How Do Professional Importers Ensure Product Compliance?


How Do Professional Importers Ensure Product Compliance?

Your brand is only as reliable and trustworthy as the quality of products you put out into the market. Without a robust product compliance program in place, the integrity of your brand is bound to be compromised sooner or later. Our complimentary eBook ‘How to Build Systems to Ensure Product Compliance in Large Supply Chains’ lays the foundation for building a robust compliance program to help you avoid costly mishaps and begin overcoming compliance issues today.

Product Compliance is Key To Your Success

Product compliance starts with a compliance program Effectively managing growing supply chain complexities is something that most purchasing managers/importers deal with on a day to day basis. As your brand grows compliance issues you never knew were there (nor were prepared for) may rear their ugly head, and it’s up to you to begin pinpointing issues and plugging the holes your profits will fall through, before the consumers of today tear them open even wider. Ensuring product compliance starts and ends with one thing: A robust compliance program. 

Building a compliance program

A working compliance program addresses the rules, standards, regulations and requirements that your company or brand sets for its suppliers. These standards will create the accountability within the supply chain that consumers today are looking for. At this stage if you are pondering on the necessity and importance of compliance, take a look at this: In 2007, Mattel had to recall 1.5 million lead covered toys due to negligence. The company ended up having to pay a $12.3 million settlement with another $2.3 million in civil penalties for violating a lead paint ban.

“Can your company afford a mistake like this?”

‘How to Build Systems to Ensure Product Compliance in Large Supply Chains’

‘How to Build Systems to Ensure Product Compliance in Large Supply Chains’

Learn how to avoid costly mishaps so you can begin overcoming compliance issues through understanding:
  • Why compliance is necessary now more than ever
  • How to turn your compliance challenges into opportunities for growth
  • The specific audits that are needed for compliance in your supply chain
  • How to go about creating a compliance culture for your brand
Our complimentary eBook will provide you with in-depth insights into the systems that go into building a compliant supply chain that can sustain your company going forward. The key to your success will be how well you are able to integrate these systems into every tier of your brand and supply chain, creating opportunities that will give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.





2 Ways Retail Brands Can Successfully Ensure Supply Chain Compliance

Supply chain compliance is becoming one of the biggest challenges faced by all retail professionals. Among small, medium enterprises’s it likely hits a little harder, with limited resources and where costs are always a make or break factor. Often-times you can only afford a supplier lacking certain levels compliance documentation, which in turn requires you to monitor them even more stringently, but can you afford the resources to do so properly? Your supply chain is dotted with complexities that can expose your organization to risk. This risk as you know needs to be avoided and planned for with actionable steps in place to mitigate any kind of exposure or threat to your supply chains operations.

So let’s do just that… 

In this blog post, I endeavor to highlight only two of the most common supply chain challenges that many regional retailers currently face, but also what you can do to begin achieving that desired supply chain compliance for your brand so that you may begin safeguarding against avoidable areas of risk. So let’s dive in;

First Identify your challenges

Identifying the challenges that you face within your retail supply chain is always the best place to begin, here I list two of the most common challenges that are experienced among many a local retailer;

1. Supplier relationships –  Your suppliers are the key to your entire operation.

Take a moment consider that…

Supplier collaboration can foster growth, if allowed they can also help you to create operational efficiencies which enables you to get your product to market a lot faster. 

This relationship will act as an incubator for out of the box, innovative thinking as your supplier begins to take real ownership of the end products and their quality. The way in which you engage with your suppliers from the very beginning, will set the tone for your operations going forward.

Careful assessment is needed when signing on new suppliers, this is often the point at which compliance problems begin to seep in. You need to ensure that all the appropriate factory technical documentation is in order when selecting a supplier. A bit of due diligence in this area will guard you in the long-run. This will ensure that you have a defined and agreed upon set of operating principles where everything is done in compliance with these operating principles and standards.

2. CSR and environmental impact – Through adequate evaluation and a good a supplier relationship you will be able to determine CSR and environmental impacts. This is either done through a social compliance audit and an environmental audit which is either done in-house or through a third-party quality provider, such as API.

An environmental audit will provide insight into things like by-product waste of the factory, how they dispose their waste, who disposes their waste and what levels of CO2 are being emitted and whether or not any of this can be reduced or are even being addressed. The results will help you to determine their impact on the environment and whether or not they are compliant with local and/or international environmental laws.

A social compliance audit provides insight into things like child and forced labour, overtime and possible wage related disputes. This things are not only unethical, but should your brand be aligned with these practices, you will be destroying your brands reputation and image. 

The results of the above audits will enable you to make an informed decision about the type of supplier you wish to align your brand with. 

Supply chain compliance and environmental auditing

Let’s take a look at what Walmart did; They created what they call the Sustainability Index, which is essentially a scorecard for suppliers to be reported on from various social and environmental production factors. 

Walmart has said that by the end of 2017 that 70% of its products will come from suppliers who participate through this Index, and as a benefits they will be endorsed as a sustainable partner and proud Walmart supplier.  


Supply chain compliance is an important issue to address, with many local retail brands realising that compliance needs to be a top priority to be achieved in order to achieve a globally competitive advantage in the market.

So how do we go about achieving just that?

Good supplier relationships for supply chain compliance

1. Supply chain visibility –  This refers to the data visibility made available within your supply chain; from where your raw materials come from, to your factory’s technical operations right through to your inventory management strategies.

