Third-Party Quality Audit Vs. Internal Quality Audit


Third-Party Quality Audit Vs. Internal Quality Audit

Maintaining the efficiency of your supply chain and overall product quality may be something that you can handle through an internal quality audit, but the questions are; – Are you really able to afford the time and resources that is constantly required to keep up with effectively measuring and managing your systems? – Are you able to conduct an objective analysis of the state of your systems? – How does doing this ensure your place in the market in the eyes of your customers? By understanding the pro’s and con’s of both conducting both an internal quality audit vs a third party quality audit, you will be able to ensure that not only your products pass the minimum compliance requirements, but that they are of the highest possible standard of quality, while also ensuring that you are streamlining your production operations to that of the highest quality. Sound like something your organisation can benefit from? Read on to discover the benefits of conducting a third party quality audit as opposed to using an in-house quality audit team here.

Are you up to date with all of the latest in product regulations?

The supply and demand of our current global retail landscape means that there is always a need to be up to date with the changes in product regulation.

Third party quality Audit

A third party quality provider has access to resources through associations and a network of online cloud-based systems that enable them to keep up to date with the latest in product regulations. Access to a network like this is a key part of their service offering, this is what will distinguish a good quality external service provider. Capabilities like this are able to streamline your operations which can assist you in getting your product to the market faster, allowing you to stay on top of the supply and demand pressures that are felt in the marketplace. However, when conducting a third party quality audit, you will need to ensure that the auditors you choose specialize in your specific product category, by doing this you will ensure that they are up to date with the most relevant product and regulation information. Let’s take the global fidget spinner craze; this children’s toy  hit the shelves faster than what the market could blink. Third party quality inspection services - fidget spinner It turns out that over 200 000 of these had to be recalled due to procedural non-compliance as well as the product having critical defects; meaning that this product may cause injury or harm to its end consumer. A third party quality auditor would be able to provide you with an unbiased inspection report, including the above information, thus protecting your brand from damage and product recalls that can become extremely costly.

Internal quality audit

Reliability is key. Is your internal staff able to spend the time they need ensuring that they understand all of the relevant product information that you need? While your organization may have the know-how, you likely do not have the resources or capacity to dedicate someone to ensure they are well researched into the latest regulations that are required. third party quality inspection services - geographical networksMany organizations do not have the extensive geographical networks that larger retailers have. Therefore your internal staff ends up spending a lot of time traveling for quality control inspections, with not enough time spent focusing on the quality of a product. This often slows down production processes, with a longer eventual time to market. If we take the Fidget Spinner example into consideration, what is the likelihood of your in-house team being aware of that noncompliance before it hit the market. Think about it. An occurrence such as the above puts your brand at an unnecessary risk, with the potential for bad publicity and a major loss in sales. Can your organization afford this?

Do you have all of the technical expertise?

Product technical expertise and extensive testing and inspection experience is an undervalued commodity in the retail supply chain, how can you begin to leverage it to your advantage?

Third party

An external quality provider can provide you with an extensive network of technical expertise relating to your product and your quality systems, from factory audits to inspection and testing equipment and any specific techniques that may be needed to ensure that you meet your product’s compliance. third party quality inspection services - technological networkSome testing equipment may be unique to a specific product or if there is an update in testing procedures to be inclusive of recent changes in regulation. Often external providers are able to provide technical solutions based on the above specifications, along with teams that are well versed in new testing procedures. External providers will often send their inspectors on training to familiarize themselves with new equipment and testing procedures to ensure a high quality service is offered with a minimum product recall rate. For third party quality providers it is a priority to be up to date with the latest trends and developments in your industry along with the best practices that you should be following. This kind of knowledge and expertise can be leveraged to your competitive advantage.

