3 Defect Classification in Product Inspection

What’s Defect Classification?

Have you ever wondered why it’s essential to define and classify your products quality defects? Not knowing whether to categories defects as “major” or “minor” can be quite challenging.

For these reasons, defect classification is an important step because it determines if the goods pass or fail the test. If the defects are minor, it means they don’t affect their salability. But if the goods are set to be distributed to a high-end retailer with almost zero tolerance to quality issues, then any defects available are considered “major.”

To help you make better decisions, we provide you with a complete guide on the types of defects. Quality control experts do categorize quality defects into three categories:

  • Minor
  • Major
  • Critical

Severity and nature of the defect will determine the group it belongs to. Most of the importers do have the authority of specifying the number of every defect type they can accept in their finished items. It is this tolerance that will, in turn, determine the number of units per SKU the inspector will be checking.

Most importers set the quality tolerance level by use of an AQL table used in an acceptable quality level sampling method.

Minor Defects

In most cases, the minor defects will be the insignificant and small issues which don’t affect the form or function of any item. Most customers will never notice a minor defect on a product and some customers will not return the product just because of their minor defect.

The importers set the highest tolerance level when it comes to the application of that standard to a smaller defect in the AQL sampling that has been inspected. However, a product can still fail inspection when the number of minor defects is beyond the set limit by tolerance.

(Related:3 different product inspection result in Third Party Inspection report)

Major Defects

The major defects are much more serious than the minor defects. An item having a major defect will always depart from the product specification of the buyer. The major defects are those which are capable of affecting the appearance, performance, and function of an item.  The defects can easily be noticed by the customer and can make the customer to return the item, raise a complaint or even seek a refund.

A good number of importers have limits of major defects set lower than those of minor defects in the sample size that has been inspected. In most cases, they will accept a product with a few major defects although they are most likely to reject the order or request the supplier to rework or hold onto it in case it fails inspection due to a high number of major defects.

Critical Defects

They are the most serious type of defects and do render a product unusable or even capable of causing harm to someone near it. Critical defects can put the business at huge risk or product recalls lawsuits and liability issues. Most importers usually have a zero-tolerance policy on orders that have critical defects. Any product will automatically fail inspection when a critical defect is found.

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Quality Defect Examples in Different Products

There can be different quality defects on different items depending on the standards, production processes, and materials. Here are some of the common examples of the three types of quality defects.

  1. Softlines

The Softline items comprise of home textiles, raw fabric, garments footwear and other knitted or woven items. For instance, the garments are prone to vulnerability and it’s easy to end up with quality defects due to the labor-intensive process of production in their manufacturing. The human hands that take part in stitching and sewing do raise variability in production while the use of automated production processes like robotics in electronic assembly and injection molding in hardlines goods reduce variability.

Here are some of the most popular Softline defects

  • Minor defect: Untrimmed Thread

They are the popular quality issue available in garment manufacturing. However, it is possible for factories to rework the defect by cutting the extra threads. There are times when you can categorize the untrimmed threads as a major defect depending on the type of customers you have.

  • Major Defect: The Missing Stitches

They normally appear due to operator error of sewing machine fault. Missing stitches do have an impact on the product’s visual appearance, and it can easily affect the strength of the seam, making it a serious quality issue.

  • Critical Defect: Needle in an Item

There are times when the needles can be very dangerous to the end-user in case they do end up with finished items. The quality issue is always considered to be a critical defect, and its presence can easily result in the product failing inspection.

  1. Hardlines

The hardline items comprise of a wide range of products made from plastic, wood or metal materials. The category consists of sporting equipment, tools, building materials, cookware, and furniture.

Here are some of the popular hardline defects:

  • Minor Defect: Light Abrasion on the surface

We can relate a light abrasion found on the surface of a hardline item to rough handling or just a production process. Light abrasions, together with other damage to the product surface, will never hurt the scalability of a product.

  • Major Defect: Deeper scratch on the product logo

Repairing a scratch on a products logo is a bit difficult hence is considered to be a major defect. They are never tolerated in larger numbers since they can easily affect the scalability of the product and brand-consumer perception.

  • Critical Defect: burr or a sharp point on a product

Burr or sharp points can easily cause harm to the user and are known to be among the popular causes of inspection fail.  Such hazards are known to lead to items being recalled explaining why most importers consider them as critical defects.

  1. Electronic and Electrical Items

Electronic and Electrical Items comprises of household appliances, consumer electronics, and power tools, certain types of toys and products that need electricity to operate.

Here are some of the popular defects:

  • Minor Defects: Removable mark on a product

The marks found on the surface of a product can include excess glue or dirt. They are usually considered small since they can be wiped away or are easily removable.

  • Major Defect: Malfunction or Non-Function

Some malfunction problems facing an electronic product can include turn-on failure, connectivity issues or display issues. Depending on the products complexity, rework of hardware or software may be required to help in correcting the problem.

  • Critical Defect: Damaged Wiring

Having a product that has a damaged wiring system where copper is exposed can easily endanger the product and users live. Such damage does create a possibility of electric shock, risk of fire or electrocution.

  1. Industrial Components

The industrial components refer to a broad term which can comprise of conduit piping, wind turbines, fabricated steel, maritime equipment, gas valves and other materials or machinery which have been designed to be used for industrial purposes.

Here are some of the common defects that can occur in industrial products:

  • Minor defect: Surface imperfections

Having a surface imperfection such as a welding protrusion in a steel pipe will never affect the functionality or use of the product. However, it is important for one to consider the imperfection type and the intended use of the product before you consider the defect to be minor.

  • Major Defect: Out of Tolerance non-critical dimensions

Having minor deviances in measurements and weights can be undesirable in any finished product but in most cases will never have an impact on the overall function of an industrial item.  It is possible for one to consider the dimensional deviations serious when they do affect the function of a product, production processes or performance.

  • Critical Defect: Rust

Experiencing corrosion before shipping can be an accelerated degradation or product failure sign. Rust should be considered to be a very serious issue, especially when you are importing water pipes or gas.

Classification of Defects in Inspection Checklist

Quality control expert is in a position of suggesting the right tolerance for defects that are known for your item. However, it is up to the buyer to indicate their tolerance for every quality defect type.

In most cases, the importers will always have all their defect classification and tolerance listed in a quality control document. The inspection checklist will comprise of information such as the onsite testing procedures, packaging requirements, and right inspection equipment. The document will also comprise an extensive list of known and popular quality defects together with the type of product.

At times it can be impossible to account for every quality defect. However, the more complete the list of defects you offer, the higher the chances your supplier will abide by the tolerances. The quality control inspector you hire will most likely use the same standard when carrying out an inspection of your products against the inspection checklist.

Addressing the Quality Defects of Your Items

It is important that you identify the quality defect in your order before you shipping to help in ensuring that customers’ expectations have been met. Contracting third party inspection companies to carry out inspection of your order and report the types and numbers of defects available will be time-saving and of great efficiency. The report they compile will reveal the defect numbers in comparison to the number of defects that are allowed depending on your tolerance.

Here are some of the important things you can consider doing to help address defects found in the order.

  • Consider requesting the supplier to correct the quality issues by either reworking on the product or replacement of goods.
  • Always reinspect to ensure that all the defects are corrected and removed.
  • You can decide to chargeback the supplier for any quality issues or inspections.
  • Destroy all the goods that can’t be sold to help in preventing them from getting to the customers.


We do have guidelines which quality control experts are supposed to follow to help classify a defect. However, the buyer will always consider the rate of various types of defects and the effect they can have on their customers.