What you should know about Christmas tree testing

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What you should know about Christmas tree testing

Christmas, a very special holiday celebrated all around the world, a sacred time spent with family and friends, houses adorned with traditional decorations and illuminated in a splendor of colors, all leading up to the childlike anticipation of Christmas day, the gifts, the food and the wine!

While it may still be quite a few months off for most people, it is now that time of year when suppliers and retailers the world over begin their arduous preparations for the very busy festive season ahead, starting with none other than the hallowed Christmas tree.

In 2015, 12.5 million artificial Christmas trees were purchased in the US alone at a Christmas tree testingpurchase price of $69.38 each, resulting in revenues totaling $854 million for manufacturers in that short period. As a holiday that approximately 2 billion people around the world celebrate, the market for Christmas and these trees is undeniably massive, not to mention the powerful potential for profits it promises.

But, what happens when things go wrong on the production line?

Between 2010 and 2014 fire fighters responded to an annual average of 200 homes that were reported to be on fire or burnt down in the US alone due to fires started by Christmas trees with a total damage of $16.2 million. Fires started by malfunctions in artificial trees highlight the critical importance of strict quality control measures needed in place during and after production, from the lighting within the tree, the temperatures they produce to the types of plastic that is used to manufacture the tree.

Can your company stand to lose millions because of negligence in the QC process? What about the implications brought about from families that lose their homes or worse?

Preventing unnecessary damages and losses before they happen should be at the top your Christmas wish list. In this blog post we talk to Francois Deudon, CEO of Asia Pacific Inspection, as we seek to understand the technicalities that go into the making of Christmas trees and the essential QC procedures/tests involved in the production of these products, helping to ensure a safer, happier and more ‘festive’ festive season for us all…

Q: What are some of the challenges involved in the manufacturing of Christmas trees in terms of quality?

Christmas tree branch bending procedureA: One of greatest challenges is ensuring that each branch is able to comply with the NFS 54200 / Decree 2003-1123 without any accessible sharp points. In order to comply with this requirement, an industrial practice of bending the end wire of each branch to prevent any accessible sharp points. Many Christmas trees contain hundreds of branches, so the quality control of suppliers plays a significant role so as to manage the potential risks.

Q: One of the biggest concerns that consumers have is the PVC content of an artificial tree – How do quality procedures overcome this kind of challenge?

A: The quality control involved from the design stage to the mass production stage is needed to manage this concern. In the design stage, a client will instruct the supplier that only qualified raw materials should be used to create this product. In the pre-production stage, raw materials or products should be submitted for testing to ensure that these qualified materials are used. Suppliers should not only use these qualified materials; but they should also be able to avoid contamination during the production process. The clients should then assess the chemical management system of the factory, when they choose a supplier. After the production is completed, the client could then appoint a third party company to pick a sample from the mass production for chemical testing to ensure only qualified materials are being used for production and that there is no chemical contamination.

Q: Are suppliers more aware of the raw material and construction of trees that need to comply to strict Christmas tree testing processinternational regulation?

A: The more experienced a supplier is the better he will understand the regulations of any given country. Here it will be the retailer or the importer’s responsibility to choose  an appropriate supplier. This can be done through a technical audit, which could help measure the capability and capacity of suppliers, providing valuable information when choosing suppliers.

Q: Do you think stricter quality control or inspection measures can help reduce the amount of fires that are started each year due to artificial Christmas trees? How so?

A: Yes, the testing on mass production products will assess the flammability of artificial Christmas trees. It could also avoid unauthorized change of the materials during this mass production process.

Q: What quality tests are absolutely essential before shipping Christmas trees off to various distributors?

A: The flammability test, the sharp point sharp edge test and the REACH test are absolutely essential before shipping to any distributors.

Conclusion

While retailers and importers across the globe are preparing for all the holiday joys, what we have learnt is that it will be important to select the correct supplier, based on previous testing records or it may even be important to consider an audit that will help identify any procedural risks early on, as the scope of the festive season is too big to cut any corners as any faults of failure will have the potential to lose you millions. The various Christmas tree testing procedures will be important to ensuring that the festive season will be a safe and happy one all round.

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DUPRO & Toy Testing: The Key To Improved Toy Quality

An average of more than 100 children’s toys are recalled every year due to critical defects. Recalls and quality issues can be prevented with DUPRO quality inspection and subsequent toy testing.
Learn about what to expect during a DUPRO inspection and why it is the key to improved toy quality here.

Why A DUPRO Inspection for your children’s toy factory?

DUPRO inspection and toy testing

More often than not performing an inspection after the production of toys is finished is problematic and too late to rectify any quality problems found within the product.

Enter During Production Inspection (DUPRO).