In-house quality

While your in-house team may have the knowledge about the inner workings of your product and your ideal quality procedures, the reality is that it may not always be enough. Keeping up to date and monitoring the latest in standard and regulation requires a lot of resources, whilst there is also the challenge in maintaining and ensuring all documentation is updated properly, which is often not the case. This limited amount of resources can create unnecessarily complex procedures, that pile up to the sky, but that could have been avoided through a lot of strategic planning and structure. This is often not a strong suit for many smaller organizations. The key is to knowing your strengths and focus on them for your organization’s growth.

Appropriate technology for high quality procedures

Using appropriate technology that enables you to track your operational progress and things like your product inspection reports are essential to streamlining your quality operations.

Third party

It is essential for third party quality providers to have adequate and appropriate platforms in place to manage their clients quality systems effectively. These platforms also need to be capable of recording and tracking all data properly as well as manage certain aspects of documentation and communication. This technology provides thorough data, allowing you insights into your supply chain that would otherwise not have been available. This data can be leveraged into strategies for your brand, from risk mitigation to inventory management, to the way in which you conduct product tests in your lab and the kinds of inspection reports that are being produced. It needs to provide valuable and actionable insight so that you can optimize your quality systems for greater efficiency, which should lead you to a higher production rate and a faster time to market for third party quality inspection - TCF solutionyour product. Add all of this together, and you begin to see higher profit margins and the ability in which you can meet your products supply and demand will also have grown, creating that desired competitive advantage. Let’s take a brief look at the Technical Compliance File solution; This is a compliance solution that allows you reliable and accurate insights into your compliance processes. It is offered through a web-based platform and is a one-stop shop for all of your compliance documents, with real time updates and 24/7 access and insight. This kind of technology allows your organization more focus, control and insight.

In-house quality

Having up to date technologies or systems might be challenging because in-house quality teams still rely heavily on manual entry spreadsheets, which creates far too much room for human error. Skewed data can have far reaching implications for your quality systems, which can often build up into product recalls and financial losses for your brand. There is often the debate about the costliness of software. Now, while this is a valid argument, especially for SME’s trying to keep head above water which is often the only priority, it is suggested to consider slowly integrating technology into your quality systems to begin streamlining your procedures for greater efficiency One of biggest challenges is to manage all technical documentation systemically. It is important to remember that the authorities have the right to access the technical file which is meant to contain a full set of technical documents. Some retailers try to collect this technical documentation through in-house team, but often it is a bit of a mess due to various industrial norms such as;
  • The manufacturer changes the materials from time to time because they found a cheaper price elsewhere
  • The buyer will customize products that are being ordered to make it unique and at a higher market value
  • Most test reports expire a year later, so often documentation is either expired or non-existent.
Therefore an in-house team will have to keep chasing suppliers to provide all the valid documentation and at the same time they are under internal pressure from the merchandising team to release the shipment.

streamlining your shipment release process

Navigating the waters of international logistics is nothing short of a small miracle to get through without the domino effect of nightmares that occur along the way. Your shipments getting stuck in customs due to incorrect documentation creates a series of delays for the rest of your operation.

Third party

Working with a third party quality provider that is able to play a key role in the shipment release process can help avoid having to navigate this web of complex logistics by yourself. third party quality inspection servicesInspection reports are essential in getting shipments released from customs. It will be up to the retailer alongside your quality provider to set up a report rating guideline. This report rating guideline forms a baseline of automation which reduces the amount of manual changes after the reports review. The manual reviewing of these reports slow down the auto shipment processes immensely and this entire process becomes less meaningful. An external quality provider will be able to provide you with industry knowledge and best practices relating to rating reports. You will also be able customize your rating reports according to your product needs. Once this report rating has been created, your quality provider can utilize their technical systems to send daily reports to both the client and your chosen cargo company. This creates a much clearer and faster release process for both you and the cargo company. The mountain of paperwork from import licenses to full inspection reports, they have it down to a tee, enabling a streamlined, efficient process for your organization.

