Apparel Quality Process PP to Final AQL Inspection

The garment quality control process can be as simple or as complicated as what you want it to be.  To share what I consider to be best practice and manageable, this document will explore AQL and quality processes from PP to Final Inspection.

The process below is to ensure the best practice inspection methodology is in place to manage quality of your apparel brand from pre-production to shipment.  It’s suggested use is for new vendors and existing vendors that have not qualified for self-assessment from buyers, new brands or high risk product, and new customers.

Where vendors reach self-assessment qualification, vendors should deploy the inspection process internally and ensure full visibility and audibility of inspection reports and process.

This documents are divided into the following parts.

  1. PP to Final AQL inspection operational process overview
  2. Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) standards – Rules to apply to the garment inspection process
  3. PP to Final AQL inspection operational process in detail
  4. Guidelines for Final Inspection and Shipment Approval

Where vendors reach self-assessment qualification, vendors should deploy the inspection process internally and ensure full visibility and audibility of inspection reports and process.

 

PP to Final AQL Inspection Operational Process Overview

 

Every order must have at minimum ONE in-line and Final AQL audit, colour by colour where the quantity is over 1000 units.

Orders less than 1000 units audit requirements at the discretion of the quality manager.

Marked “” means the corresponding inspection operations need to be conducted.

 Order Quantity (pcs) PP Meeting Inline Inspection Interim Inspection Shipping samples check Pre Final Inspection Final Inspection
1-1,000
1,001-5,000
5,001-10000
10,000-50,000
Over 50,000

 

  1. Pre-production (PP) meeting: When the Pre-Production sample is approved (Bulk fabric and accessories complete), the technician and QC will meet the vendor to conduct the PP meeting with the vendor technical team and other relevant personnel. The meeting object is to ensure all pre-cutting processes have been complete, manage potential risk and ensure all challenges are corrected.
  2. In-line: Output of finished garment, less than 200 pieces or up to 20% of order quantity per colour.
  3. Interim: Output of finished garment, more than 200 pieces or in excess of 20% but less than 50% of order quantity per colour
  4. Shipping Sample inspection: Full size and colourway shipping samples must be checked by the technician and approved by the customer before shipment. This step is discretionary depending on customer requirement.  Samples must come from production not the sample room.
  5. Pre-Final (AQL): Output of finished garment up to 50% of order quantity per colour. The result of workmanship and measurements can be used as reference for final inspection.
  6. Final Inspection (AQL): Final inspection will be conducted when a minimum of 80% all sizes and colours of the garment has been packed into cartons.
  7. 3rd Party Final Inspection: If the end customer requires a third party inspection, the vendor must ensure all required procedures are completed as requested by the customer and the nominated inspection agency is used.

Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) Standards – Rules to Apply to the Inspection Process

AQL stands for Acceptance Quality Limit, and is defined as the “quality level that is the worst tolerable”.  It decides the maximum number of defective units, beyond which a batch is rejected

Within this document, Acceptable Quality Level (AQL) refers to MIL-STD- 105E.

MIL-STD- 105E is a random sampling inspection method and is the most widely accepted method of sampling by attributes based on the mathematical theory of probability. MIL-STD-105E specifies the numbers of samples to be inspected in a given lot/sample size. It also provides special criteria for acceptance or rejection of a shipment/lot based on the number of defects found, and provides a fair assessment, to both buyers and sells, of product quality.

MIL-STD-105e for reference milstd105e or https://archive.org/details/MIL-STD-105E_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIL-STD-105

AQL Sampling Plan – Inspection Level

The inspection level controls the correlation between the lot or batch size (production quantity) and the sample size (inspection quantity). The inspection level to be used for any particular requirement will be determined by the buyer and or for internal purposes the head of technical. 
Three inspection levels: I, II, III are given in AQL Table 2-4 for general use.  Normally, inspection level II is used. However, inspection level I may be used when less discrimination is needed, or level III may be used for greater discrimination. Four additional special levels: S-1. S-2, S-3, S-4 is given in the same table and may be used where relatively small sample sizes are necessary and large sampling risks can or must be tolerated. 