This inspection type is designed to catch quality issues right on the production line to prevent any delays in getting your product to market.

What Can You Expect Of A DUPRO Inspection?

A DUPRO inspection is one of the most commonly used quality inspection types and is normally carried out after mass production has begun when approximately 40% of your toys have been produced and 20% of them have already been packaged.

A quality control inspector will normally go through the inspection line of your toy factory to identify any quality problems that may arise during the production processes.

An inspector will have a checklist to assess the production, which is inclusive of the following;

  • Is the production of the toys conforming to the product specs as laid out by the importer/retailer?
  • Based on the sampling plan that was decided upon a quality control inspector will look at the children’s toys for any visual defects that may be present and analyze them against the acceptable quality limits as set by the importer/retailer.
  • An inspector will conduct on-site toy testing. This is dependent on the product of course, but many children’s toys will have a drop test performed to analyze a real-life simulation of the toy. The fidget spinner is a good example of the type of toy that would undergo an onsite drop test to ensure the inner bearings do not pop out. If they do not this item would be deemed safe and fit for use according to ASTM F963. Toy testing a fidget spinner

If the above criteria are not met, the supplier will then need to consider corrective action plans and possibly a Root-Cause Analysis (RCA) to work out the problem and devise improvement strategies based on the findings.

This inspector will then produce a full detailed report with images of non-conforming toys and any notes that are deemed necessary and important, allowing you the insight into the quality of the work being done to complete your order.

So, what do you do with a DUPRO report?

Once your supplier receives the inspector’s findings within the report, your supplier will need to adjust the production process to ensure that the issues found are rectified.

**NOTE – If you have to delay production to wait for your supplier to rectify what was found in the report, do so.

Why?

Product recalls!

You do not want to subject your brand to potential recalls that could result in costly law suits causing embarrassment to you and your brand.

Key Takeaways

A DUPRO primarily will;

  • Highlight your supplier’s conformity to product specifications

**TIP – It will be crucial for you to adequately and clearly define these for your supplier.

  • Analyze the acceptable quality limits as set by you
  • As a part of the DUPRO inspection, your QC inspector will perform basic on-site tests to evaluate the children’s toy quality and conformity.

Conducting a DUPRO quality inspection in itself is not recommended as industry best practice, as it does not showcase the average quality of toy that a supplier can produce.

So, what is recommended then?

It is recommended to couple your DUPRO inspection with a Final Random Inspection to ensure that your children’s toys conform to acceptable levels of quality as laid out by you the importer or retailer.

 

TAKE A DIVE INTO OUR QUALITY INSPECTION GUIDE THAT WILL HELP WITH IMPROVED PRODUCT QUALITY

 

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Cookware Product Specifications Are Key For 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.

Why?

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.

PanSpecs.png

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.

LET US TAKE YOU THROUGH A STEP-BY-STEP QUALITY INSPECTION GUIDE FOR

YOUR IMPROVED PRODUCT QUALITY

 

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The Ultimate Quality Inspection Guide: 9 Steps To Follow

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.

CLICK HERE AND TAKE A DIVE INTO OUR QUALITY INSPECTION GUIDE THAT WILL HELP with Improved PRODUCT QUALITY

 

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Toy Testing: How To Comply With En 71 & ASTM F963

With the strict safety and quality standards of children’s toys, there is absolutely no room for non-compliance. Compliance issues can cause potential health hazards and in some cases fatalities. Here we discuss the importance of toy testing and provide you with an exact outline of toy safety regulations and all of the most recent updates to help you avoid compliance issues, so that you can continue to produce toys of the highest quality. The toy industry is a lucrative one with “toy sales in 2015 increasing by 4% over 2014 to $87.4billion…with estimated growth expected to exceed $90 billion in sales in 2016.”

There is surely continued opportunities for economic growth and sustainable innovation in this massive industry going into 2017 and beyond.

But, the toy market, and product safety specifically, makes it a volatile one.

What happens when due diligence is left by the wayside?

41% of toys that were recalled in the EU alone were due to choking hazards, whilst chemical compositions makes the second largest recall between January 2016 and July 2017.

By looking at the graph below, you will see the breakdown of recalls over this period of time:

Toy testing regulations and compliance issues

The stats above paint a clear picture for importers to abide by toy safety compliance standards, for it is not only in your best economic interest, but also for your brand’s protection and growth.

Today, children’s toys are subject to some of the strictest safety and quality standards in the retail marketplace due to the sensitive nature of their consumer base.

The question is…

How do importers keep up with the latest news in toy safety regulations to avoid potential disasters and recalls as reflected above?

In this blog post, I seek to highlight the EU EN71 safety standards that your imported toys need to comply with. I will also highlight the latest updates of this standard, to ensure you are up to date with the latest in toy compliance.