In-house quality

How often have you had a shipment stuck only to be told that you don’t have the correct paperwork? Thrd party quality inspection services - customs paperworkTraditionally an inhouse team often releases inspection reports as and when they receive them causing major delays, this is often due to in-house QC teams needing to travel extensively, which means they don’t have enough time to make the approvals that are needed for the shipments to be released in a timely manner. Not to sound repetitive, but to have an in-house team that has the capacity to manage the logistics involved with shipping would be a dream, no doubt, but getting through customs safely stems from being efficient in all the other points I’ve made above. In-house teams without the right amount of time, resources and technical expertise will struggle to cope with issues that could have otherwise been prevented. So here’s the deal… Managing quality is a complex system that needs 100% of your attention and focus. Are you able to dedicate that kind of time and resource to ensuring just that? This is a question that many often do not want to answer, but the reality is that you often cannot afford the time and resource that goes into creating fully optimized quality systems that can produce high-quality products for your brand and on time. So, what then? It might be worth considering hiring an external third party quality provider that can give you the time and resources that you need to streamline your supply chain operations. A third party quality provider is able to provide you with; * The latest in product regulation * Technical expertise * They have the appropriate technology to streamline your operations * They have the know how on how to navigate the waters of international logistics for your brand. This will give you room to begin focusing on what you are good at; producing those high-quality products and creating a level of trust with your consumer that is globally competitive. Have experienced working with third party quality inspection services?

Comparing the old and the new in compliance software

Maintaining supply chain compliance is an issue retailers/importers have found more difficult to navigate in recent years with an increase in pressure from consumers for more ethical products, and the digitization of retail supply chains.

Dealing with compliance issues have long been managed by manual compliance document filing procedures, which may have provided one a greater level of control in some respects in the past, but also made it that much more difficult to stay on top of one’s supply chain with all the heavy paperwork.

The need for an update in the way that compliance was documented, implemented and achieved was evident.

This brought about the advent and introduction of an online compliance solution. Web-based filing presented an all-in-one platform that promised greater transparency, and control over one’s supply chain in real time.

However, even with this tool there are still retailers/importers today who rely on more traditional means by which to tackle ever evolving issues that can be more readily addressed with more the accurate reporting data, flexibility and speed of an online solution.

In this blog post we will take a look at the benefits of the online compliance software known as the TCF solution over traditional compliance filing procedures, in the hope of showcasing why bringing supply chain compliance into the online age is a must for your household goods business.

tcf_software_vs_traditional_compliance (2).jpg

Often times retailers locally and globally are unaware of the options that are available to them, and also what benefits they can have for their organization. This often leads to sticking with what you know, sticking to a solution that may not always have the best ROI for your organization.

Why is this TCF solution right for you?

TCF is an online compliance software solution that:

  • streamlines your compliance and regulatory operations
  • provides actionable insights into the performance of your suppliers
  • allows insight into areas of risk that you may not have seen before
  • is extremely cost effective and efficient

The kind of visibility that a solution like this promises goes very far to help increase your productivity, therefore having a positive impact on your ROI.  

Learn more about the TCF solution API provides for household goods here!

Achieving compliance traditionally is a challenge right from the start. The constant back and forth communication with your suppliers, with a flood of emails to your inbox to constantly keep track of, to the unreliable manual entry spreadsheets. There is too much room for human error here to remain as productive as what consumers today are demanding.  

The digital landscape we find ourselves in is all about keeping up with the constant demand of the retail supply chain. If your current compliance systems are holding you back with errors that can be avoided easily, then your supply chain may not be as competitive or as productive as it likely should be.



Compliance issues? You need this online 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? Contact Us!




[VIDEO] What is a Technical Compliance File (TCF)

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 here to begin


8 Steps To Limit Risk in Your Toy Testing Procedures

Production competitiveness has become so high in countries like China that suppliers often find ways to cut corners in order to save costs, often putting the quality and safety of your toys, and their extremely vulnerable user base, in jeopardy. When it comes to upholding product safety and compliance, no other consumer goods product is more highly regulated than toys. However, despite stringent requirements and mandatory safety toy testing around the world, unsafe children’s products continue to reach the market today.