AQL % Level

In practice, three types of defects are distinguished. For most common mid-level consumer goods, the AQL limits are:

  • AQL 0% for critical defects (totally unacceptable: a user might get harmed, or regulations are not respected).
  • AQL 2.5% for major defects (these products would usually not be considered acceptable by the end user).
  • AQL 4.0% for minor defects (there is some departure from specifications, but most users would not mind it).

These AQL % levels vary based on the garment brand level and its market. Luxury brands may be AQL 1.0% major 2.5% minor where are discount supermarket may be AQL4.0% major 6.5% minor.

The Sample plan level and AQL % level is a brand quality decision of the business, a lower AQL% will dictate a higher price point brand whereas subsequently a higher AQL % level will indicate a lower price point brand or product. 

AQL – Table 1 – Sampling Plan Lot Size / Size Code Letter

Lot Size Special Inspection Level General Inspection Level
S-1 S-2 S-3 S-4 I II III
2 to 8 A A A A A A B
9 to 15 A A A A A B C
16 to 25 A A B B B C D
26 to 50 A B B C C D E
51 to 90 B B C C C E F
91 to 150 B B C D D F G
151 to 280 B C D E E G H
281 to 500 B C D E F H J
501 to 1200 C C E F G J K
1201 to 3200 C D E G H K L
3201 to 10000 C D F G J L M
10001 to 35000 C D F H K M N
35001 to 150000 D E G J L N P
150001 to 500000 D E G J M P Q
500001 over D E H K N Q R

AQL – Table 2 – Inspection Level I

Lot size               Code letter Sample size 0.65 1.0 1.5 2.5 4.0 6.5
      Re Re Re Re Re Re
2 to 8 A 2 1
9 to 15 B 3 1 ^
16 to 25 C 5 1 ^ V
26 to 50 D 8 1 ^ V 2
51 to 90 E 13 1 ^ V 2 3
91 to 150 F 20 1 ^ V 2 3 4
151 to 280 G 32 ^ V 2 3 4 5
281 to 500 H 50 V 2 3 4 5 6
501 to 1200 J 80 2 3 4 5 6 8
1201 to 3200 K 125 3 4 5 6 8 10
3201 to 10000 L 200 4 5 6 8 10 13
10001 to 35000 M 315 5 6 8 10 13 ^
35001 to 150000 N 500 6 8 10 13 ^
150001 to 500000 P 800 8 10 13 ^

AQL – Table 3 – Inspection Level II

Lot size Code letter Sample size 0.65 1.0 1.5 2.5 4.0 6.5
      Re Re Re Re Re Re
2 to 8 A 2 1
9 to 15 B 3 1 ^
16 to 25 C 5 1 ^ V
26 to 50 D 8 1 ^ V 2
51 to 90 E 13 1 ^ V 2 3
91 to 150 F 20 1 ^ V 2 3 4
151 to 280 G 32 ^ V 2 3 4 6
281 to 500 H 50 V 2 3 4 6 8
501 to 1200 J 80 2 3 4 6 8 11
1201 to 3200 K 125 3 4 6 8 11 15
3201 to 10000 L 200 4 6 8 11 15 22
10001 to 35000 M 315 6 8 11 15 22
35001 to 150000 N 500 8 11 15 22
150001 to 500000 P 800 11 15 22

AQL – Table 4 – Inspection Level III

Lot size Code letter Sample size 0.65 1.0 1.5 2.5 4.0 6.5
      Re Re Re Re Re Re
2 to 8 A 2
9 to 15 B 3 1
16 to 25 C 5 1 ^
26 to 50 D 8 1 ^ V
51 to 90 E 13 1 ^ V 2
91 to 150 F 20 1 ^ V 2 3
151 to 280 G 32 1 ^ V 2 3 4
281 to 500 H 50 ^ V 2 3 4 6
501 to 1200 J 80 V 2 3 4 6 9
1201 to 3200 K 125 2 3 4 6 9 13
3201 to 10000 L 200 3 4 6 9 13 19
10001 to 35000 M 315 4 6 9 13 19 ^
35001 to 150000 N 500 6 9 13 19 ^
150001 to 500000 P 800 9 13 19 ^

 \/ = use first sampling plan below arrow.  If size equals, or exceeds lot size carry out 100% inspection.

