Adhesive Test Acceptance Number Acceptance Sampling Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) Acceptance Quality Limit Accreditation Accredited laboratory Appearance check Approval sample Assessment Audit Batch/Lot/Sampling Certification Checklist Conformity Consumer quality standards Corrective action Cosmetic check Consumer safety Container Loading Inspection (CLI) Continuous Sampling Plan Cost of Poor Quality Cost of Quality Coverage area Critical defect Defects Classification Defects and Defectives Defects per Hundred Units Double Sampling Plan Directives Drawing of Samples During Production Inspection (DPI) Expression of Nonconformance Fail result Factory Audit First-Articles Inspection (FAI) In-process Quality Control (IPQC) Inspection Inspection by Attribute Inspection checklist Inspection Certificate Inspection Cost Inspection Levels Inspection protocol Intellectual Property IPQC/QA ISO ISO 9000 Laboratory testing Letter of Credit Lot or Batch Major defect Man-day Manufacturer Manufacturing Minor defect Nonconformance Normal Inspection Notified body Online Quality Management system/technology/software Operations Payment term Pass result Pending result Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI) Production Monitoring Process of production Purchase order Quality Assurance Quantity Check Quality Control Quality control strategy Quality Management System Random Sampling Regulations Rejected shipment Reduced Inspection Rejection Number Representative Sampling Resubmitted Lots or Batches Root cause SAI SA8000 Sample Sample Size Sampling Sampling Plans Severity of Inspection Single Sampling Plan Six Sigma Specifications Standards Subcontractor Supply Chain Supplier Supplier Audit Surveillance program Third party QC Tightened Inspection Time-to-market Tolerance levels Trading company Unit of Production Vendor Workmanship Zero defects

Adhesive Test

One of the most common tests for consumer goods inspections. It verifies the resistance of the logo and other labels/marks to daily use by applying 3M tape onto them and then removing the tape. If the logo peels off, there is a high risk that the printed information will disappear quickly.

Acceptance Number

The acceptance number is the maximum number of defects or defective units that a sample of products from a manufacturing process can have for acceptance of the lot or batch. For example, if the acceptance number is 6, and the number of defects is six or less, the batch will pass. If there are seven defects, the batch fails.

Acceptance Sampling

Acceptance Sampling is used to decide whether to accept or reject a production lot. After selecting a sample of units from a production lot, we inspect them and count how many defects are present in that sample. The number of defects found is compared against the maximum number of defects allowed (acceptance number). The outcome determines whether or not to accept or reject the entire lot.

Acceptable Quality Level (AQL)

The acceptable quality level (AQL) is based on the standard MIL-STD-105E / ISO 2859-1. It represents the maximum percent of defects acceptable in a production run. (or the maximum number of defects per hundred units). This definition has since been changed to Acceptable Quality.



Acceptance Quality Limit

AQL is now Acceptance Quality Limit in most standards. It defines the quality level that is the worst tolerable process average when a continuing series of lots is submitted for acceptance sampling. 

It is the limit of defects that the customer is prepared to accept. For example - I want no more than 2.5% of defective product units in the total order. In this case, the AQL is 2.5%.

The following note on the meaning of AQL was introduced with the ANSI/ASQ Z1.4-2003 . revision: The concept of AQL only applies when an acceptance sampling scheme with rules for switching between normal, tightened and reduced inspection and discontinuance of sampling inspection are used. These rules are designed to encourage suppliers to have process averages consistently better than the AQL. If suppliers fail to do so, there is a high probability of being switched from normal inspection to tightened inspection where lot acceptance becomes more difficult. 




Accreditation is granted by governmental or internationally recognized organizations. It validates the ability of a third-party quality control company to perform inspection services with integrity, objectivity, and expertise. 

Accredited laboratory

An accredited laboratory is officially recognized as able to perform specific types of testing, measurement, and calibration. They are seen to be reliable and professional and will issue valid test certificates acceptable to Customs at your product’s destination.

Appearance check

An appearance check is one of the most basic controls performed during an inspection. It aims to verify the product’s general aspect and looks for defects mainly related to weak manufacturing processes and in-line quality control problems.

Approval sample

An approval sample, also called a ‘golden sample,’ ‘pre-production sample’ or ‘PP-sample,' is usually sent by the buyer to the third-party inspection company and manufacturer. It is the reference product that will be compared to the production samples. The production and approval samples should be very similar. An inspection report will point out the differences.