As recent as 2017, many importers of the popular ‘fidget spinners’ were found to be selling products in the US that contained alarmingly high levels of mercury and lead leading to mass product recalls and damaged brand reputations.

Non-compliance in the toy industry present a myriad of dangers for brands that can lead to heavy financial losses, unnecessary recalls, and a damaged reputation. It’s reasons like these that quality managers constantly live in fear of quality issues with toys, but it doesn’t have to be this way with strict compliance regulations and proper toy testing procedures.

Improving Your Existing Toy Quality Assurance Processes

Toy quality assurance and toy testing As a quality manager who is responsible for producing toys you know that where quality is concerned the stakes are sky-high. You need to know that toys adhere to the demands of every test they might face when being exported globally to markets with different demands. At API, our quality inspectors and laboratories follow a comprehensive set of 8 toy quality testing steps (built through decades of experience) that helps quality managers effectively manage quality right from the outset. This article will take a brief look at the global toy testing standards themselves, and the step by step procedures API follows to help minimise the risk of quality issues sneaking through and danger of recalls happening, as well as protecting your supply chain and ensuring customer safety and satisfaction.

API’s 8 Step Toy Quality Assurance Process

Click here to watch our comprehensive toy testing process video

1. Preventing Mechanical Risks In The Design Stage

Product Design Specification (PDS) serves as the guideline for understanding the various problems identified early on in the design stage. Possibilities need to be investigated and filtered through various criteria laid out in the PDS to be set forth as practical, viable solutions that require further evaluation.

Through comprehensive design evaluation and hazard assessments, API help you identify potentially dangerous design features and mechanical risks from the outset, helping you save on costly redesign and engineering resources related to product modification, and more serious quality and safety issues later down the line. Furthermore, the evaluation also helps to identify all of the necessary tests that you would need to submit your product to.

2. Preventing Toxic Risks With Raw Materials Testing

Raw material toy testing to ensure toy quality Raw material quality control is paramount in helping to prevent product failure and ensuring a consistent level of quality that you and your customers expect. Making sure that players in your supply chain are continuously subjected to testing of raw materials being used in your toy production, or when they decide to switch suppliers, verifies that the materials are at the level of quality you’re paying for and that no toxic elements such as lead and cadmium finding their way into your finished product. Complying with chemical restrictions in raw materials laid out by the EU and US chemical content regulations such as REACH, EN71 and CPSIA starts with chemical testing. API’s laboratories help to identify toxic elements that can aid you in defining a list of approved materials to be used in the toy production process early on, ensuring your products comply with the limits set for safe use now and into the future.

3. Evaluating Toy Safety Before Mass-Production Through Prototype Testing

The practical solutions and tests identified in the design evaluation stage are embodied in the form of a prototype. The aesthetics, functionality, mechanical aspects, as well as the potential manufacturing issues are all considered, and these aspects need to be thoroughly tested. API’s technical experts are part of technical committees that discuss and write standards for toys, and can ensure you are up to date on the latest developments and discussions on regulation before new regulations are officially published. API’s Hong Kong Laboratory is accredited by HOKLAS to perform laboratory testing for the European, American and Australasian markets. The three main areas of testing are:

1) ‘Mechanical and Physical Properties’

  • Drop Test
  • Compression Test
  • Torque Test
  • Tension Test
  • Flexure Test
  • Bite Test

2) ‘Flammability’

  • Conducted on  toys to examine their flammability characteristics

3) ‘Restricted Substances – Chemical Testing’

  • Lead content test
  • Cadmium content test
  • Phthalate content test
  • Other applicable chemical tests

Prototype testing helps to identify the shortcomings of initial toy design and how they will hold up in real use case scenarios.

Toy testing at a factory

Evaluate your Factory

Perform a quality management audit with specific points related to toys, such as ensuring that sharp tool equipment and a broken needle policy has been used and properly calibrated. It is also important to ensure that your factory has also established traceability system for identification and tracking materials through production. Through this testing process, API helps you to further refine the product design and remove any obstacles that may detract from the original concept by making it safer for use, and ultimately, preventing the need for costly recalls well before the products hit the production line. On top of this testing process, API are also entitled to issue certificates of conformity as a ‘Notified Body’.