/\ = use first sampling plan above arrow

Re=Rejection Number

Example 1 – Quantity 3000 Units Inspection LVL II AQL 2.5 Major AQL4.0 Minor

Based on an order quantity of 3000 units (Lot Size 1201 to 3200), Inspection LVL II the code letter is K – refer Table 1

Now refer to Table 3 Inspection LVL II, Code Letter K the inspection sample size is 125 pieces, based on AQL 2.5 major the reject rate is 8, and AQL 4.0 minor the reject rate is 11.

The Inspector will select 125 pieces using the AQL carton selection plan, inspect on the premise 0 critical defects are unacceptable, 8 major rejects or greater, and or 11 minor rejects or greater is a reject status.

Example 2 – Quantity 15000 Units Inspection LVL I AQL 4.0 Major AQL 6.5 Minor

Based on an order quantity of 15000 units (Lot Size 10001 to 35000), Inspection LVL I the code letter is M – refer Table 1.

Now refer to Table 2 Inspection LVL I, Code Letter M the inspection sample size is 315 pieces, based on AQL 4.0 major the reject rate is 13, and AQL 6.5 minor the reject rate is 13 due to the ^ symbol.

The Inspector will select 315 pieces using the AQL carton selection plan, inspect on the premise 0 critical defects are unacceptable, 13 major rejects or greater, and or 13 minor rejects or greater is a reject status.

Fabric 4 Point AQL Inspection Plan

All fabric must be inspected using the 4-point inspection process by the manufacturer.  The 4-point fabric inspection report must be presented at the PP meeting to the technician.

https://idgc.co/2016/06/21/fabric-inspection-are-you-performing-a-4-point-inspection/

Measurement AQL Sample Plan

A minimum of 13 pcs for one order must be measured with at least 1 piece of each size and colour being selected for measuring.

Inspectors must also check if the measurement variances within a size are reasonable for all colours. This could be observed by overlapping different colours of the same size together in one pile for easy comparison.

AQL – Table 5 dictates the minimum sampling required for measuring based on the number of sizes and the number of colours.  Example, if the garment style has 5 sizes and 3 colours the minimum numbers of pieces to be measured would be 20.  Using AQL- Table 6, if the AQL lvl is 2.5 then the maximum out of tolerance acceptable would be 1 major and 2 minor irrespective of the quantity.

Measurements out of tolerance are unacceptable and should be marked with a circle on the report as a minor defect. Jumping out of grade should be marked with a triangle as a major defect. If one garment has two or more major defects only, it should be marked as one major defect, and if there are two minor defects in a different garment while in the same size, it should be accounted as one major defect。

Tolerance for key body measurements as a guideline, the common practice used is equivalent to 50% of the graded interval (grade rule) = half/total circumference or length.

As manufacturing tolerances are derived from grading intervals (grade rule) related to the design of each style, tolerance should be entered into the individual style specification. If there is no grade to follow, an allowance of 2% discrepancy for woven products and 3% for knit.

AQL – Table 5 – Minimum sampling size & acceptable quality level from 1 to 15 colours

Sample Lot

No. of Colours
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

15

No. of size 1 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 13 20 20
2 13 13 13 13 13 13 20 20 20 20 32 32 32 32 32
3 13 13 13 13 20 20 32 32 32 32 50 50 50 50 50
4 13 13 13 20 20 32 32 32 50 50 50 50 80 80 80
5 13 13 20 20 32 32 50 50 50 50 80 80 80 80 80
6 13 13 20 32 32 50 50 50 80 80 80 80 80 125 125
7 13 20 32 32 50 50 50 80 80 80 80 125 125 125 125
8 13 20 32 32 50 50 80 80 80 80 125 125 125 125 125
9 13 20 32 50 50 80 80 80 125 125 125 125 125 200 200
10 13 20 32 50 50 80 80 80 125 125 125 125 200 200 200
11 13 32 50 50 80 80 80 125 125 125 125 200 200 200 200
12 13 32 50 50 80 80 125 125 125 125 200 200 200 200 200