All of this data needs to be made available and visible to your consumers to create a sesnse of openness and trust within your supply chain operations.

**When bringing on new suppliers be sure to ask for access to all of their compliance documentation from health and safety, to environmental and technical information. 

2. Supply chain transparency – This is where your organisation begins to analyse current quality and compliance procedures. Transparency and visibility need to work hand-in-hand the data provides insight into the operations and the operations provide the data to be analysed. 

Supply chain transparency endeavours to take a deeper look into your systems and processes, understanding what makes them work and also not work. This approach to your supply chain operations allows you to mitigate risk early on, but also identify any areas that may need improvement, therefor adopting a continuous quality improvement cycle. 

As mentioned earlier, consumers actively research any retail brand’s supply chain and its processes from raw material to the moment a product reaches the floor to right before they make that purchase decision. It is crucial for your brand to ensure clean and compliant operational procedures if you are to achieve a globally competitive brand. 

Supply chain compliance need not be another complexity that your retail brand needs to face, through actively engaging and applying the above suggestions to your operations they will indeed help you on your way to a successful and compliant supply chain that puts your brand in a position of growth and also mitigates against any unnecessary risks. 

Let us know in the comments section how these solutions have worked for you in the past


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Compliance issues? You need this online compliance software!

Completing a Technical Compliance File as we know is a requirement by regulation. Consolidating compliance documents is an immense challenge and is a web of complexities that often creates confusion and uncertainty. The many rules and regulations that are needed for a specific product to attain a certain level of compliance are so complex that it can be unclear on how to begin addressing them let-alone having the in-house capabilities to begin addressing them.

“Is there a solution to this web of complexity?”

An in-house developed, web-based platform with 24/7 availability and safe storage of your documents has been created. A platform like this can create immense value for retailers, importers and quality directors, helping to alleviate some of the compliance pressures and complexities by keeping everything in one place.

In this post, I interview Aurelien Dalle, Chief Operating Officer for API, where we endeavor to uncover some of the frequently asked questions surrounding this new compliance software, and the benefits that it can provide for brands that struggle with compliance issues brought on by missing, incomplete or incorrect documentation.  


Q: What are some of the common challenges that organizations face with TCF and compliance in general?

  • There is often difficulty in having and keeping all the product, standards and regulation expertise and regulatory watch internally as more often than not it needs technical experts in many different fields to assist.
  • There is difficulty in keeping track of the documentation with no proper IT system for support and often relying on many emails and excel files for documents.compliance issues.jpg
  • In many organizations, the quality team is small. In some instances the only teams big enough to support such task are within the purchasing team and even then they are often in need of assistance from the laboratories for advice and judgement regarding compliance and quality in general.
  • That it is a huge and tedious task to map out the requirements for each product and to contact the suppliers to collect the all the documents. It can also be a wearisome task to review 50 page documents all in one day.

Q: What is the follow-up action after applying the TCF service?

  • If the client is unaware of the standards and regulations that are applicable to complete a TCF, the API TCF team can define and give recommendations on the scope of compliance (mandatory standards and technical documentation as well as recommended performance requirements) of the product for its destination market.
  • The API TCF team start contacting the suppliers by providing them access to the database and inform them, through the TCF tool about the exact requirements applying to the products so that suppliers can begin uploading the documents, should they already have the documentation on hand, otherwise the supplier will start arranging the necessary testing in laboratories.

Q: How can an organization benefit from this compliance software?

  • The TCF tool provides centralized information, that is available 24/7. We offer technical expertise from the API lab and automatic statistics to monitor specific supplier performance. There are also organized reminders embed in the system, tracking all sort of activity and dates within the tool.
  • Tracking of standards/documents validity and expiry dates and versioning, so the same file does not need to be re-checked for the following orders.

Q: What is the turn around time of a completed TCF?

The turnaround time is dependent on the supplier’s performance, so generally it can be from 1-2 weeks all the way up to 2-3 months. It can sometimes be more as some specific endurance tests span over several months.

Q: What are the benefits of using a web-based platform?

This software and its information is centralized and can be accessed from different countries. It minimizes the amount of emails sent and received while also reducing the number of collections of large documents. These documents are also then automatically and properly archived for each item.

Q: How do you ensure document security and confidentiality?

There is password protected access and secure encrypted pages that guarantee confidentiality. Therecompliance software - safe storage is also a dedicated IT team to ensuring the safety of the software and only API employees are allowed to make modifications to the platform.

There are many benefits to this TCF compliance software, an all inclusive solution that is able to streamline all of your compliance issues creating operational efficiency for your brand, increased visibility into your supplier and their performance as well as being able to mitigate against any unnecessary risks. 

An informative interview that has been able to clearly define the benefits of this solution do you have thoughts or questions regarding this? Drop us a line in the comments section below. 



[VIDEO] What is a Technical Compliance File (TCF) and why you need one

Compliance and regulation has changed so much over the years with far more stricter regulations required for retail products today than ever before.The changing landscape has meant the very nature of compliance has become rather complex and difficult to achieve without adequate knowledge and expertise.

Compliance solution documentsMany of the compliance complexities that arise are in the collection and gathering of all the necessary documentation. Many manufacturers, importers and retailers today are still operating on outdated systems like spreadsheets, creating unreliable data and documentation, which creates an almost insurmountable task trying to maintain the information for each product reference.  