4. Ensuring Compliance Through All Inclusive Compliance Software

Whether your brand is directly or indirectly affected by Directive 2009/48/EC, it is of vital importance to ensure the collection and gathering of all the necessary technical documentation needed from your manufacturer to demonstrate the conformity of the product to the applicable requirements of the TSD.

It is up to your product manufacturer to draw up this technical documentation, or request it from relevant parties, and keep it and the EC declaration of conformity for a period of 10 years after the toy has been placed on the market. It is up to you as the importer to ensure that the manufacturer fulfills this duty, that the toy bears the required conformity marking, and is accompanied by the required technical documents. These documents must be made available to national surveillance authorities upon request for the same period of time to demonstrate conformity of the toy. Technical documentation to be drawn up and collected must be presented in one of the official languages in the EU and shall include: 1. Description of the design and manufacture 2. List of components and materials 3. Safety data sheets 4. Safety assessments 5. Conformity assessment procedure 6. EC declaration of conformity 7. Addresses of manufacture and storage 8. Documents submitted to a Notified Body 9. Test reports 10. Conformity of series production details 11. EC-type examination details 12. Conformity of series production details Today, many manufacturers, importers and retailers are still operating on outdated systems like collecting multiple spreadsheets and files, leading to unreliable data and outdated documentation, which creates an almost insurmountable task of trying to accurately trace and maintain the information for each product reference. API’s Technical Compliance File (TCF) solution is a one process procedure that consists of 5 steps to ensure total product compliance: 1. Expert intervention to define the scope of compliance 2. Document collection 3. Document review 4. TCF report issuance 5. Record keeping and database integration (all available online 24/7)
A solution like this promises increased visibility and transparency into your supply chain that will prove invaluable to optimizing your current quality systems, allowing you the time to mitigate any potential quality risks as and when they become apparent.

5. Monitoring Production Consistency With DUPRO/Inline Inspection

The production line is inspected when at least 25% of the order has been completed. The DUPRO verifies that initial discrepancies found out during an Initial Production Check (IPC) have been rectified.

Each stage of the assembly process will be analysed and samples of the goods in progress will be collected and checked. This means that any impending problem can be identified on-site and addressed at the very stage where it is occurring. By checking unfinished products during production and assessing if AQL standards are being met, API assures that corrective actions can be taken in order to assure the quality of your toys moving forward.

6. Checking and Classifying Non-Conformities Right Before Shipping

API conduct both Final Random Inspections and Loading Check inspections to ensure your products conform and that they are being shipped in a safe and secure manner.

Final Random Inspection

A FRI (Final Random Inspection) is basically an acceptance sampling inspection performed prior to shipment. The Sampling is derived from the inspection level requested in accordance with MIL-STD-105E (ISO2859-1). API is also certified HKIAS which endorses third-party inspection based on an in-house procedure. The sampled goods are then checked piece by piece and the non-conformities found, if any, will be classified into three categories (critical, major and minor). The selection of an AQL (Acceptable Quality Level) per type of non-conformities will determine the acceptance or rejection of the goods.

Sample Collection For Lab Testing

Products randomly picked from mass production for pre-shipment testing which can occur in DuPro or FRI. The test checks the alignment of product quality from mass production and pre-production.

Pre-shipment Testing

The aim of pre-shipment testing is to verify the consistency of the production quality with a focus on critical aspects of the toys, without having to perform the full test again. API provides tailor-made testing solutions based on client requirements to ensure quality is maintained at this stage of the process. Loading check inspections to ensure toy quality

Loading Check Inspections

The loading check serves as a way to control container quantity and to adequately manage stuffing arrangement. API performs inspections of packed goods as they are being loaded into the shipping container to ensure the correct products are loaded, in a secure and safe manner.