AQL – Table 6 – Measurement Inspection Sampling Plan

Sample Size

AQL 1.5 AQL 2.5 AQL 4.0 AQL 6.5
Major Minor Major Minor Major Minor Major Minor

13

0 1 0 2 1 2 2

3

14 ~ 21

0 2 1 2 2 3 3

5

21 ~ 32

1 2 2 3 3 5 5

7

33 ~ 50

2 3 3 5 5 7 7

10

51 ~ 80

3 5 5 7 7 9 10

14

81 ~ 125

5 7 7 10 10 14 14

21

126 ~ 200 7 10 10 14 14 21 21

32

Carton AQL Sampling Plan

Minimum 80% of product in even proportion of colour and size must be completed prior to final inspection.  The inspector must randomly choose which cartons are to be inspected using the carton inspection plan from table 7 which states how many cartons are to be opened for the particular packing batch.  The cartons opened needs to be proportionate across colour and size.

For small orders minimum one carton per colour and size must be opened unless cartons are mixed.

AQL – Table 7 – Carton Selection Sampling Plan

# of Pack Units 

# of  Carton to Open # of Pack Units

 

# of  Carton to Open # of Pack Units

 

# of  Carton to Open # of Pack Units

 

# of  Carton to Open # of Pack Units

 

# of  Carton to Open

less  10

3 110 10 220 15 330 18 440 21

10

3

120

11

230

15

340

18

450

21

20

4

130

11

240

15

350

 19

460

21

 30

5

140

12

250

16

360

 19

470

22

40

6

150

12

260

16

370

 19

480

 22

50

7 160 13 270 16 380 19 490

22

60

8 170 13 280 17 390 20 500

22

70 8 180 13 290 18 400 20 600

4%

80

9 190 14 300 18 410 20 1000

3%

90

9

200

14

310

18

420

20

2000 or more

2%

100

10

210

14

320

18

430

21

 

PP to Final AQL Inspection Operational Process in Detail

PP Meeting

Vendor Preparation for PP Meeting

The following items should be prepared by the vendor for approval by the technician during the PP meeting:

  1. Pre-production sample must be made on the production line, and have a buyer written report confirming that workmanship, measurement and styling are approved. The buyer technician must seal the PP Sample to signify that the sample is approved. There must be one PP sample present on each line.
  2. Prepared Production Line Plan and loading for the assigned style / contract.
  3. Prepared dye lot and trim/accessories cards for style / contract. The vendor must show that they have tested the shrinkage of each dye lot and adjusted the pattern for shrinkage accordingly.
  4. Vendor Production representative must be present at the meeting.
  5. The vendor must have an approved yellow seal sample from the technician (PP Sample).
  6. Garment Washed or Dyed products require a washed dye lot blanket and shrinkage test for review and approval by technician.

In-Line, Interim Inspection

An inspector must be allocated to inspect bulk production once production has commenced.  It is the vendor’s responsibility to advise the merchandiser of the exact location of the site manufacturing all colours and sizes and the most suitable time to inspect.  On completion of the inspection, the inspector will issue a report listing any defects with a result of approved or not approved.  If the inspection is not approved the inspector will return to the vendor and follow the same process until the bulk production is acceptable or advised otherwise.

QA Preparation for Inspection (prior for IN-LINE inspection

  1. Study the standards and information of each order by means of the technical file submitted by merchandiser in advance of production.
  2. Check the Vendor name on the contract to ensure that the correct vendor is making the order. If technical discovers that a different vendor is making the order, this should be report to the technical manager.
  3. Review the approval sample (Seal Sample) with technical in order to get technical support and advice.
  4. Ensure that the dye lots have been submitted and checked prior to going to the vendor.
  5. Ensure that the PP meeting has been conducted and that the PP Sample has been approved and sealed for that style.
  6. Prepare the measurement sheet and insert relevant measuring instruction including all measurement points according to customer’s technical manual.
  7. Update the production schedule and plan of orders from vendors.

In-Line

This stage is to inspect semi-finished goods and batches during work-in-progress covering styling, workmanship and measurement.

  1. In-line : Output of finished garments, less than 200 pieces or up to 20 % of order quantity per colour.
  2. Interim : Output of finished garments of more than 200 pieces or in excess of 20% but less than 80% of order quantity per colour.