Often times professionals find themselves in a position of begging and pleading for documentation with nowhere to turn but to wait on the slow turning wheels of doing everything manually. Data, technology and cloud-based systems and solutions are where supply chains are headed.

Today’s consumers dictate the level of safety and performance they need to make a purchase of your product; this can either be seen as a challenge for your supply chain or as a golden opportunity.

What if there was an all inclusive compliance software that could streamline all your supplier and compliance operations in one place… accurately and reliably?

In this post, we seek to uncover the Technical Compliance File (TCF) solution – A compliance solution that will help relieve many of the compliance pressures that your supply chain currently faces.

What is a TCF?


Why a TCF?

At this point you may be wondering about the exact operating of this system, and what kind of benefits a compliance solution like this can have for your current operating systems. So let me tell you;

There are a number of reasons why retailers are in preference for this solution;

  • Technical expertise – There are dedicated teams to review what exact documents are required for the products and that the documents received are exactly what you are in need of, including all follow up with any supplier or factory that may be delaying you. These experts are also able to give technical advice where necessary, ensuring you don’t find yourself in a sticky supplier situation that can easily be avoided.
  • Online 24/7 access – The TCF solution has a 24/7 online dashboard with real-time updates allowingTCF compliance software you insight into your compliance status whenever you need it. There are also progress charts allowing you actionable insight into timelines and your supplier progress. This solution is also able to store all your documents for up to 10 years, ensuring your documents are safely stored for any future reference.  
  • Transparency – A solution like this can provide you with a real look into your supplier and/or manufacturer’s status in the workplace. It provides invaluable insights into the kind of supplier you have chosen to work with as you can track their compliance and regulatory progress online. 
  • Visibility – This allows you insight into what tests are being done and achieved in the lab, placing you in a better position of understanding the level of compliance your products are achieving.
  • Additional custom services – In having the expertise to analyze and determine the exact compliance and regulatory documents you are in need of, there are other custom services that can be offered if you find yourself short of an audit or specific product test that you need done to form a part of your TCF.
  • Separate supplier reporting – You are able to access reports on your organizational progress, but also your supplier’s progress. Your supplier is given access to a separate dashboard, so your information remains confidential.
  • Cost reduction – Streamlining the incredibly complex compliance process into one solution will be cost effective for your brand. Let me break this down for you; As mentioned earlier, a TCF is required as part of regulation, you already know what the process is in collecting documents from your factory, and all the follow-up communication that is required to get your documents. It’s often difficult and complex with little or slow results.

Regarding product compliance, let’s say for a furniture retailer, each item may need up to 30 documents (without counting all the submitted and rejected docs, which can be even more) to demonstrate compliance just for that product. As a retailer, you likely have more than 1 item that needs to achieve compliance, and with every document that is needed, each could take up to 30 minutes to evaluate properly, which equates to about 15 hours for just one product! If you have a whole range of products, you can begin to see how costly this whole process can become.

Risk Mitigation – The insight that this solution can provide into the most vulnerable areas of your supply chain can be invaluable information. The information that you will have access to should alert you to potential risks early on, allowing you the time to mitigate those potential risks. 

Enhancing your current quality management systems to include a web-based solution like this can set your brand at a benchmark above the rest.Compliance software web-based solution

As supply chains are increasingly becoming more digitally adaptive with cloud-based operating systems, it will be necessary for you to analyze your current solutions to be more adaptive to the current supply chain climate.

A comprehensive solution like this can create an operational efficiency for your supply chain that may have never even crossed your path. The benefits and increased visibility into your supply chain will be invaluable to optimizing your current quality systems.

In a better place of understanding this web-based solution, do you have thoughts or questions regarding the TCF? Leave your questions in the comments section; I would love to engage with you on this.



Quality Vs Compliance: The Case For Supply Chain Synergy

The age old debate of quality vs compliance or compliance over quality is something that we still wrestle with today.
By defining what these concepts mean, we can start to paint a picture of why one may take precedence over the other in your eyes:

Quality – This specifically refers to the ability of a product or service to consistently meet and exceed customer expectation from its design to its functionality.

Compliance – This specifically refers to whether or not your product meets specific product compliance regulations so as to be responsibly bought or consumed by a customer.
Now, depending on your brand’s positioning and goals, you will likely be placing value on one over the other, putting your brand at unnecessarily high risks that can result in avoidable costs for you.
“Does it really have to be one over the other?” 
When quality and compliance are able to strike a harmonious balance within your supply chain, you create operational efficiencies that are able to create opportunities for growth in the marketplace, something your brand can benefit from by setting you at a bench mark above the rest
In this blog post, we seek to uncover the importance of both quality and compliance and the benefits they have to manufacturers, suppliers and retailers all over the world, ultimately taking a closer look at what the perfect union of these two concepts can mean for you.

The case for quality

When one speaks of the quality of a product from a manufacturing perspective, it refers to the external review of a product. It seeks to satisfy consumers through its quality with regards to design, functionality, durability and aesthetic appeal.

Quality vs compliance - aesthetic furnitureThe quality of a product can be defined in many ways and is almost always dependent on your specific consumer and their definition of quality for your specific item. So in that light, you will need to know exactly what your consumer is looking for to create the quality your brand is looking to achieve.