Read more about the role of the approval sample during an inspection.




An assessment evaluates the level of compliance of products against specific quality standards. The evaluation process includes observation, data collection, and analysis.


An audit is the inspection of a manufacturer by a third-party organization to verify compliance with your standards and/or international standards such as ISO 9001, SA8000, ISO 14000.


A batch or lot is a collection of products which are identical in size and type, which have been produced under similar conditions, at the same time.


Certification is the delivery of an official document by notified bodies (laboratories for our industry) to attest the compliance of a specific consumer good to particular standards and regulations of interest to the buyer.


A checklist is a list of checkpoints referred to when performing an inspection or a supplier audit. It helps to ensure all relevant aspects of the product or the factory are assessed to determine the level of control.


Compliance of manufactured goods to product specifications, acceptable quality limits (AQL’s,) and standards. 

Consumer quality standards

All aspects of quality that are relevant from a consumer’s point of view and which allow them to assess the quality of a product.

Corrective action

Corrective actions are improvements which eliminate nonconformities by addressing the root cause of a problem. They ensure quality objectives are reached and similar issues are avoided in the future. 

Cosmetic check

The control of all physical aspects of a product.

Consumer safety

Everything that is put in place to protect consumers and prevent them from being harmed by defective workmanship.

Container Loading Inspection (CLI)

This inspection is performed at the manufacturer's warehouse or the forwarder's premises. The aim of this inspection is to verify your products, the quantity of goods, and the loading process.
This inspection includes:
  • an inspection of the container before the loading (container condition)
  • an inspection of your products (product checks according to your P/O: quantity, appearance, and general quality)
  • an inspection of the loading process (conditions of cartons, filling-up level, etc.)

Continuous Sampling Plan

A continuous sampling is appropriate for processes that deliver a continuous flow of a product rather than batches. In this plan, we begin by inspecting 100 % of the units coming from the process. After a certain number of items inspected show no defects, the sampling decreases to a fraction of the items. The decreased sampling continues until we find a nonconforming unit. At that point, the plan reverts to 100 % inspection and follows the same pattern.

Cost of Poor Quality

Costs of poor quality are the extra expenses caused by delivering poor quality goods to customers. These expenses have two sources: internal failure costs (from defects identified before customers get the product) and external failure costs (costs incurred after a customer receives the poor product or service). Defect sorting, rework, repairs, damage to a brand’s reputation and loss of client confidence are just a few examples of costs associated with poor quality.

Cost of Quality

The cost of quality refers to all expenditure involved in the prevention of quality issues and defects, including assessments of process performance, and the costs of internal and external failure. The cost of quality provides justification for the amount of resources required by quality efforts and should be seen as an investment rather than an expense.

Coverage area

The countries, regions, and cities where inspection and audit services can be performed.

Critical defect

A critical defect is one that, based on experience, is judged to be likely to result in hazardous or unsafe conditions for individuals using, maintaining, or depending upon the products; or will prevent the performance of a tactical function of a major end item. A critical defective is a unit of product that contains one or more critical defects. You can provide your own list of critical defects for an inspection. AQFs' default AQL for critical defects is 0.

Defects Classification

The importance of workmanship defects varies depending on the specific defect size, its position, and the specification. Defects are systematically placed into subcategories to obtain a better insight into the overall quality of workmanship. The subcategories are generally labeled: Critical, Major, Minor.

Defects and Defectives

A defect is a type of nonconformity. It occurs when a product fails to meet specified or intended use requirements. A defective is a unit of product which contains one or more defects. Failure to meet requirements for quality characteristics are usually described in terms of defects or defectives. 

Defects per Hundred Units

The number of defects per hundred units of any given quantity units of product is one hundred times the number of defects contained therein (one or more defects being possible in any unit of product) divided by the total number of units of product, i.e.: (Number of defectives x 100) / (number of units inspected)

Double Sampling Plan

A double sampling plan is a technique which inspects a batch in two stages, potentially saving time and money when large lots are involved. Initially, a sample of size n1 is taken from the lot and inspected. The results of the inspection lead to either acceptance or rejection based on set criteria. If it is rejected, a second sample of size n2 is taken and inspected. The results of the second inspection lead to a final decision on whether to accept or reject the lot.


Directives are product specifications or properties required by official entities, governments, or trade unions. They must be fulfilled in order to sell the goods within the country.