We also look at the US standard, ASTM F963, where we will highlight the latest updates to ensure that your products are in compliance. Lastly, I seek to provide you with actionable steps to achieving compliance according to these standards and what you can do to continue producing children’s toys of the highest quality.

EN 71

The EN71 is a set of European Product Safety standards that apply to all toys, sold in the European Union. The EN 71 also forms a part of the CE directive. As an importer of children’s toys you will need to ensure that the toys you are importing into Europe are labelled with this CE mark.

This mark basically stipulates that a particular toy is compliant with the safety regulations as laid out by the European Union and its safety standard.

Here is a table of what this standard is inclusive of, but I will also highlight the ones that have been updated recently so that you, know exactly what your products need to be compliant with;

TABLE of EN71

Toy testing & safety regulations - En 71

The latest EN71 update includes

The latest children’s toy update and revision of the above table is as follows;
The CEN has published Toy safety standard EN 71-12:2016 for n-nitrosamines and n-nitrosatable substances. This standard is expected to be harmonized under Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC by publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).
Major change of the new version includes this;

  • More stringent limits of n-nitrosamines and n-nitrosatable substances for toys intended for use by children under 36 months and intended or likely to be placed into the mouth of the child.
  • a modified definition for ‘elastomer’ from ISO 472:2013 (Plastics – Vocabulary, for better clarity)
  • a new procedure for the extraction process for toys and parts of toys other than balloons
  • use of porous graphitic carbon (PGC) reversed phase (C18) high performance liquid chromatography (HLPC) columns as an additional option for analysis
  • an additional set of multiple reaction monitoring-transitions (MRM-transitions) for quantification and identification

What this revision should mean for your sourcing and production strategies

This standard is applicable to the following products;

  • Toys and parts of toys made from elastomers and intended for use by children under 36 months
  • Toys and parts of toys made from elastomers and intended to be placed in the mouth
  • Finger paints for children under 36 months

Manufacturers will need to provide evidence of compliance from the supplier of these materials, before the manufacturing of these items can proceed. There may also be a random sampling after mass production for post production testing to ensure you are not in violation of the above safety regulations.

ASTM F963-16

The ASTM F 963-16, The Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety, is a comprehensive standard that addresses numerous hazards that have been identified with toys.

Toy testing & safety regulations ASTM F963-16

 

The latest ASTM F963 update includes

  • Among the changes, the 2016 revision addresses ride-on toys with: a new curb impact requirement, a clarification of overload and stability requirements, and a strap exemption.
  • new labelling requirements for toys that have certain small coins or button batteries,
  • temperature and current-limiting requirements for lithium-ion batteries, and
  • new requirements for materials and toys that could expand if accidentally swallowed.
  • Other revisions include:

– new soaking and compression tests for magnets

– new requirements and clarifications related to microbiological safety;

– clarifications to heavy elements requirements for toy substrate materials

– revised requirements for toys involving projectiles; and,

– clarification of requirements and supplemental guidance for impact hazards.

What this revision should mean for your sourcing and production strategies

You will have noticed that all children’s toys that have been produced after 30 April 2017 needed to be tested according to ASTM F963-16.

According to ASTM F963-16 all toys that are intended for children of 12 years old and under need to be tested by a registered CPC third party testing and quality provider, who will then furnish you with the appropriate product specific CPC which declares that your product complies with the federal toy safety standard.

Suggestions for complying with these toy testing regulations

As an importer you may be feeling overwhelmed about adhering to the regulations as laid out above and while you should be doing everything you can to adhere to them, here we lay out a few suggestions of how to go about doing this;

  • You need to work towards improving quality control procedures by strictly monitoring the quality of raw materials. Do not fall into the trap of using cheaper, substandard materials. Whilst this may be appealing for cost reduction, you will be putting your brand at unnecessary risks.
  • Improving your products quality always needs to be a primary goal. Many of the new updates in regulation also stipulate the use of a third party quality provider as mandatory for your products compliance.
  • Ensure you use a third party company that is up to date with the latest in toy testing and safety regulations. This will reduce the risks of potential product recalls resulting in a bad image for your brand, but also a loss in revenue.
  • Seek new non-toxic environmentally-friendly raw materials. How do you go about sourcing your raw materials? This may step may be a little more difficult to pursue, but let’s take a look at Lego. Their blocks are made of plastic, but currently, they are investing loads of money and time into finding alternatives to plastic for their famous building blocks. It’s this kind of commitment that ensures a positive and innovative position in the market place.

Understanding the regulations and what they mean for your current sourcing strategy for children’s toys will help give appropriate direction and guidelines to your current competitive positioning in the market place.