When a consumer sets out to look for a quality product, they want to feel as though they have paid less than what the actual product is worth, the quality of the product far surpassing the amount they ended up paying. Fulfilling the need to exceed the consumer’s expectations, this is what true quality is all about.

If fulfilling the need to meet your consumer’s expectations is at the top of your company’s agenda, is it not essential for your brand’s products to meet a level of quality that does just that? Let me leave you pondering that for a bit.

In attempting to understand your customer’s definition of quality, it will be important to note that fulfilling consumer expectation and experience forms a part of that definition.

Let me give you an example; If a consumer orders a product that has met and passed all quality tests it needed to meet, that product for all intents and purposes is a quality item. But, if the order arrives later than promised or arrives with a missing screw or the incorrect color, the consumer may not define this product as an item of value and quality.

Striving for product quality is a stems right from the raw materials used, to the way in which it arrives to your customer, therefore every step needs to be taken into consideration.

The case for compliance

When a brand takes on compliance, it seeks to meet the minimum regulatory requirements specific to a product or item sold to a retailer. This may mean that although the product is not of the highest quality, it at least meets the minimum mandatory regulation requirements specific to it.
Depending on your product’s destination market, it will likely need to comply with one or more of the following;

     * Product safety regulations
     * Substance regulations
     * Document requirements
     * Labeling requirements
     * Testing requirements

You do not have to comply with all of these; as it will depend very much on your product and the market that it needs to enter.
The importance of compliance is highlighted none the better than with the recent global Quality vs Compliance - Fidget Spinnerscraze of fidget spinners and, where 200, 000 of these spinners have been recalled due to it massive non-compliance failures. Many of these items that are being imported have been found to be non-compliant with the regulatory requirements specific to its markets. This is becoming a big problem as they have also proven to be a danger to children as the small parts they are made out of can and are causing serious harm.

Where the confusion sets in, is that a product is capable of being compliant, but also not be the best quality product. The opposite is also true; you can have a quality item that does not meet all the regulatory requirements either.

An issue like this can often arise within your supply chain whether it be in the design process, or even within the manufacturing process. This can create a high level of risk for your brand, and could land you in a position you do not want to be in. 

The case for supply chain synergy

So as the debate goes, we seek to uncover the myth that quality supersedes compliance and vice versa. They need to work together, hand-in-hand, where they can create true value for your brand through optimized quality procedures from your factory to the consumers.

Striving for compliance means to create operational efficiency for your supply chain. This means continuous improvements for your brand and its systems. These improvements can take the form of a compliance program which will begin to address the quality procedures (operationally and product quality) of your entire supply chain.

The improvement of these systems will mean that you reduce your exposure to risk and also create a more visible and transparent supply chain, which consumers today base their buying decisions on. Always keep this in mind.

A compliance program will also extend into the manner in which you select your supplier and evaluate the factory that your product will ultimately be made in.

Ensuring that your supply chain is compliant will mean that you are essentially creating quality operating systems. Quality operating systems will mean that the product you produce is being made in the most optimal environment. A well-functioning environment where quality and compliance is a part of every operating system will flow into the very essence of your product, making consumers want to purchase your product at a price that they feel is undervalued for an item of such great quality

Today’s consumer is empowered with access and knowledge into your product and your supply chain;Quality vs Compliance they want to know where its raw materials were sourced, how it was made, who made it and what its level of quality is. They ask themselves whether or not your product will be an investment in their lives.

The key here will be to know your target market, know your consumer. If you do not know what they want, you will struggle to be their go-to brand; you will lose out on their brand evangelism and praise affecting your bottom line

“Is this the type of brand and product you wish to create?”

Retailers today are under so much pressure with the current supply and demand of products, that quality and/or compliance is not always a priority.

“But, it should be!”

Bad quality and non-compliance both mean that your brand is at an unnecessarily high risk with regards to meeting regulations and your reputation. It will be worth all the hard yards that you put in from the creation and design to the manufacturing and distribution of your products. This will help mitigate unnecessary risk, saving you money and precious time.


These two concepts can be integrated into your supply chain through a Quality Management System – “QMS is a set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and execution of a product or service.” This should help you create a structured system for continuous improvements that can be made to all areas of your supply chain and its operations.

Today’s empowered consumers show us just how important both quality and compliance are for your products and brand. It will be important to make these a priority in order to maintain that globally competitive advantage.

If you are interested in learning how to build a compliance program that also addresses product compliance within your supply chain take a look at the eBook we wrote on how to go about doing just that.

Get started with your very own compliance program today!

Click the download button below to begin


Golden Samples & Improved Product Quality In Your DIY & Tools Factory

So you want to import DIY tools into Europe, you’ve sourced your supplier in Ningbo, China where you place an order for a shipment of a variety of DIY tools like hammers, star and flat screwdrivers as well as 8 meter tape measures. Your shipment arrives, but your hammer handles are the wrong color and the color of the flat and star screwdrivers are swapped around.If you have had these kind of experiences with quality that is below standard or defect rates that you just can’t seem to reduce, you may need to consider establishing a golden sample from your supplier to eliminate any unnecessary areas of risk.


Sourcing abroad is a challenge. As a means of overcoming this challenge, we recommend establishing a golden sample which is deemed industry best practice. Along with your golden sample you should consider the use of a third-party quality provider to ensure the quality of your sample is of the highest quality.  

