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Why is it important to define and classify quality defects in a product?

Imagine, for example, youre manufacturing womens blouses in a factory in Indonesia.

After receiving an inspection report from your QC company, you find that about one out
of every three blouses has untrimmed threads.

Would you classify this quality defect as minor or major? You might say that
untrimmed threads constitute a minor defect that should be addressed if appearing in a
certain number of pieces in an order. On the other hand, if you distribute your
garments at a high-end retailer, you may have a lower tolerance for this and other
quality defects.

Defining the different types of quality defects for your product is an important step in
determining if the goods should pass or fail inspection. Its a combination of both the
quantity AND severity of different types of defects that determines whether your order
will ship or that the factory might need to do some rework or repairs.

A professional inspection company often has established standards for classifying

various defects for a particular product type (related: How Experienced Importers Limit
Product Defects in 3 Stages [eBook]). But the responsibility ultimately falls on you, the
buyer, to determine which quality defects are more severe than others. Luckily, were
here to tell you what each defect type means and the things to consider when
determining their importance.

The 3 Types of Quality Defects

Defects are classified into three main categories minor, major and critical. Based on
the AQL level applied, there will be an allowable number of defects for each category,
within a given sample size.

Minor defects are small, typically insignificant issues that do not affect function
or form of the item. If evident, it likely would not cause the customer to return the
item to the store. Your order can fail inspection, however, if the number of minor
defects found exceeds the limit set by the acceptable quality level.
Major defects are considered those which could adversely affect performance of
the product. Such a defect would likely cause a customer to return the product.
Critical defects are those which would render the item unusable, or could cause
harm to the user or someone in the vicinity of the product. An item will often fail
product inspection if a single critical defect is found within the order. According
to estimates from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there
were about 256,700 toy-related injuries treated by emergency personnel in 2013,
many resulting in product recalls.
"The CPSC estimates there were about 256,700 toy-related

injuries treated by emergency personnel in 2013."

Examples of Quality Defects in

Below are some common examples of minor, major and critical defects for different item

Softlines include raw fabric, consumer fabric, garments and shoes.

Minor: Untrimmed thread these are particularly common in garment

manufacturing, especially given the amount of manual

labor involved. They are

typically easily reworked by the factory.
Major: Missing stitches these can be more of an issue if the factory is rushing
to meet a deadline in completing and shipping an order. Missing stitches are
usually relatively easy for a factory to rework.
Critical: Needle found in item garments, fabric and shoes are usually placed
on a conveyer belt and then run through a machine which detects metal objects.
If a needle or similar item is not found during this process and ends up in the
finished goods, it could pose a hazard to the end user. Thus, a finding like this is
usually marked as a critical defect that results in the item failing inspection.
Hardlines include metal items, such as sporting equipment and tools.

Minor: Light abrasion on surface an abrasion on the surface of a hardline

item could be related to one or more processes used in production or simply
rough handling. Abrasions and other damage to the surface of an item may be
difficult for a factory to rework but typically does not render the product
Major: Deep scratch on logo of item damage to the logo printed or engraved
in an item is often considered a major defect. Like light abrasions on the surface,
these can be difficult to repair but are generally not tolerated in a large number of
units per order.
Critical: Sharp point or burr on item as with softline goods, if you find sharp
points or other areas that could cause harm to the end user, this is often cause
for a failing inspection. Hazards found with products often lead to product recalls,
which is part of the reason why they are taken so seriously.

Consumer Electronics
Consumer electronics include products like mobile phones, tablet PCs, Bluetooth
devises, USB drives and cameras.

Minor: Removable mark on item product inspection can reveal marks on an

item's surface, such as dirt or excess glue. These are often considered minor if
theyre easily wiped away or otherwise removed.
Major: Non-function or malfunction if an electronic product fails to switch ON
or exhibits other malfunctions, this often considered a major quality defect.
Depending on the complexity of the product, rework of software or hardware may
be needed to correct the issue.
Critical: Failure of key electrical safety test - tests like the hi-pot test are vital
for assessing product safety for electronics. If an electronic item fails a safety
test, there could be risk of fire or other dangerous complications resulting from
normal use of the item.
Industrial Components
Industrial components is a broad term. But some examples include fabricated steel,
conduit piping and gas valves.

Minor: Surface imperfection a surface inspection like a welding protrusion on

a steel pipe, for example, typically wont affect the use or functionality of an
industrial product. Its important to consider both the type of imperfection and the
intended use of the product before deciding if this kind of quality defect is minor.
Major: Dimensions out of tolerance a deviation from stated dimensions might
be considered a major defect, even if these dimensions are not critical to the
function of the industrial product. Differences in dimensions like these
might affect packaging or shipping of the finished goods.
Critical: Rust depending on the applications of the product, rust can be
considered a critical defect, as corrosion before shipping can be a sign of
accelerated degradation. Rust should be a serious concern for you if youre
importing gas or water pipes, for example.

These are rough guidelines that we and other third-party inspection companies follow, in
order to categorize defects. However, ultimately, quality defects and their severity should
be determined by you, the buyer.

So if you find that your own third-party inspector has classified a defect in a certain
category, but you feel otherwise, then let them know. This feedback is valuable because
it allows for an adjustment to the reporting on future inspections. Likewise, if the
inspector finds defects that you do not consider to be defects at all, be sure to inform
them so they can make necessary changes (see 3 Factors for Accepting a Failing

More information and feedback on reporting will continually allow you to have the most
accurate inspections, especially if recurring inspections are needed on the same items.

And if you'd prefer to listen to this topic instead, check out this manufacturing podcast!
"At the end of the day, quality defects and their severity should be

determined by the buyer."