5 Things You Need to Know About the HOLD Inspection Result

by | Mar 5, 2019 | Product Inspections, Quality Control

Recently, we ran into a sticky situation with one of our customers.

They hired us for a product inspection and we returned their inspection report with a HOLD result, rather than a PASS or FAIL.

They ended up accepting the shipment from their supplier and when they received it, they realized that it didn’t meet their expectations for quality. In fact, they considered most of the units they received to be unsuitable for sale.

After the fact, we realized we could have put more effort into educating them about the HOLD result, to help them avoid this problem.

That’s why we’re talking about it with you today.

You see, there are three results you can get in your inspection report… PASS, FAIL and HOLD. The PASS and FAIL results are fairly straightforward. But a HOLD result occupies a sort of grey area that can be difficult to understand.

When you conduct an inspection and your report comes back with a hold, there are 5 things you need to know.

#1 You Should Treat a HOLD Result Almost as if it Were a FAIL

When an inspector conducts the inspection, they are checking for all defects that you‘ve previously defined in your inspection checklist.

If too many have these defects, the inspection fails.


What happens when they discover a problem that you haven’t previously defined and added to your quality inspection checklist?

If they make an observation that affects a significant number of units and they want to bring it to your attention, they may give you an inspection report with a HOLD result.

For example, let’s say you are making bags and 15% of them have what the inspector considers to be a noticeable cloth stitching issue.

It is important for you to review the issue because if you had listed it as a major or minor defect in your checklist, 15% would be enough to trigger a FAIL result.

#2 You Should Review the Photos in Your Inspection Report Carefully

When you receive a HOLD result, it is important that you do a very careful review of your inspection report.

At the end of the report, you will find numerous photos of your product.

These include general photos of the product from different angles, as well as their packaging and any inserts. They also include photos of testing being performed like weight tests, product function tests, and size tests.

The inspector will also take photos of any defects found. And, if any observations were made that triggered a HOLD, photos of those observations will be included at the very end. 

The inspector will make an effort to take these photos so that you have a clear view of anything you might be concerned about. That way, you can decide whether the issue is severe enough to justify not accepting the shipment. 

It is important that you don’t rush through this review. Look at every note and photo carefully to ensure you have a clear understanding of the inspector’s observations. 

#3 It is Your Responsibility to Accept or Reject the Shipment

All these photos the inspector gives you are there for a reason.

When your inspection report shows a HOLD result, it is up to you to review them and decide if you are still willing to receive the product. 

Essentially, the ball is now in your court to decide whether the inspection passes or fails. So, you need to keep in mind that if you accept the shipment and receive products that you aren’t happy with, there is no going back. 

The factory probably won’t be willing to remake the goods or give you a credit or discount on future orders. 

It is only at the moment you receive the report that you have any leverage with them. So, now is the time to see what options you have to rework unacceptable units, separate them out, or do a more thorough investigation of the issue. 

#4 You Should Update Your Inspection Checklist for Future Inspections

HOLD results are generally triggered by things that are not on your inspection checklist. 

That means that if the issues triggering the hold are significant to you and your brand, you should define them as major or minor defects that inspectors can check for in future inspections.

Does the defect found by the inspector make your item unsellable or likely to be returned by the end consumer? Consider it a major defect. 

Is it unlikely to be returned, but still deviate slightly from your ideal specifications? Consider it a minor defect. 

If a significant number of major or minor defects are found, they will trigger a FAIL result next time rather than a HOLD.

#5 You Should Understand the Statistical Methods Behind Your Inspections

Inspections are conducted using a standard called AQL or Acceptable Quality Limits. 

Before your inspection, you decide on the maximum percentage of defects you are willing to accept. A specific number of products are pulled and the inspector checks for three types of defects. 

  1. Major Defects = Defects that are bad enough that you can’t sell the unit or it will get returned.
  2. Minor Defects = Defects that are slight deviations from specifications, but you can still sell the unit.
  3. Critical Defects = Defects that could potentially harm the consumer, such as a sharp edge.

In a standard inspection, the following limits are in place: 

  1. Major Defects = 2.5% maximum
  2. Minor Defects = 4.0% maximum
  3. Critical Defects = 0% maximum

If you are running a standard inspection, it means you are only willing to accept 2.5% of units or fewer that cannot be sold and only 4% with slight deviations from ideal specifications.

So, if 5% of your units have a major defect, for example, the inspection will return a FAIL result. 

But it’s important to keep in mind that if you have not previously defined a specific defect at all, there is no way to trigger a FAIL. 

The inspector might make observations though, based on their experience. 

So, let’s say they bring a new issue to your attention, i.e. crooked sewing, that affects 15% of your products. You should consider the issue and decide whether:

  • A) it makes your items unsellable
  • B) it is a slight deviation from specifications, or
  • C) it is acceptable.

If the answer is A or B, you should consider rejecting the shipment as if it was a FAIL (because 15% is more than the standard 2.5% for major and 4.0% for minor). 

Also keep in mind that, because you have not defined the issue as a defect, the inspector will only look at it with their best guess as to what you think is acceptable. 

Your brand standards may be more or less stringent than the inspector assumes. So, it’s important to slow down, take your time to clearly understand the issue, and see if you can get more photos or information from your factory to see what you can work out with them. 

This is likely the only time you have a chance to get your factory to rework or separate out items that don’t meet your standards. So take advantage of the leverage you have. 


The HOLD inspection result occupies a sort of grey area in between PASS and FAIL. So, it can be tricky to understand. 

By default, when you receive a HOLD result, you should think of it as if it were a FAIL. Upon reviewing the reasons for the HOLD, you can decide if it actually should be a FAIL, or whether you are willing to accept the shipment. It is totally up to your discretion. 

If the inspector brings defects to your attention that are not previously defined, you should review the photos and decide on their severity. If they make the units unacceptable, think of them as major defects. If they are not ideal, but acceptable, think of them as minor defects. 

If there are more than 2.5% major or 4.0% minor defects, consider rejecting the shipment and asking the factory to take some sort of corrective action with the unacceptable units. 

Going forward, make sure your new specifications are agreed to by the factory and included in your specification sheet. Then, for future inspections, similar issues will trigger a FAIL result automatically. 

Also Read: 4 Common Misconceptions About Product Inspection Services

4 Common Misconceptions About Product Inspection Services

Sometimes we get clients that think we can fix all their manufacturing problems. And it’s true we do a lot to identify and prevent – ensuring future problems are kept to a bare minimum. But, quality service providers do not insert quality into your product.

In this white paper, you’ll learn how inspection services really work and how to get the most out of your relationship with an inspection company. 

Thanks for reading! Do you have any questions about the article? Is there something else you’d like to add? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you.

Andy Church

Founder & CEO, Insight Quality Services


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