Why are golden samples important for improved product quality?

A golden sample allows you to evaluate the quality of product that your chosen supplier can produce.

This process gives you a baseline for how you will continue with your supplier. It will showcase how they interpret your product specifications and how they can stick to them.

**Insiders Tip

Have you communicated your product specs clearly?

Product specifications can be sent to your supplier in the form of drawings, sketches or images with the correct dimensions and color specifications. A hammer will have a particular color handle, the same with the screwdrivers, so be sure to mention this in your spec sheet.

There is no such thing as too much. Add everything to minimize any confusion.


You are up against cultural, language and distance barriers, so be as specific as you possibly can be.

Once you have received your golden sample from your supplier, you will need to evaluate whether the quality level is acceptable or not. Once you approve this, you can then give your DIY tool supplier the go-ahead for mass production.


What goes into approving a golden sample for DIY tools?

You need to make sure that your golden sample has met all product specifications along with the necessary compliance standards and regulations.

How do you go about this?

As you would normally do with production… 

By inspection.

Your golden sample can be inspected for any visible defects; you can also send it off to a lab for corrosion and chemical testing.


The corrosion test commonly used according to ISO 9227:2017;

Neutral salt spray (NSS) –  useful for detecting discontinuities, such as pores and other defects, in certain metallic, organic, anodic oxide and conversion coatings.


The type of chemical tests commonly used for plastic handles;

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) – Is a harmful carcinogenic. A consumer can be exposed when a product comes into direct and prolonged or repetitive contact with the skin or the mouth. High doses of this substance can lead to recalls like the below product;

Mallet recall.jpg

Short chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) – SCCP’s persist in the environment and are toxic to aquatic organisms at low concentrations and bioaccumulate in wildlife and humans, posing a risk to human health and the environment. The below hammer handle contains SCCP’s (A banned substance) as well as PAH and has therefore resulted in a recall of the below hammer;

Hammer recall.jpg

There are three common testing types to ensure improved product quality for your DIY tools like;

  • User testing; this kind of testing evaluates the ergonomics of the tools that have been produced. This evaluation will be based on your product specifications and the overall purpose of the product; e.g., A hammer to hammer nails into walls, so the handle length, grip, and head will be evaluated accordingly. An example of this would be the below axe in which the handle can crack after use, which dislodges the axe head, which poses a serious injury risk to the user or even bystanders.


  • Comparative testing can also be done. This test is done to evaluate yours against a competitor’s. The functionality, safety, and ergonomics will be evaluated. This kind of test will give you insight into the kind of quality your brand should be achieving.  
  • Hardness testing – While this is not a testing requirement, this measurement forms an objective criteria for either the metal or plastic components of the item. For example; the hardness of the metal part of a hammer could affect the performance and durability of the product likewise the plastic could affect the feeling when holding the handle of the product.=

Therefore golden samples are not only used to evaluate acceptable quality limits for your DIY tools factory.

What do I mean?

A golden sample will be of huge value for your third-party quality inspection service provider so that they can compare what has been produced through the mass production process to that of the golden sample.


Key Takeaways

Establishing a golden sample is industry best practice, and it is never recommended to begin your mass production process without an approved sample.

This sample allows you to benchmark your supplier and hold them accountable to your acceptable quality levels.

Key things to remember;

  • Communicate your product specifications clearly. Bear in mind that you are facing cultural, language and distance barriers, so clarity and over communication is an absolute necessity.
  • Approving your golden sample requires due diligence; be sure to send your golden sample for the appropriate inspection and testing.
  • Know your testing and inspection procedures to ensure improved product quality for your brand.

Be sure to remember that your golden sample is reflective of an ideal quality standard from your supplier, and is not a reflection on the mass production process of the factory.

This method of reducing product defects for your brand will help avoid costly delays addressing defects after the fact. Adopting best practice sets you in the best possible position for sustainable and competitive growth.






Cookware Product Specifications Are Key For Improved Product Quality

Product specifications a small (albeit important) step that requires a bit of technical input, but one that can have a vast implications for the quality of your end product.
Importers today are becoming more aware of defining specifications more clearly than before, so as to manage their product quality more effectively.
You also cannot simply think that showing your supplier an image of the product you would like them to manufacture and expect it to arrive perfectly.


Sourcing cookware is complex in nature, but sourcing abroad from a foreign country to your own has its own set of challenges that you need to be aware of.
In this blog post, I seek to outline the importance of cookware product specifications for your sourcing strategies and how these industry best practices can set your brand ahead of the rest.

Challenges of sourcing your cookware abroad

Whether you choose to source closer to home or abroad, there is no doubt about the complexities in communication at the best of times. In highlighting the challenges of sourcing abroad we are able to easily identify opportunities for turning these around.

Product quality challenges – The material chosen for production will influence the price and quality of the product. The cookware will need to be tested for extreme high heats and ensure that it is stain resistant when brought into contact with certain liquids. If there are plastic handles on the cookware they will need to be heat resistant.

cookware product specifications

Your cookware should also be chemically tested in a lab to ensure the materials used are in compliance with European regulation.

Compliance problems – You need to ensure that when you select your supplier they are in compliance with all social and environmental standards as internationally laid out. You may need to give them time achieve the relevant compliance documents. Failure to do this and you put your brand and your consumers in a risky position, where trust in your brand is potentially compromised.

