AQL Terms


Generally, the standards ISO2859 / MIL-STD-105E / ANSI/ASQ Z1.4 Sampling Procedures and Tables for Inspection by Attributes are adopted for the performance of inspections. Although with different codes, these standards describe very much the same rules. There are some basic definitions to be familiar with:

Acceptable Quality Level (AQL): The acceptable level (AQL) is defined as the maximum percent defective that, for purpose of sampling inspection, can be considered satisfactory as a process average. Inspection Levels: The standards provides 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. 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. Critical Defects: likely to result in unsafe condition or contravene mandatory regulation or reject by import customs. Major Defects: reduces the usability/function and/or sale of the product or is an obvious appearance defect. Minor Defects: doesn't reduce the usability/function of the product, but is a defect beyond the defined quality standard more or less reduces the sale of the products.
Commonly, the Critical/Major/Minor defects are defined as above and in practice specific circumstances and client requirements may also be taken into consideration.

There are basically two AQL tables. The first one tells you which 'code letter' to use based on the selected sample plan, such as S-4, G-I, G-II, etc. (the most commonly used inspection level for consumer goods is General Inspection Level II). If you follow my example, I assume your 'lot size' (which means quantity) is between 3201pcs and 10,000pcs, and that your inspection level is 'II'. Consequently, the code letter is "L".

Then, the second table will give you the sample size and the maximum numbers of defects that can be accepted based on the selected code letter. Your code letter is "L", so you will have to draw 200pcs randomly from the total lot size according to TABLE II. Acceptable Quality Levels 0.10, 0.25, 0.40, 0.65, … determines the limits of Critical, Major and Minor defects acceptable. For example, if we assume 0/2.5/4.0 for Critical/Major/Minor defects, the products are acceptable if no more than 0 Critical, 10 Major and 14 Minor defects are found.


1.Do not panic, review with calmness the details the inspection reports/alerts. Sometimes, an inspection report with failure conclusion doesn’t necessarily mean that the batch is absolutely unacceptable based on the specific business circumstances, such as price, target client, contract term, etc. The best practice is to review the report in details and then make the decision.

2.Consider the implications of accepting the goods the way they are but do not compromise your business integrity due to pressure on delivery, is better to delay a shipment than losing a customer for ever and getting into potential legal issues.

3.Share the inspection results with your supplier and negotiate an immediate action (e.g. stop production, ask for a few extra products to cover potential defectives, ask for discounts, delay the shipment, arrange re-inspections and ask Supplier to bear the cost of them, etc...)

4.Ask or implement Long Term Corrective Actions. (Add penalty clauses in your purchasing contracts, define defectives limits and product specs on time, perform re-inspections in all future orders, monitor your products in early stages of production, etc).