Assessing the Quality of Quality Assessment: The Role of Scheduling

by Maria Ibanez and Michael W. Toffel

Overview — Accurate inspections enable companies to assess the quality, safety, and environmental practices of their business partners, and enable regulators to protect consumers, workers, and the environment. This study finds that inspectors are less stringent later in their workday and after visiting workplaces with fewer problems. Managers and regulators can improve inspection accuracy by mitigating these biases and their consequences.

Author Abstract

Many production processes are subject to inspection to ensure they meet quality, safety, and environmental standards imposed by companies and regulators. This paper explores how the scheduling of inspections risks introducing bias that erodes inspection quality by altering inspector stringency. We theorize that inspection results will be affected by (a) when the inspection occurs within an inspector’s daily schedule and (b) the inspection outcomes of the inspector’s prior inspected establishment. Analyzing thousands of food safety inspections, we find that inspectors cite fewer violations in successive inspections throughout their day and when inspections risk prolonging their typical workday. We also find that inspectors cite more violations after inspecting establishments that exhibited worse compliance or greater compliance deterioration. We discuss several implications for managers who schedule or rely on inspections.

Paper Information