In sourcing your cookware abroad you also need to ensure that your products are in chemical compliance according to the chemical FDA and the EU food grade requirements.

It will be important to make sure that you communicate your expectations to your supplier clearly and effectively so as to minimize any comebacks and problems.

Operations and Logistics –  Sourcing your cookware abroad also comes with its fair share of logistical nightmares; from import and export licenses to shipping and packing of containers.

Language – If you are sourcing cookware abroad, the likelihood is that you will encounter language problems, but you can overcome this through the following;

  • Use templates of production and manufacturing information.
  • You may also consider translation for important documents.
  • Consider a third party quality provider with expertise in your sourcing zone and experience in cookware specifications.

Different time zones – If you are based in Europe and sourcing in Asia you will be facing vastly different time zones.

You can send an employee to interact with your supplier on the ground. This is a great opportunity to meet your supplier in person and also see the state of your chosen factory.

Why your cookware product specifications are so important

Now that we have taken a look into the common challenges of sourcing cookware abroad, let’s take a dive into why your cookware product specifications are crucial in defining your products level of quality.

How do you define your product specifications?

You can go about defining your specifications by creating a document that is inclusive of:

  • Pictures or sketched images of your desired end product. This picture or drawing needs to be inclusive of dimensions as well from the sizing to the thickness of metal you require.
  • You need to include what raw materials are required for your product. This is important as your supplier will need to source this if you have not.
  • You absolutely have to include what your destination market is;
    • Why? Your product has to meet certain specified regulatory compliances, it is your responsibility to make sure that it does. E.g. If it is destined for Europe it will need to comply with the EU food grade. If it is destined for the USA it will need to comply with the chemical FDA.

We have included an example of what a product spec sheet may look like; you may want to add or subtract from this, but this is to give an idea of how you can go about filling one out;

Improved product quality

What happens if you don’t send through your product specifications to your supplier?

Defects, recalls, a loss in revenue, brand damage? Not an ideal picture, so let’s take a look at the following examples that highlight the importance defining your product specs clearly and what can happen if you don’t;

A material problem 

The below frying pan poses a risk of burns because the plastic handle becomes too hot, reaching a temperature of 94°C, and no indication is given in the information at the point of sale that the product should be used exclusively on gas or electric (spiral resistance) hot plates.

This product does not comply with the relevant European standard EN 12983 and therefore had to be recalled.

Without specifying the materials needed to create a safe and compliant frying pan destined for the European market place you open yourself up to costly mistakes that can lead to serious loss in revenue and loss of trust in your brand.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 8.08.50 AM.png

Product design issue 

This frying pan is unstable and can tip over unless there is sufficient weight in the frying pan. This unstable design has resulted in serious burn risks as well as the product being recalled.

An expensive mistake to make.


As mentioned above if you are sourcing in Asia, you will encounter language and cultural barriers. There are steps you can take to ensuring your product is perfectly designed and compliant for its destination market.

If you are confident in the product specifications you send to your supplier, be sure to ask them to date and sign it to indicate their acceptance and understanding of your specifications.

Key Takeaways

Sourcing your cookware and kitchenware abroad can have many complexities from language and cultural barriers to the quality and compliance of your product. Developing a sourcing strategy that is based on sound industry best practice will assist in improved product quality that is set to positively position your brand in the marketplace.

Defining your cookware product specifications will go a long way in ensuring low defect rates, you can go about this by;

  • Drawings or renderings with detailed guidelines on size, width, colour etc.
  • Your specification sheet needs to include what raw materials you require
  • Your specification sheet also needs to clearly state which country its destined for, so as to ensure a compliant product.

In clearly defining your cookware product specifications with your supplier you put yourself in a positive position for competitive growth and you also protect yourself from any unnecessary risks.





The Ultimate Quality Inspection Guide: 9 Steps You Don’t Want To Miss!

Quality is what makes (or breaks) a brand and its products. Simple as that. How much time do you actually spend analyzing your quality control systems for focal points that could be the cause of the quality problems you are facing?
Product defects are a reality, for everyone!

The CPSC recently recalled 29 million IKEA chests and dressers that do not comply with the performance requirements of the U.S. voluntary industry standard. This defect resulted in 3 deaths, costing IKEA an amount of $50million for each family in settlement.
Time constraints, lack of resources with ineffectual QMS systems and no guarantees of a perfect quality product often play a role in the number of product defects your supplier produces.

So, how does one avoid costly mistakes that harm their brand and reputation?

We have created a step-by-step guide on how a third party quality provider such as API can help with improved product quality by minimizing defects.
As a professional quality assurance company, we take pride in customizing our quality solutions to that of each of our client’s needs.
This guide addresses the importance of the quality inspection procedures you choose to use for your product and the benefits that they can have for your overall factory performance.

So what can you expect to learn from this?

We walk you through the moment that you touch base with API, to when and who contacts you and how they go about assessing, inspecting and addressing your quality needs and issues every step of the way.

