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SATRA leather grading accreditation

For the past 16 years, SATRA has been advocating its five-point leather grading system and accrediting personnel and companies who reach our required standard.

One of the most difficult issues affecting companies selling and buying leather has been the level of expected usability. The selling company would estimate what the buyer would use without precise knowledge of its customer’s quality standard and range of products. The buyer would measure the quality of the incoming leather in terms of his or her own ability to cut the required pieces and the current demand for specific products. Inevitably, these differing opinions led to disputes, delays and financial losses by both parties. In order to counter these difficulties, SATRA conceived a formalised technique for grading leather in the early 1980s.

The SATRA grading system

The SATRA grading system is known as the ‘five-point grading system’. This requires that every skin in the delivery is visually inspected and assigned to one of a number of pre-determined bands of usability. Each band represents a spread of five percentage points, as shown in box 1.

Box 1: SATRA's five-point grading system for leather
Quality coefficient Grade Representative coefficient
100 to 95.1 A 97 per cent
95 to 90.1 B 93 per cent
90 to 85.1 C 88 per cent
85 to 80.1 D 83 per cent
80 to 75.1 E 78 per cent
75 to 70 F 73 per cent

Quality standard

The ideal standard is a skin of leather marked to show areas not to be used when cutting the selected style of footwear as the grading standard. These areas represent surface flaws, defects and the like that should not be included in the inside quarter of a men’s UK size 8½ shoe.

The areas marked will also include any leather acceptable but cannot be used because of the shape of the skin, or the location of nearby flaws (photograph at top of page and figures 1 to 3). This skin should be agreed on by both the leather supplier and user or, in the case of a footwear manufacturer, the retailer or resourcing company. SATRA does not set the quality standard – this must be by exclusive agreement between the leather supplier and user. An acceptable alternative to a physical skin is a defect catalogue. This will contain examples of each type of leather showing the defects and flaws supplemented by written descriptions or diagrams.


Figures 1a to 1c: Typical flaws seen on leather skins


Figure 1B


Figure 1C

The most important aspect of this standard is that it is fully understood and agreed by both parties. SATRA’s consultants will train the quality inspection personnel at both companies, ensuring that they are competent in using the five-point grading system.

This technique enables trained inspectors to recognise in which grade to place each skin of leather. A grade represents a spread of five percentage points of unusable leather when compared to the quality standard (box 1), and defines the expected level of usability by the user if this standard style was cut from it.

Because both sets of quality inspection personnel use the same assessment technique and agree on the standard, there should be little variation in their assessments. The supplier will need to agree a standard with each customer to enable the quality inspection personnel to apply the correct grade.

Company accreditation

Once SATRA consultants have fully trained the quality inspection personnel, the company will receive a certificate of accreditation and each assessor will also be accredited. This process will ensure that the level of competence is maintained and that any changes to the standard are reflected in the modified grades applied. It also allows SATRA’s consultants to include any necessary additional customers’ standards.


SATRA-accredited leather graders are trained to use the correct equipment and procedures

Our award recognises that the company and its quality inspection personnel fully understand and can apply the standard relating to a specific customer. It may be necessary to audit and accredit the company and people for each customer to which they deliver.

From years of experience, we have identified the aspects that most often lead to companies failing to achieve accreditation. These reflect the competence of the individual graders and the lack of a precisely defined quality standard that reflects the customers’ wishes.

Division of responsibility

One of the most critical aspects of our approach to leather grading is division of responsibility between the supplier and the manufacturer or customer. Because we advocate the use of an agreed quality standard, the process of buying and selling leather can be a simple exercise in monitoring the usability of each delivery by the quality inspection personnel in both buying and selling companies, using a formalised, transparent system and comparing the results.

SATRA members who already use this technique have proved that this approach, when correctly applied and supported by our annual accreditation, will result in many fewer disputes and a higher standard of customer satisfaction, as well as the saving of time and money.

Annual re-accreditation

Once the quality personnel have been trained by SATRA, each grader is then checked to ensure that the correct level of competence is achieved and that the methods taught by the consultant are still being used. If the audit is successful, the company receives a certificate, as will each leather grader.

Accreditation lasts for one year, at which point we will visit the company to re-audit and re-accredit. This process ensures that the level of competence is maintained and that any changes to the standard are reflected in the modified grades applied. It also allows SATRA consultants to include additional customers’ standards in the scope of accreditation as necessary.

Non-footwear applications

The principles of this technique can be applied to almost any type of leather product, providing we can define the customer’s quality requirements. Ideally, selecting a specific product as the template for grading will enable the process to remain simple and transparent.

How can we help?

Leather assessment is a key step in the production of footwear and can have a major impact on the profitability of the company. SATRA can assist members in this through selection of operatives, training and accreditation for those companies that achieve the required level of competence. Please email for more information.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 42 of the July/August 2017 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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