At this stage, semi-finished and/or finished goods should be audited covering colour, styling, workmanship & measurement (according to the given standards). The first priority of this inspection is the standard audit, and then an inconsistency audit by AQL.  If there is any potential or critical problem found, the Merchandising / technical manager should be informed immediately.

Standard Audit

  1. Colour shade lot per colour.
  2. Colour matching between materials and sub-materials
  3. Bulk materials card (e.g. design / quality / wording of main label / care label / hang-tag, etc).
  4. Fabric hand-feel or washing result and fabric weight while available.
  5. Garment measurement of pressed /washed garments where available.
  6. Packing sample

Pre-Final Inspection

The production of an order including sewing and pressing is almost completed, but the poly-bag / carton packing is not finished up to 80% of order quantity per colour.

  1. Pre-Final: Output of finished garments of up to 50% of order quantity per colour, inspector can inspection. The result of workmanship and measurements can be used as a reference for final inspection.
  2. If the order quantity is over 10000pcs, then the Pre-Final inspection must be conducted.

Final Inspection

Every shipment must be inspected before being released regardless of the quantity. Supplier should send the inspection booking to the technical coordinator 7 days in advance.

  • Final inspection will be conducted when a minimum of 80% of the merchandise has been packed into cartons.
  • The standard operation procedure:
    1. QC prepares for inspection: Double check the technical file against the check-list which the merchandiser has filled out. Ensure that all items are ready. Quickly review the file. Confirm the inspection date with vendor.
    2. Select the cartons: Check the breakdown and packing ratio with packing list. Normally, we select 10% of sealed cartons for inspection. Selection must cover all sizes and colours. Detailed sampling lot as per the chart please refer AQL – Table 7 – Carton Selection Sampling Plan.
    3. Check the packing: Shipping Mark, stickers, Cardboard quality, Quantity, dimension, polybag, folding method.
    4. Check the construction details against PP Sample.
    5. Check the fabric and colour: Fabric content, construction, hand feel and check colour in the light box.
    6. Trims: Labels, interlining, shoulder pad, threads, button, zip, Velcro, lace, stripes, etc. For all branded raw material, whether this is fabric or accessories the copy of invoice must be provided to prove authenticity.
    7. Normal defect checks: Dirt stains, oil stains, thread ends, fabric flaws and iron marks. Stitching broken / joint mark / skipping, etc.
    8. Measuring: Must cover all colours and sizes. Refer AQL – Table 5 – Minimum sampling size & acceptable quality level from 1 to 15 colours
    9. Issue the inspection report: Send the inspection report to relevant persons.
  • Vendors must take action to re-inspect all packed cartons and to sort out defective garments according to the rejected subject in the final audit report and final quality standards. The order must be re-inspected upon re-work completion and approval by the technical manager.
  • Design feature, if any fault is found, 10% of the bulk production is to be inspected. If more than five pieces are faulty, the bulk is rejected.
  • On completion of the inspection, the vendor will be given a copy of the inspection report and must sign it to verify the result. If the result is ‘rejected’, the vendor must rectify the problems as stated in the comments box ‘action required by vendor’ before a reinspection can take place.  If the vendor disagrees with the result they are to contact the technical manager immediately.

Guidelines for Final Inspection and Shipment Approval

Critical Major & Minor defects

Critical, Major & Minor defects are based MIL 105E AQL INSPECTION LEVEL

  • Critical defects affect the garment’s appearance, performance, or durability to such a degree that the customer would not buy the product if they saw the defect, the defect will result in dissatisfaction when first worn/used or after first wash or 4 major defects found on the same point, will upgrade it as 1 critical
  • Major defects are a serious departure from construction specification or quality standards that affects the garment’s appearance or durability, and possibly reduces its saleability. The defect may result in early repair, customer return, or unsightly presentation. Defects found in Zone A* or if 4 minor defects found on the same point, will upgrade it as 1 major defect
  • Minor defects that may cause customer only minor dissatisfaction or annoyance, and are located in Zone B.
    * Note: For definitions of Zone A and B, please refer to Appendix-1.

Measurement and workmanship defects are counted separately.

Vendor should make corrective action of defects advised during inspection.

In certain circumstances if it does not affect the silhouette, general appearance and fit of garments, the shipment still can be released upon the approval of technical manager.