7. Taking Quality Assurance Full Cycle With Reorders and Random Sampling

Sample collection for testing during the reorder process is a concept of a highly effective continuous quality improvement monitoring program, helping you determine the frequency of testing per supplier performance. This policy sends a clear message to suppliers that you’re watching their product quality closely, and that any unauthorized product/material change is strictly prohibited, and at the same time encourages them to improve.

8. Business Intelligence Tools

In order to the determine the frequency of sampling per factory, you’ll need a comprehensive vendor scorecard. API have developed its own platform for you that records quality data of each factory’s test and defect levels during inspection.

It also provides you with a comprehensive data analysis on factory performance across your own suppliers and across others in our database that you may not currently be working with. The database record does not simply include just the pass or failure of the product test/ inspection, but also a record and classification of each defect. Through this database we’re able to point out top defects recorded per factory and compare your own suppliers against others in the industry.

REACH – Extension of Phthalates Requirements (Entry 51)

As per the European Union additions published in December 2018, the scope of Entry 51 of Annex XVII to REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 has some changes starting on 7th July 2020. The changes include an increase in the number of restricted phthalates from three to four, and an extension of the scope of restrictions as per below:


Restricted Substances

Scope of Restriction

Current Entry 51

≤ 0.1% by weight of the plasticized material (individually or in combination)

Plasticized materials in toys and childcare articles

Revised Entry 51 as of 7th July 2020

DEHP, DBP, BBP and DIBP: <0.1% by weight of plasticized material (individually or in combination)

All articles containing plasticized materials*

What are plasticized materials?

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC), polyvinyl acetate (PVA), polyurethanes
  • Any other polymer except silicone rubber and natural latex coatings
  • Surface coatings, non-slip coatings, finishes, decals, printed designs
  • Adhesives, sealants, paints, and inks

DIBP was frequently used as a replacement for DBP for lots of plasticized materials. With the new restrictions in place, manufacturers will need to look for alternative options to comply with the normative.

What are the main product types affected by the extension?

With the extension of phthalates requirements (entry 51), all articles containing plasticized materials* will be affected.

These can include:

  • Indoor and outdoor furniture
  • Decoration articles
  • DIY items
  • Office supplies and equipment
  • Bathroom supplies and equipment
  • Accessories, gifts and premium items
  • And more.


(As included in Annex XVII to REACH – Conditions of Restriction)

(a) articles exclusively for industrial or agricultural use, or for use exclusively in the open

air, provided that no plasticised material comes into contact with human mucous

membranes or into prolonged contact with human skin;

(b) aircraft, placed on the market before 7 January 2024, or articles, whenever placed on

the market, for use exclusively in the maintenance or repair of those aircraft, where those

articles are essential for the safety and airworthiness of the aircraft;

(c) motor vehicles within the scope of Directive 2007/46/EC, placed on the market before 7

January 2024, or articles, whenever placed on the market, for use exclusively in the

maintenance or repair of those vehicles, where the vehicles cannot function as intended

without those articles;

(d) articles placed on the market before 7 July 2020;

(e) measuring devices for laboratory use, or parts thereof;

(f) materials and articles intended to come into contact with food within the scope of

Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 or Commission Regulation (EU) No 10/20111;

(g) medical devices within the scope of Directives 90/385/EEC, 93/42/EEC or 98/79/EC, or

parts thereof;

(h) electrical and electronic equipment within the scope of Directive 2011/65/EU;

(i) the immediate packaging of medicinal products within the scope of Regulation (EC) No

726/2004, Directive 2001/82/EC or Directive 2001/83/EC;

(j) toys and childcare articles covered by paragraphs 1 or 2.

Do you have any questions about how this extension will impact your products?

With the new restrictions in place, brands, retailers and manufacturers must ensure that the products placed in the market do not contain any of the restricted substances. At API, we can provide technical advice and adapted chemical product testing for your affected product categories to ensure your products comply with the new REACH requirements. Our combined expertise in chemistry x manufacturing x household goods and toys allows our experts to provide tailor-made solutions suited to your needs.