Although factories and their customers would love for every single unit of product to be perfect, the truth is that this simply isn’t possible. Human beings, machines, and human-designed systems are not perfect. Although the “zero defects” movement is a great goal that helps manufacturers move closer to perfection, there are limiting factors that keep zero defects from being a reality in the real world.

Cost of Zero Defects

The biggest limiting factor is cost. If money and time were no object, every order could be zero defects. As it is, producers need to decide the best balance for them of ensuring quality product with a low defect rate, without breaking the bank or delaying product delivery. Defects are not created equally, with some costing more to detect and fix. That is why it is important to prioritize which defects to minimize or eliminate.

The costs associated with defects fall into four categories:

  • Appraisal costs: Money spent verifying quality assurance through testing
  • Preventative costs: Money spent to keep defects from happening in the first place, such as training and establishing processes and systems
  • Internal failure costs: Money spent to fix defects before a product leaves the factory
  • External failure costs: Money spent to fix defects after a product leaves the factory such as refunds, complaints and warranties

Manufacturing Defect Rate Graph


Eventually, the returns on investment to eliminate defects diminish substantially. As fewer defects occur, the cost and time needed to identify and fix them will become greater. Each producer must decide where that line is for them.

Blacksmith’s External Quality Control Team

Of course, when the defect rate is high and the issue is not identified quickly, then costs to the factory and customer can be substantial. This issue is exacerbated when using overseas factories and having to trust their internal quality control team to care about your product as much as you do.

Unfortunately, many internal QC teams do not ascribe to the same high standards needed for low defect rates. Whether from upper management pressure to show lower rates or from an internal bias, the defect rate is often declared to be close to zero, when in fact, it is much higher.

This can be quite costly when a defective shipment arrives. In a worst-case scenario, a large defective order can put small companies out of business when they cannot get their money back from the factory and are left with a shipment of product they cannot sell.

Smart product companies depend on an external quality control team to verify QC. Blacksmith has an external quality control team that performs in-person factory visits in China. When the Blacksmith QC team visits a factory, we:

  • Inspect – Look at samples of the product and conduct basic tests throughout production
  • Fix – Work with the factory to correct issues leading to low-quality products
  • Randomly Re-inspect Finished Product – Review randomly selected product behind closed doors away from the pressures of factory owners
  • Reduce – Lower the defect rate to less than 2%

Through our factory visits, we are able to catch most quality control issues as they arise and correct them before the products are shipped to you.

Although the defect rate in manufacturing will never be zero because of human error and the cost of eliminating issues, partnering with Blacksmith International will help you reduce your risk of high defect rates when working with overseas factories. Our quality control team can ensure that your product is made right and the factory is held to the highest standards.