Compliance for improved product quality

  • Tell us everything
    When we say tell us everything we mean it.
    We cover topics such as your exact needs and wants for inspection and testing, as well as discuss what your auditing needs may be. We also follow up on your progress with the Technical Compliance File (TCF) or introduce you to this compliance method.
    These topics help us define the types of questions we need to be answered to better position ourselves in understanding a client’s particular set of needs.
  • Specify everything
    We take you through the specification process and provide you with examples of how you can go about this.
    From dimensions of your product to the colour, to the raw materials, to your packaging requirements, we aim to improve the production process by making this step easy for your supplier to navigate.
    Communication and specification are key.
    An often underrated element of preventing product defects is building a good collaborative relationship with your supplier.
  • Know what your inspection needs are
    Each inspection type is different. This guide takes you through the step-by-step process of each inspection type and what you can expect from each with an outline of their key benefits for you and your end product.
  • Reducing product defects and raising the overall quality of your factory  
    Once all the work is complete, depending on how many inspections were performed,  API provides Key Performance Indicators based on data related insights that were identified through the various inspection reports.

Improved product quality through reportingThis data helps identify any problem areas that may need attention, through this API can then propose improvement strategies. Say, for example, a supplier repeatedly has below standard inspection results, we will then be able to propose a technical audit of the factory to identify root causes and based on that propose any corrective actions, which will, in turn, raise the overall quality of the factory.

**Bonus – We have added checklists to help assist you in improving your product quality.

Product defects are not great, they are what probably keeps you up at night, but in following the quality inspection guide you will begin to reduce the number of defects you experience and in turn will also raise the overall quality of the factory.

This guide is for any importer, retailer, and quality manager who is constantly looking to improve their quality control procedures through the use of an expert third party quality provider that can assist in the following;

  • Raw material inspection solutions
  • Inline, DUPRO and FRI inspection solutions
  • Technical and social auditing solutions
  • Data capturing from checklists and reporting
  • Improvement strategies based on data based insights

A third party quality provider with the appropriate expertise and experience will take you above and beyond in achieving high-quality products and placing you at a competitive position in the market place.




How Lego Leveraged A Toy Quality Management System For Improved CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a must for any toy brand that wants to achieve growth and avoid the costly implications of non compliance. A company that is testament to this fact is Lego. Last year the toy giant reported its highest revenue yet in its 85 year history, their profits rising 1.7% to 12.2bn kroner. This growth showcases the heights you can achieve through organizational commitment. Global retail brands are increasingly wanting to partner with suppliers of children’s toys who can provide them with the appropriate environmental and social compliance. Lego has been able to achieve their CSR goals through going above and beyond what any toy quality management system requires. How have they done this? Renewable energy. In 2012 the toy company began investing in wind turbines to power their operations globally. As a result, in 2016 more than 360 gigawatt hours of energy was used by the LEGO Group to produce the more than 75 billion LEGO bricks sold around the world during the year. Toy quality management systems - renewable energy They initially had committed to making this transition by 2020, but they ended up meeting their target 3 years early! This is one great commitment to the realm of renewable energy. Apart from this they are currently investing loads of money and time into finding alternatives to plastic for their famous building blocks. As consumers increasingly dictate how manufacturers design and make toys, the power of adopting CSR and green initiatives as a part of your competitive strategy will have global results for your brand. What do I mean by this? The toy quality management system you choose to adopt will provide a framework for which CSR is able to be strategically implemented for your brand. Lego is a prime example of this. Whilst they are a children’s toy brand, they have committed fully to sourcing a more environmentally friendly plastic for their iconic plastic blocks. Even though they have not yet found a suitable alternative, their commitment and investment in trying to, puts them at the forefront of an initiative consumers the world over want to see and be a part of. So I put the question to you…

How can your QMS leverage CSR for a globally competitive position?

Let’s take a bit of a deeper dive in… A QMS framework is just that: A framework that has been created to ensure quality in all areas from management to products, to customers, to factory processes and environmental impact. The ISO 14001:15 is the international standard used to navigate environmental impact and innovations. What are the key benefits of complying with ISO 14001:15? 
  • It demonstrates compliance with current regulatory requirements. Toy quality management system - ISO 14001
  • It increases leadership involvement and engagement of employees.
  • It improves company reputation and the confidence of stakeholders through strategic communication.
  • It achieves strategic business aims by incorporating environmental issues into its business management.
  • It provides a competitive and financial advantage through improved efficiencies and reduced costs.
  • It encourages better environmental performance of suppliers by integrating them into the organization’s business systems.
This system provides accountability and creates a platform for building sustainable relationships with your suppliers, as you work together to meet a set of global standards for your toy production.

How can your toy brand go about implementing ISO today?

We have outlined a stepped process which will help you prepare for compliance according to the environmental ISO 14001 framework for your brand;
  • You will need to identify all aspects and environmental impacts of your organization’s activities
  • If you have not established an environmental policy for your organization, you will need to go ahead and do this.
  • You will need to formalize your environmental procedures and publish them in company manuals and company policy.
  • You will need to bring the company into compliance with all legal requirements and mandatory regulations.
  • You will need to get the confirmation of compliance by all stakeholders such as clients and legal authorities.
  • Lastly, you will need to obtain a certification of your environmental management system by a registered third party.
ISO developed these frameworks in which brands are able to optimize their quality systems according to a set of international standards, by international standards it means that consumers can have confidence that their products are safe, reliable and of good quality. The ISO’s standards on road safety and toy safety regulations are just a few of those that help make the world a safer place. As consumers today become increasingly aware of how their favorite brands are attaining goals that closely align with a global value system, it will be important to adopt a toy quality management system that increases your competitive position in the market place. Do you have any questions around environmental auditing solutions? We will be pleased to answer them and help where we can.