Drawing of Samples

The foundation of sampling inspection is the assurance that a sample selected from a quantity of units represents the quality of that entire lot. Hence, the procedure used to select units from a lot must be such that it assures a sample free of bias.

During Production Inspection (DPI)

This inspection takes place when about 20% to 50% of the production has been completed. The aim is to ensure that contractual obligations regarding specifications, packaging, packing, and marking are met and to check if the factory will be able to respect the production schedule. If recommendations have been given during a First-Articles Inspection (FAI), the During Production Inspection determines whether or not the corrective action plan has been successfully implemented.

Expression of Nonconformance

The extent of nonconformance of a product is expressed as either percent defective or defects per hundred units (DHU).

Fail result

A fail result is a consequence of identifying at least one non-conformity outside the tolerance level defined by the buyer.

Factory Audit

A factory audit is the full evaluation of your supplier according to ISO standards. It covers the profile of the supplier, internal organization, safety regulations, quality processes, performance, delivery terms, and R&D. The audit also includes extensive worker and manager interviews in the factory worker's language.

First-Articles Inspection (FAI)

An FAI is a During Production Inspection performed at the very first stage of the mass production. AQF Inspectors inspect the quality of the material and components used in the manufacturing process and make sure it fits your requirements and is in accordance with your approved sample. It also includes a visual check on the quality of packing materials and accessories. The inspector will also monitor the assembly process and check the first production run.
A First-Articles Inspection ensures that the customer's specifications are well-understood by the supplier/factory. The FAI will detect production discrepancies very early in the production processes. You will, therefore, be able to take corrective actions sooner than later, saving time and securing your business.

In-process Quality Control (IPQC)

IPQC is the on-line inspection of products during production to confirm product compliance and reduce the risk of substandard quality and works. IPQC occurs at all stages of the process from raw material to pre-shipment.


Inspection is the process of measuring, examining, testing, or otherwise comparing a unit of product with the requirements. Read about the difference between inspection and factory audit.

Inspection by Attribute

Inspection whereby a unit of product is classified simply as conforming or nonconforming based on either the number of nonconformities in the item or defects assessed against a set of specified requirements.

Inspection checklist

An Inspection checklist is a document which lists all the points an inspector should check during an inspection. The objective is to avoid missing important details.
Read more about how useful is the inspection checklist for an importer.

Inspection Certificate

An inspection certificate is an official document that certifies that the quality of goods has been confirmed to meet requirements. It is necessary when a letter of credit is involved with releasing payment.

Inspection Cost

The Inspection cost is determined based on the time needed to perform the service. The unit of reference is called a “man-day.”

Inspection Levels

Sampling standards provide for three general inspection levels and four special inspection levels. These seven levels permit the user to balance the cost of inspection against the amount of protection required. Read more and get familiar with the different inspection levels:

Inspection protocol

An inspection protocol defines all the processes and steps involved in performing the inspection. It includes the list of the details to check.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property refers to ideas and inventions. For example, new designs, products, logos, and packaging which are unique.


Refers to In-Process Quality Control and Quality Assurance.


ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 157 countries. There is one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, which coordinates the system. ISO [link] is a non-governmental organization: its members are not, as is the case in the United Nations system, delegations of national governments. Nevertheless, ISO occupies a special position between the public and private sectors. On the one hand, many of its member institutes are part of the governmental structure of their countries or are mandated by their government. On the other hand, other members have their roots uniquely in the private sector, having been set up by national partnerships of industry associations.

ISO 9000

It is a set of international standards for quality management and quality assurance developed to help companies effectively document the quality system elements to be implemented to maintain an efficient quality system. They are not specific to any one industry and can be applied to organizations of any size. The ISO 9000 [link:] family contains these standards:
Individuals and organizations cannot be certified to ISO 9000. ISO 9001 is the only standard within the ISO 9000 family to which organizations are certified.

Laboratory testing

All tests performed in a controlled environment to verify the safety and conformity of consumer goods to regulations and standards required in specific destination countries.

Letter of Credit

A letter of credit is a contract that provides a safe payment method protecting buyers and suppliers. It stipulates the conditions under which a payment can be released from the buyer’s bank account to the supplier’s. This contract is prepared by the buyer and the supplier and presented to the bank for validation. A letter of credit usually requires an inspection certificate for the release of payment.

Lot or Batch

The lot size is the total number of units available for random sampling. The lot size only includes packed products. Also called an "inspection lot" or "inspection batch," it is a collection of product units from which a sample is drawn and inspected to determine conformance with the acceptance criteria.

