In our last blog entry, we began a discussion of AQLs. In that blog, we discussed the General Levels. As the name implies, these are the AQL levels that are most often used to ensure the quality of goods during manufacturing. Alternatively, in a situation where you can only test a very small sample, you can use the Special Inspection Levels.
Just to recap: AQL levels are “Acceptable Quality Limits” and they are defined as “the quality level that is the worst tolerable”. AQL levels are an industry standard tool, and they help to ensure that everybody is on the same page about what the acceptable boundaries for defects are in your production lot. To determine the appropriate AQLs, and what that means in terms of acceptable amounts of defects, you use an AQL chart (we will provide one at the end of this blog). If you need help on how to use that chart, feel free to look back at our first AQL blog.
Sometimes, it is simply not feasible to test the amount of products that you would need to test under the General Levels. This could happen for a number of reasons. Maybe the testing is destructive to your product; for example, testing seams, or testing the durability of an item. Maybe the testing is very technical, or time consuming, and therefore very expensive. Maybe there are very few defects that actually concern you, none of them would have any serious consequences, and your only focus is bringing your product to market as quickly and cheaply as possible. Maybe you have a great relationship with a quality manufacturer, and the processes are simple and repetitive enough (for example simply drilling holes in a product) that you can tolerate significantly higher levels of risk.
If you fall into one of these categories, Special Levels may be a sensible route for you. The key when deciding, however, is to be honest with yourself, and consider all of the factors. It is easy to be blinded by the marginal increase in profits that results from the time you save (or units that aren’t destroyed) when you are producing your product. It is absolutely essential that you remember that the reason that inspections are performed in the first place is to save you money in the long-term. You don’t want to talk yourself into using an S-1 level when you should be using a GIII level and end up with huge numbers of defective products.
As with the General Levels, the key here is to consider all the angles and choose the right Inspection Level for you. There are a lot of moving parts, and it can certainly seem very foreign the first couple of times through. As you gain experience in this industry, you will eventually become comfortable with dealing with AQLs. We are happy to walk you through the process, and help you to choose the level that will be the best fit for your budget—both right now, and down the road.