The Concept of Zero Defects in Six Sigma

The concept of zero defects as explained and initiated by Philip Crosby is a business system that aims at reducing the defects in a process, and doing the process correctly the first time itself.

The Concept of Zero Defects

When would a product be acceptable to a customer? It would be acceptable when it meets or conforms to the requirements of the customer – it is not just about being good. In short, when a product is built to specifications without any drawbacks, then it is an acceptable product. In terms of defects, a product will be acceptable when it is free of defects.

When considering the concept of zero defects, one might want to know what that zero defect level is, if acceptable levels can be achieved for a product.

Attaining perfect zero defects may not be possible, and there is always a chance of some errors or defect occurring. Zero defects means reaching a level of infinity sigma – which is nearly impossible. In terms of Six Sigma, zero defects would mean maximization of profitability and improvement in quality.

A process has to be in place that allows for the achievement of zero defects. Unless conditions are perfect, the objective of zero defects is not possible. It is possible to measure non-conformance in terms of waste. Unless the customer requirements are clear, you will not be able to achieve the product that matches these requirements and is not short of them or exceeds them.


The advantage of achieving a zero defect level is waste reduction. When time is spent on manufacturing quality goods and services according to customer requirements, it will also lead to cost reductions.

By conforming to requirements, customer satisfaction is achieved – and that means improvement in customer loyalty and retention and an increase in profitability.

Possible Drawback of Pushing For Zero Defects

Some experts argue that if there is an overemphasis on efforts to create a situation of zero defects, there may be an increased allotment of time and expense on building the perfect process, which in reality is not entirely possible. It may be detraction from the realistic culture of successful continuous improvement.

In the same line of thought, if for zero defect there are tests and checkpoints at various places, it will result in an increase in the costs on these activities. There is also a probability of losing a good product due to overly strict criteria.

Impact on the Workforce and Supply Chain

Employees are aware of the need to reduce defects, and they strive to achieve continual improvement. However, over-emphasis of zero defects levels may be demoralizing, and may even lead to non-productivity. Unless a level of zero defects is achieved, it would be regarded as an unacceptable level.

When the zero defect rule is applied to suppliers and any minor defects are said to be unacceptable, then the company’s supply chain may be jeopardized – which in itself is not the best business scenario.

It may be acceptable to have a policy of continuous improvement rather than a zero defect one. Companies may be able to achieve decent reduction in costs and improved customer satisfaction levels to achieve a bigger market share.