Furniture Inspection Best Practices Importers Should Follow

How does one go about skipping on lengthy delays, dodging product recalls and potentially damaging brand reputation that is brought on by furniture quality issues before it’s too late?
Importing furniture from South-East Asia is as attractive, if not more, than any other market in the world, but the logistics, compliance, and potential communication challenges it presents does little to guarantee that the standards of quality for your destination market will be met.
In this blog post, we seek to outline what you can do to ensure that your furniture reaches you at its highest level of quality, ultimately, to give your brand the competitive advantage it deserves.

Have you determined your DCL (defect classification list)?

This is often a step that is an afterthought, but classifying this, in the beginning, will help to clarify the meaning of your furniture inspection report.
This is the most widely used defect category;

  • Critical defect – A critical defect is one that judgment and experience indicate is likely to:
    • result in hazardous or unsafe conditions for individuals using, maintaining, or depending upon the products; or
    • Prevent performance of the tactical function of a major end item. A critical defective is a unit of product that contains one or more critical defects.
  • Major defect – A major defect is one, that is likely to result in failure, or to reduce the usability of the product for its intended purpose.
  • Minor defect – A minor defect is one that is not likely to reduce the usability of the product for its intended purpose, or is a departure from established standards having little bearing on the effective or operation of the product. 

If there is no established DCL, API has a detailed inspection checklist which will be made available so as to proceed with the inspection.

DUPRO (During Production Inspection) to help resolve your furniture quality issues early on

This is often a critical stage in ensuring that your final piece of furniture will reach its expected level of quality.
Referring to the below, 2700 chairs were recalled because of fall hazards that were due to the breaking or bending of the leg.
The CPSC found that structural frame of the upholstery chairs was missing a support block to the leg this was against original design.

Furniture inspection - DUPRO

furniture inspection - DUPRO check

Such as this upholstery chair, you would never check the structure frame inside visually after it is wrapped by fabric when the production was completed.

Furniture inspection complete productA DUPRO inspection could assess some of these critical points at the right moment before the production was completed. DUPRO could focus on finished products, evaluate production status and quality system implemented on the production line.

In many cases, a couch or piece of furniture is inspected before the entire purchase order has been completed. This type of inspection means that any problem that has come about should be identified early on and will, therefore, be addressed on site.  

Your DUPRO inspection report needs to be inclusive of any and all quality issues that were found during the production process. No issue is too small to include.

Update your furniture specifications, based on the DUPRO feedback

Upon receiving your DUPRO furniture inspection report, you will need to go through every step of the report thoroughly. Look at what “pending” results there may be. You should have a strategy in place on how you address these “pending” quality issues.

Furniture inspection - redefining product specifications

It is at this point that you will need to re-communicate your products specifications to begin addressing those furniture items with “pending” status.

Sourcing in Asia is not without communication and language barriers. You can look to overcome these barriers by using a neutral third party quality provider who has the expertise in your sourcing area. Having boots on the ground will ensure that your product specifications are communicated correctly and clearly.

Do a root cause analysis as a preventative measure going forward

It is important to note that a root cause analysis should not be a once off thing that you implement in the odd major defective production case. You should have an RCA strategy of exactly how you will handle defective furniture products with your supplier.

Don’t have an RCA strategy? Follow the steps I’ve outline below to help you;

  • Problem Recognition and Definition – Acknowledge and define what your furniture’s production problem is.
  • Identify the causes – Go through the process of cause identification. The trick here is to not spend too much time brainstorming or mind mapping. This needn’t be a time-consuming aspect of the RCA.
  • Identify solutions – Based on your cause identification you will need to identify the best possible solutions to addressing the problem so that it does not happen again.  
  • Implement the solutions – If your furniture’s quality was compromised on the production line, you would need to begin implementing the solutions that you were able to identify to prevent any future occurrences of this. The solution needs to be one that optimizes and betters your operational processes. If the proposed solution does not accomplish this, you may need to repeat the above steps to ensure you come up with something that will.  

An RCA does not have to be a time-consuming strategy. What it does need to do is highlight the problems and make room for process optimization.

A FRI (Final Random Inspection) is based on sampling inspections

An FRI is a pre-shipment inspection of a small sample of your furniture. This inspection type is used to determine any quality defects that may have come from the production process.

preventing product defects - Sample test.jpg

A random furniture sample will be selected at this point, where they will each be checked one by one to inspect whether or not they meet the following;

  • Does it meet all of the product specifications as laid out by you?
  • How many visual defects are there?
  • What onsite tests need to be done?

Key Takeaways

The steps as laid out above should be planned and strategized over for each product category that you source.

The benefits of the above inspection types;

  • They allow you to detect quality issues early on.
  • A step-by-step analysis of the root cause of the problem which allows you to make sure this problem doesn’t recur.
  • They allow room for re-communication of product specifications.

Analyse every report from every inspection type. If you are not happy to communicate this and communicate what needs to be done differently to meet your required specification.

This kind of planning and strategy will see you through the production of high-quality furniture that will positively position your brand in the market place.

Have you endeavoured to optimize or customize your inspection solutions?

Let us know in the comments section how any of these solutions have been of benefit to your organization.

If you have any inspection related questions, please feel free to get in touch with us.