Major defect

A major defect is one, that is likely to result in failure, or to materially reduce the usability of the unit of product for its intended purpose. It is less serious than a critical defect. A major defective is a unit of product that contains one or more major defects. You can provide your own list of Major Defects to be inspected. AQF’s default AQL for major defects is 2.5.


A man-day is the unit of value used by inspection companies to estimate the cost of an inspection. It represents a working day spent by a Quality Controller (or Quality Inspector) to perform an inspection.


A manufacturer is an entity with facilities, workforce, and machinery that allows them to make goods on a large scale.


The action of producing goods by industrial processes.

Minor defect

A minor defect is one that is not likely to materially reduce the usability of the unit of product for its intended purpose or is a departure from established standards having little bearing on the effective use or operation of the unit of product. A Minor defective is a unit of product that contains one or more defects. You can provide your own list of Minor Defects to be inspected. AQF's default AQL for minor defects is 4.0.
Read more about Major, Minor and Critical defects and how to easily differentiate them.


A Nonconformance may be defined as the failure of a unit of product to conform to specified requirements for any stated quality characteristic. The extent of nonconformance of product to the required quality characteristics is expressed in terms of either percent defective or defects per hundred units (DHU).

Normal Inspection

Normal inspection is used where there is no evidence that the quality of the product is likely to be better or worse than the specified quality level.

Notified body

A notified body is an entity that has been accredited by a country, or a trade union, to assess whether a product to be sold on the market meets the required standards.

Online Quality Management system/technology/software

Technology that allows you to manage and monitor quality control actions on your goods easily. In term of operations, it is a tool to ensure the efficient coordination and follow-up of all inspections and audits. In addition, advanced systems facilitate an in-depth analysis of the inspection results to enable benchmarking of suppliers and monitoring of their performance over time.


All actions required to prepare, execute and report on an inspection or supplier audit service.

Payment term

The payment term defines when, how, and where the payment of goods from the buyer to the supplier should be made. The terms of payment include details of any deposit,  the period for payment before or after the delivery of goods, and more. 

Pass result

A pass result occurs when zero non-conformities are identified, or the number of non-conformities are within the tolerance level defined by the buyer.

Pending result

A pending result occurs when the buyer does not specify non-conformities, or they are not considered to have a direct consequence on sales.

Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI)

A PSI is also called a Final Random Inspection (FRI.) It is an essential part of your supply chain management and the most common inspection. A pre-shipment inspection is performed when 100% of the goods ordered are finished, and 80% to 100% of the goods are packed into export cartons. Samples are selected randomly, according to sampling standards (usually AQL table) and procedures.
Learn more 

Production Monitoring

Production Monitoring is a review of the production process to identify weak points that affect the finished goods quality. The objective is to identify and implement suitable corrective actions immediately, then monitor and adjust the quality improvements until the final quality objectives are reached.
Learn more 

Process of production

A series of steps carried out in a specific order to produce consumer goods.

Purchase order

A contractual document from the buyer to the supplier that specifies a description of the goods, and the quantity, price, payment terms, and delivery date of an order.
Read about the how to write a purchase order for sourcing overseas more securely.

Quality Assurance

Surveillance of every stage of the production process to maintain a desired level of quality and meet expected delivery deadlines.

Quantity Check

One of the main checkpoints during an inspection of consumer goods. It verifies if the number of products manufactured up until a particular stage of production aligns with that required for the final purchase order quantity. For example: If the process is 80% complete, 80% of the total number of products required should also be complete.

Quality Control

The process by which organizations identify nonconformities or defects at each production stage in their supply chain, to avoid delivering goods to consumers which don’t meet their quality expectations.

Quality control strategy

A quality control strategy is an organization’s long-term plan defining what quality control processes they will implement to reach their quality objectives.

Quality Management System

A quality management system documents all information related to an organization’s processes and procedures required to control quality. Most quality systems are based on international standard ISO 9001.

Random Sampling

A method of randomly selecting samples of units from a batch in such a way that every unit has an equal and independent chance of being chosen.


A rule or a directive set by an official authority, government, or trade union that regulates the commercialization of consumer goods within a market and limits the risk of injuries and death that could be caused by the products.

Rejected shipment

A rejected shipment is the result of an inspection FAIL. The buyer does not accept the goods and refuses to ship them to the destination country.

