When you’re making physical products, you need to have sufficient quality control processes in place.

You don’t want to see a spike in returns or general dissatisfaction with your products, and you definitely don’t want to see customers getting injured by a product with sharp edges or other harmful defects.

Many product developers know that they need someone to inspect every shipment, and that’s great. They sometimes don’t realize, though, that before they ever have their first inspection conducted, they need to define very specific quality standards for their products.

That means you need to define the different types of defects that can occur (in three specific categories) so that your inspector can look for them and be sure nothing gets missed.

The question then becomes, “How do you develop that list?”


How do You Create a List of Specific Potential Defects?

The way you go about doing this depends on whether your product is a new item or something you’ve sold before.

On something that’s been sold before it’s a little bit easier. You can look at return data and customer emails and complaints. Then you can use this information to come up with your list of common defects.

What do you do, though, if you haven’t sold the product before?

Think about your product. What is it supposed to look like? How is it supposed to function? Asking these questions is helpful when creating your list.

Then take a look at your samples, because you want to determine ranges of acceptability for different defects. When looking at your samples, what issues do you see? Compare your samples to their ideal specifications. What deviations do you note?

Test your samples rigorously to see what issues develop. Comparing your sample to specifications and doing rigorous testing will help you develop an initial list of potential defects. Similar issues are going to be found during mass manufacturing.

Once you have your inspection checklist in place, you should always include it with your purchase orders. As more and more people buy the product, you can revise your checklist over time based on their feedback.


The 3 types of defects you need to define for each of your products

There are three types of defects you need to define. Let’s look briefly at each type. Then we’ll see some specific examples.

#1 Major Defects – A major defect is one that makes your product unsalable. If it doesn’t function properly, it has a major defect. If you sold it to an Amazon or traditional retail customer, it would get returned.

#2 Minor Defects – A minor defect is one where the item deviates from spec slightly, but it’s not quite bad enough to cause a return. Perhaps it functions, but not quite as perfectly as it should.

#3 Critical Defects – A critical defect is one that could cause injury to the customer or even death.


What are Some Examples of Major Defects?

We often work with customers in the Home Decor Industry. So let’s look at some real-world examples we’ve seen there.

Most major defects on home decor items stem from that fact that the products themselves are somewhat fragile. In some cases, when fragile objects are unpacked at the store or at the customer’s house they fall apart. This means they need to be packaged with extra thought and care. Having substandard packaging could be a major defect for fragile or sensitive products.

Example of Major Quality Defect "Le'b' It Snow"

Also, some home decor products are price sensitive, quick-sale, items that aren’t made with longevity in mind. When production of these items is rushed, they can end up with many general quality defects.

For example, we had a customer that was making Christmas decorations. A particular item was supposed to have the
words “Let it snow,” written on the front. In a rush, the factory made a typo. They wrote “Leb it snow,” with a b instead of a t. This made it totally unsaleable, and, thus, a major defect.



How do You Determine the Difference Between Major and Minor Defects for Your Product?

Let’s say, for example, that you have a decoration that hangs on a wall. Some of the units your factory produced have a scratch on the back side. When they’re hung up, no one can see the scratch. That means these items are still usable, so it’s a minor defect.

Of course, if that same scratch was on the front side, customers would either not buy it or it would be returned. In that case, it would be a major defect

One time we had a customer that was making holly berry decorations for Christmas. They were made of a coated styrofoam. The coating was chipped, so some of the white styrofoam showed through.

Because it was white, it looked a bit like the berries had snow on them. There wasn’t supposed to be any snow, though.

The customer had to decide whether to classify this as a major or minor defect. They did this based on the size of the white spots. If the spot was smaller than 2mm it was considered minor. If it was larger than 2mm, it was major.


What are Some Examples of Critical Defects?

It goes without saying that critical defects are something you absolutely don’t want.

One example would be a sharp point, like a large splinter on a wood frame or a chipped glass vase. As soon as someone pulls these out of the box, they face the possibility of cutting themselves or having their skin punctured.

Having a sewing needle still stuck inside a plush toy would be another critical defect, as would stray voltage that shocks someone when they use an electrical item.

Insects, blood, or hair in packaging or on the product are also considered critical.

One time, we had a customer that was making wood frames. Some of the frames had splinters sticking out. They also had staples on the back to hold the paper in place, and they were dangerously bent. These were both critical defects. Fortunately, however, the frames were able to be reworked.

Be sure you consider all potential critical defects that can happen with your product. Think about the materials that go into it and how it is manufactured.


Remember to Define All Potential Defects That Your Product Might End Up With

It is very important that when you send an inspector to your factory, they are armed with a specific set of potential defects. That way, they are less likely to miss things you think are important.

You need to define three types of defects for your product: major, minor and critical defects. Come up with a checklist for the inspector that includes all of them. Keep the examples above in mind as you come up with your checklist.

Remember, if you need help with inspections, we are always available. Contact us for more information.

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