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Quality knowledge base - article QA-0049
Updated on 05-01-2017

Controlled Shipping Level (CSL)

CSL stands for Controlled Shipping Level. Controlled Shipping is both a systematic procedure and a status. If a supplier has shipped non-conform parts, its customer has the right to put the supplier into the state of "Controlled Shipping". If this happens, the supplier has to start the procedure of controlled shipping, according to the level required by customer who initiated the request.
CSL is a generally used procedure in many industrial sectors, and it’s rife especially in the automotive sector. It has been formed to support the safeguarding of the supply chain from defects and non-conformities.
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Key Features
While non-series, unique failures are handled with a conventional 8D process, CSL activities are usually required to contain and eliminate systematic (series) defects. In such a case, the supplier quality management (SQM) of the customer evaluates the actual situation by assessing the "weight" (severity) and the density of the failure, and places the supplier into CSL1 (or CSL2) with an official written request. The formal letter should contain the following points:
  • Failure description.
  • Affected part numbers, plants.
  • History of the claim, relevant 8Ds issued until now.
  • Reporting and review frequency demanded by the customer (e.g. daily reporting, weekly review of status).
  • Naming what CSL level has been selected.
  • Possible 3rd party service providers that can be selected (if CSL2 is chosen).
  • The supplier must notify its certification body in 5 business days that it has been placed into CSL2 (only relevant in case of CSL2).
  • Exit criteria.
  • Contact information.
The chart below describes a general CSL procedure from start to closure of the issue:
Quality Management
The processes of CSL (Source:
Different CSL levels mean different activity levels as well. Some companies use the wording CSL3, while others not, but this level usually means a serious state, resulting the status "business on hold". If a company is in the state of "business on hold", it cannot win new projects from the given customer, or even those projects are suspended temporarily, which are already in the contracting phase. There are special cases, when an independent external service provider is involved in the problem solving process, already on CSL2 level, or on the level of "business on hold". The following table summarizes the major controlled shipping levels and the joint activities:
CSL levels and activities
CSL Levels Activities Performed by
CSL 1 Containment: 100% redundant inspection / testing Supplier
Problem solving activity: as per 8D report (root cause analysis, definition and implementation of counter-measures) Supplier
CSL 2 Containment: 100% redundant inspection / testing Supplier
Containment: additional 100% redundant inspection / testing Independent 3rd party service provider
Problem solving activity: as per 8D report (root cause analysis, definition and implementation of counter-measures) Supplier
(3rd party service provider may be involved)
Enhanced CSL2, or CSL3 (Possible "Business on Hold" / "Task Force") Containment: special delivery decisions or business on hold with suspended deliveries, defined by the customer Supplier
Problem solving activity: task force team Supplier, Customer, 3rd party
Additional conditions: no new business or project is awarded to the given supplier during "business on hold" Customer
Performing CSL activities is special case by case, but the general principles are always the same. CSL has two important targets: the first is to defend the customer from receiving defective parts by isolating the supply chain, the second is to find and eliminate the root cause as fast as possible.
To do this, the following tools are necessary to implement:
  • Kick-off meeting between the supplier, the customer and the 3rd party to define the scope.
  • Dedicated and suitable containment area with specified conditions (e.g. humidity, light, etc.), layout and material flow.
  • Dedicated testing and labelling equipment.
  • Risk mitigation by FMEA (for all risks arise due to handling, inspection and tests).
  • Control of non-conforming parts with a validated method (inspection control plan and process flow chart).
  • Definition of boundary / limit samples if applicable.
  • Approved inspection / testing instructions.
  • Trained and certified staff.
  • Reporting formulae (that has been accepted by the customer).
  • Agreed reporting frequency and escalation plan.
  • Layered audits at the supplier, performance monitoring with quality metrics.
  • Clear and pre-defined exit criteria (verified root cause and effective counter-measures, defect free deliveries for a given time-frame or quantity, etc.).
Exit criteria are defined by the customer, that need to have a general rule for controlled shipping issues in its supplier manual. Some examples for conditions that can allow the supplier to exit CSL:
  • Documentation about proven root cause, verified and effective corrective actions, error proofing (preventive actions).
  • Defect free deliveries for 30 days.
  • Defect free deliveries for 10 consecutive shipments.
These rules are always determined by the customer, and are not specified by standards.
After a CSL has been found successful, the customer must send a signed official letter to the supplier, permitting it to suspend CSL activities and exit CSL.
It is also a valid question, what happens if the issue cannot be solved, or it causes extraordinary financial controversy for the affected companies, and there is no way back from "business on hold". There is no general rule, however it can happen that the customer ramps down the supplier and stops all activities. Of course this is always a hard decision, as customers are also exposed to their suppliers, because changing to and ramping up a new supplier takes time and money.
CSL is not just a sorting or inspection procedure. It holds further activities, such as the elimination of defects by problem solving, root cause analysis, and the implementation of corrective and preventive actions. The CSL status is in place until the root cause is not eliminated, so finding it is the interest of all stakeholders.
It is very important to note, that CSL is not supplemental to the normal 100% inspection or testing, which the supplier performs in its daily production. CLS is always a redundant process, on top of the normal series activities, whether it’s done by the supplier (CSL1) or an independent 3rd party (CSL2).
  • CSL stands for Controlled Shipping Level.
  • Controlled Shipping is both a systematic procedure and a status.
  • The customer has the right to place the supplier into CSL status, requesting immediate redundant inspection / testing activities and problem solving (including deep root cause analysis, implementation of counter-measures).
  • CSL1 is the first level with the demand of redundant 100% inspection and problem solving.
  • CSL2 is an increased level, with the demand of involving an independent 3rd party for additional 100% inspection.
  • If CSL1 and CSL2 is ineffective, the customer may place the supplier in "business on hold" status, and start task force activities.
Relevant Topics
Process Control and Analysis
Statistical Process Control (SPC)
Process Control and Analysis
Machine- and Process Capability
Process Control and Analysis
Internal Reject Rate (IRR)
Process Control and Analysis
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
Process Control and Analysis
Sampling Test
Process Control and Analysis
Acceptance Quality Limit (AQL)
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Incoming Quality Inspection
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End of Line Test (EOL)
Fact sheet
Information about the status and procedure of controlled shipping.

Topic / Article: Controlled Shipping Level (CSL)
Term Category: Process Control and Analysis
Business Sector: All
Timing: In serial life
Files, Attachments: None
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