There are a couple more questions to answer when you want to set up an effective, safe and error-free inspection procedure.
What techniques will you use? You might inspect manually or look into the automatic options. In any case, you will need to select a visual testing method based on your needs and requirements.
What is the inspection procedure going to be? Decide on how exactly the inspection is going to be performed. Create a detailed step-by-step workflow. Include the guidelines for recording and documenting everything you have found out. Involve your inspection technicians and make the process easy to follow for them. Make sure your team members can communicate efficiently.
Who will do the inspection? The inspection technicians need proper knowledge and skills not on the inspection technique itself, but also on the procedures, equipment and tools. You will probably need to train them. Allocate resources to keep them on track.
How often will you review your procedure? Rolling out the inspection procedure is only the beginning. Your company goals will change, as well as the technology and operation models. You will need to regularly review your procedure and update it based on your findings. Make sure you know who and when will review your procedure.
What to do with the data? Design the process of managing the collected data. How will you record, process, and send the data to the headquarters?
When you are just starting out, you might consider writing notes with pen and paper. As you progress, you might want to prepare PDFs for your technicians to fill in. They might take photos on a mobile device – make sure they know where to send them and ensure a proper action will be taken once they are received. As your operation is growing, you should consider a specialized inspections software.
What to look for in your inspection software
Visual inspection is pretty straightforward until you cross a particular point of complexity. The real fun starts when you have many assets to take care of scattered in multiple locations or if you take care of machines that comply with the regulation.
Make sure the software has all the features you need. You can measure the success by high adoption rate: if your workers adopt the new workflow quickly, you are on the right track.
Choosing an appropriate inspections solution might seem daunting. We compiled a list of features to look for to make the process easier for you.
Your solution works with your existing data ecosystem. Usually, by this point, you will already have a CRM (customer relationship management) system in place – be it based on Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce, SAP, or another solution. The good news is that there are add-ons explicitly designed to integrate visual inspections with your system. This way the whole process of visual inspection, from planning to the evaluation of data, can be done in the same environment.
Data is synchronized. Your workers in the back office get the data in real-time (or immediately after the technician’s device is connected to the internet).
Questionnaires are easy to design & use. To make the questionnaires easy to fill in, listen to people who work with them and make iterations as needed. It should be easy to make changes in the questionnaires. If you don’t want to consult your software provider whenever you need to make a slight improvement, choose a low-code or no-code tool.
Data can be recorded on any device. For some inspection technicians, it might be easier to use a laptop. Others will prefer to enter the data into their mobile device. Make your questionnaires available on any device to boost adoption.
Questionnaires can handle legally binding signatures, photos, videos, and multimedia formats. A picture is worth a thousand words. This rings true with visual inspections. Especially when you can mark and tag your multimedia formats.
Questionnaires can be filled in while offline. You need to have a backup plan in case your technicians lose connection to the internet. Make sure they can go on with the visual inspection process offline.
Visual inspections in real life
An excellent visual inspection workflow and the right tools can spare you time, effort, and money. Case studies of companies from various fields of business prove this point.
NAI Significa is a global consulting company with experience in valuation services, including real estate. Its field technicians used to capture all information on paper forms, then they took a photo of the document and sent it over to the analysts. They then needed to transcribe the information into their system.
When NAI Significa grew, its employees felt the need to digitize capturing data in the field, including pictures, measurements, renovation details… Implementing digital forms helped them save time and increase efficiency.
On average, we save 10 minutes on every inspection since there is no need for communication between the field inspector and the analyst in the office – leading to a 40% increase in efficiency. Now the field inspector just sends the answered questionnaire to the analyst, which only takes a few seconds. It's a straightforward and quick process, and analysts can get on with evaluating the properties immediately,
Aljosa NikolicAnalyst at NAI Significa
Stony Valley Contracting is a rock & gravel aggregate company based in Alberta, Canada. As with many companies in the construction industry, Stony Valley Contracting often operates in remote areas with harsh conditions.
Field agents initially collected data with over 20 paper forms. Crews and plants are often moving, making it hard to ensure the proper paper inspection books are on each site and current. This also creates issues getting the paperwork from the field to the office.
Stony Valley Contracting has switched from paper to mobile questionnaires with full offline functionality. They give field agents more options than ever for data collection, including the addition of photos, signatures, and more. Advanced data collection boosts efficiency and reduces the time it takes to complete complex reports.
Visual inspection is the act of looking at something with the naked eye to determine if it’s functioning correctly and safely. It’s a basic tool in asset maintenance, quality control, and real estate inspections.
A visual inspection can be combined with other types of inspections, such as remote visual inspection, automated visual inspection, and imaging techniques, to create a comprehensive inspection procedure.
To perform a visual inspection, it’s important to set up an inspection procedure. No two industries or organizations use the same process. You can design your custom procedure based on your needs and requirements.
As your operation is growing, you will need to start looking for tools to keep track with the increased complexity. You might consider a implementing a specialized inspections software.