Under a critical situation, if the inspector does not feel comfortable with a specific case, the inspector should request that 100% of production is packed before final inspection report two days ahead of the delivery in order to ensure all parties follow the rules.

Workmanship:

  • One garment counts as one major defect only.
  • Minor/major defects are to be counted separately.
  • 4 minor defects that are found on the same point will upgrade it as 1 major defect.
  • 4 major defects found on the same point, will upgrade it as 1 critical, this must be reported to the technical manager.

Measurement:

  • Major faults are counted if a measurement point is out of tolerance, through jumping over the grade, (one garment can only be counted as one major fault).
  • Minor faults are counted by points, as follows:

Woven and Cut ‘n’ Sew Knits, the total measurement points divided by minor out of tolerance measurements is expressed as a percentage. More than 10% equals a “fail”.

Sweaters, the total measurement points divided by the minor out of tolerance measurements, expressed as a percentage. More than 15% equals a “fail”.

  • If a particular measurement point cannot be controlled and it does not affect the specification/general appearance of a garment, please refer it to the buyer.
  • Any continuous consistency of any measurement problem will cause possibility of shipment failure.

Technical finalises Inspection (Post-Production Checking)

  • From the inspection, identify all problem operations or issues.
  • Check those operations/issues and work with the vendor to find a workable solution. The technician should make the final agreement with Vendor Manager or the most senior vendor representative available.
  • If no solution can be found / agreed, the inspector should refer to their technical manager immediately, and follow a corrective action system.
  • Update the inspection report of the final agreement with the vendor and have the vendor sign off on it.

Authority to Ship

  1. Bulk shipments should not be approved until the freight forwarder has been given approval by the buyer. If cargo is not approved, the vendor will be advised immediately and the freight forwarder will not be authorized to ship the cargo.  In the event of non-approval, the vendor must either rectify the bulk production problem until approval is given or the bulk may be cancelled / a discount requested.
  2. Approval to ship must be based on the following:
  • Fabric quality report (Four-Point Inspection & Laboratory)
  • Garment Inline Inspection
  • Shipping Sample Approval (Customer or buyer).
  • Garment Final Inspection Report
  • Shipment Mode
  • Shipment Date

Appendix 1 – Zone A and Zone B

Where there are a lot of faults in the fabric and these is no time to reproduce, or remanufacturing is not feasible cutting fabric in zones A & B ensure faults do not lie in key visual areas.  This will not be viable in large scale production and will only be possible in small scale production.

Zone A: The obvious area of the garment. This includes the whole collar, placket, pocket and upper part of the body and sleeves. Area in which any quality defects can be easily found while the garment is worn, Therefore the defects are classified more strictly than in the B Zone.

Zone B: The non-obvious area of the garment. Normally, it is the lower or inner part of the garment. Defects in this area are usually considered as minor defects unless specified.

Following picture can be used to identify the A Zone and B Zone:

Zone A & B

 

ID Global Concepts has been involved in quality management of fabric, accessories, and apparel for many years. We can add value to your operation either through consultancy or management contract to ensure your business has the best practice quality systems that are the right fit for your business and meets your value expectations.

Below are the retailer’s ID Global Concepts have delivered quality apparel and accessories to over the last ten years;

Macy’s, Urban, Sears, Marks & Spencer, Myer, Kmart US & Kmart Australia, Dunnes Stores, Debenhams Monsoon Accessorize, Asos, Witchery, Brown Sugar, RM Williams, Coles, Chloe, John Lewis, Disney, Next, Firetrap, Lonsdale, Postie, ASDA, Harris Scarf, River Island, Tesco, Woolworths, Walmart, Glassons, Babies’R’Us, New Look, Target US & Australia, Primark, David Jones, Best & Less, Sophie, Yakka, Top Shop, BHS, Burlington, BigW, Oasis, JayJays, Blue Illusion, Driza-Bone, Just Jeans, Volcom, House of Fraser, Pumpkin Patch, Suzanne Grae, Pelaco, Laura Ashley, Sportsgirl, Ted Baker, Truetex, TableEight, French Connection

If you would like to learn more or wish to discuss other supply chain opportunities, please email us at info@idgc.co.

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