Reduced Inspection

Reduced inspection uses the same quality level as for normal inspection, but requires inspection of a smaller number of samples. This method is appropriate when the client is confident that the quality of the products is acceptable.

Rejection Number

The rejection number is the minimum number of defects or defective units in the sample that will cause rejection of the lot represented by the sample.

Representative Sampling

Representative sampling ensures that a smaller quantity of products accurately reflects the larger entity. The number of units sampled is determined using some rational criterion and is in proportion to the size of sub-lots or sub-batches, or parts or the lot or batch. The sample units from each part of the lot or batch are selected at random.

Resubmitted Lots or Batches

Unacceptable lots or batches should only be resubmitted for re-inspection after all units are re-examined or retested, and all defective units are removed or defects corrected. The responsible authority determines whether normal or tightened inspection should be used and whether re-inspection includes all types or classes of defects or only the particular type which caused initial rejection.

Root cause

The root cause is the origin of a workmanship defect or non-conformity. Identifying the root cause helps to define the appropriate corrective actions.


Social Accountability International is a global non-governmental organization founded in 1997. SAI’s vision is of decent work everywhere – sustained by an understanding that socially responsible workplaces benefit business while securing basic human rights.


It is a set of tools that helps organizations continuously measure and improve their management system for social performance.


A sample consists of one or more units of product drawn from a lot or batch. The sample units are selected at random without regard to their quality. The number of products in the sample is the sample size.

Sample Size

The number of pieces under scrutiny during a product inspection. It varies depending on the total order quantity and the level of assurance required.  International standard ISO 2859-1 has defined procedures for determining the appropriate sample size.


The process of taking samples from the production batch to be inspected. 

Sampling Plans

A lot sampling plan is a statement of the sample size or sizes to be used and the associated acceptance and rejection numbers.

Severity of Inspection

The severity of inspection concerns the total amount, kind, and extent of inspection specified by the quality assurance provisions established for the unit of product, or as dictated by quality history.  The three levels used in international standards are Tightened, Normal and Reduced inspection.

Single Sampling Plan

A single sampling plan uses the results of one sample of items from an inspection lot to determine acceptability. The number of sample units inspected (or sample size) is stated by the plan.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a methodology that aims to improve processes to eliminate the probability of defects, improve quality, and reach the highest levels of consumers satisfaction.


Specifications are the information provided by the buyer to define the product’s physical and mechanical properties, along with expectations in term of quality (acceptable or non-acceptable defects), packaging, labeling and more.


Standards are documents setting out specifications, procedures, and guidelines. They are designed to ensure products, services and systems are safe, reliable and consistent.
Standards provide a framework for determining what level of quality a product should achieve and how that will be judged. A standard can refer to dimensions, functionality or safety requirements. They are usually defined by official entities, governments and trade unions.


An intermediary supplier manufacturing finished goods on behalf of another supplier. 

Supply Chain

A system put in place which aims to deliver a specific product to the end consumers. It involves sourcing, manufacturing, quality control, and transportation activities.


An organization in charge of manufacturing or supplying a specific product to another organization.

Supplier Audit

See Factory audit.

Surveillance program

A set of quality control actions put in place to monitor and improve the quality of the manufactured goods.

Third party QC

An organization that provides a neutral assessment of goods and suppliers by performing product inspections and supplier audits. They do not have any sourcing activity so as to avoid any conflict of interest.

Tightened Inspection

Tightened inspection under a sampling procedure plan uses the same quality level as for normal inspection, but has more stringent acceptance criteria, and therefore more samples must be checked. It is used for high-value products or if there is a history of poor quality.


It is the length of time it takes from the product being conceived and manufactured until the item is available for sale to end consumers.

Tolerance levels

It is the margin of error accepted by the buyer regarding deviations between the product specifications and the finished goods.

Trading company

An intermediate company responsible for sourcing suppliers, negotiating terms and following up the manufacturing process until shipment.

Unit of Production

A unit of production (or unit of product) is the item inspected to determine whether it is defective or not or to count the number of defects. It may be a single article, a pair, a set, a length, an area, an operation, a volume, a component of an end product, or the end product itself. The unit of product may or may not be the same as the unit of purchase, supply, production, or shipment.


An organization that provides goods to other organizations but may not necessarily be the manufacturer of the products.


The result of skills used by workers to manufacture a product.

Zero defects

A requirement for a product to have NO defects for it to be compliant and acceptable.