By understanding these regulations and ensuring compliance according to them, you are able to guard yourself against potential product recalls and even potential lawsuits that could come from health and safety violations that are sadly too often found within children’s toys.

“API is equipped to meet the above product testing and safety requirements accordingly to ensure your brand’s safety and protection.”

 

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Compliance Issues & Product recalls: 4 Lessons To Learn From!

Product recalls are a veritable nightmare!

There is no other way to express the dread and that sinking feeling when the customer complaints start rolling in, and you begin considering whether or not to announce a recall. 

A recall will spell significant damage to your brand image, and thousands, if not millions of loss in revenue.

Yes, you may argue that retailers are insured against recalls, but building trust with your customers is a difficult task at the best of times.

The digital age has also made it more difficult to hide the smallest of quality problems from your customers, and rebuilding trust from slip-ups that could have been prevented just adds fuel to a fire that won’t stop burning.

But it’s not all doom and gloom…

Product recalls can be prevented through best practice QC procedures, through due diligence, through strategic planning and implementation, through proper inspection reports and appropriate product testing to ensure that  your compliance issues are a thing of the past.

In this blog post, we take a look at four product recalls from household goods and electronic giants in recent history, that could have been prevented through a bit of due diligence, through proper testing procedures and reliable quality management service providers.

1. Keurig Coffee Makers To Pay $5.8 Million In Civil Penalties

Keurig is a well-known coffee machine brand in the United States, with many corporate offices around the country being dotted with these machines, where it fast became an office staple.
But, imagine this.

Waking up to make that quick cup of coffee before work, or even offering an important investor a cup of coffee before heading into a meeting, and your machine begins to steam and spit out boiling water, causing a potential burn injury.
Not an ideal situation…
This left Keurig in some seriously ‘hot water’!

Compliance issues and product recallsOn 23rd December 2014, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the recall of over 7 million coffee machines.Between 2010-2014, there were over 200 complaints of boiling water spraying out of the machine and approximately 90 burn injuries reported.It has been recently announced that Keurig has agreed to pay over $5.8 million in civil penalties to the government.
This penalty is to settle the charges against Keurig as they knew about the product’s defect, but failed to report it and continued to export the product despite the fact that it can and did cause major injuries.

What should have been done differently?

Keurig appealed to consumers to request a repair kit that was able to fit onto the product free of charge.

In reviewing the repair kit installation guidelines, it consisted of a new basket with a rubber seal to ensure that no hot water or steam would escape during use causing potential for burn injuries.

There was also an extra handle that slides over the original one to avoid direct contact with the hot water or steam that may be released when the handle is in position, or if hot water or steam is released during use, it would be pushed in the downward or upward position.

This kind of repair kit tells us that problem was related to product design more than any manufacturing or quality control issues.

This story also tells us how that at times it may not be enough to be in compliance with just the testing regulation.

There may be times when specific tests need to be developed to beyond the standard testing criteria, simulation tests are often a good example here; where a quality control team can simulate the kind of tough operating environment that a specific product may need.

This can often be done through a thorough risk assessment that should be completed during the product design stage.

The CPSC has not been able to disclose any more information as to what caused the defects, but that Keurig has agreed to build and implement a compliance program to ensure that they comply with the Consumer Product Safety Act.

Adopting a compliance program stands as the rules, standards, regulations and requirements your organization sets for its suppliers, as this will grant you full transparency into supply chain operations.

A compliance program should not just be another program that importers tick off on an annual basis. It should become a key outcome and a reflection of an effective and efficient organization.

The key to a successful compliance program will be how well you can integrate compliance procedures into every facet of your brand.

 

2. Hasbro Recalls 1 Million Easy Bake Ovens

You have found that perfect Christmas gift for your little ones.

One that will create all those cute little memories that you will hold onto for a lifetime.

Then, a cry for help as their hand is stuck inside the toy under the element, causing some serious injury.

Quite far from a ‘Merry’ Christmas…

Hasbro was in deep with over 1 million easy bake ovens that were recalled and over 77 reports of injury, and a report of one five year old being burnt so terribly that a partial finger amputation was needed.

What should have been done differently?

There was a finger entrapment test that was developed under the ASTM F963 as an industrial standard, but which only came into regulation in 2013 under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Currently, all toys and children’s products need to be designed to comply with this ASTM F963 standard.

Retailers should be requesting that their manufacturers and suppliers need to be testing in compliance with this regulation, and have to be passed through an accredited third party lab before mass production can begin.

In meeting this criteria, there will also have to be a double check; either during inspection or through the lab with a random sample that is picked during the inspection process.

Procedures like this help to minimize potential risk and recall of a noncompliant product.

3. Sony To Pay $19 Million Dollars in Battery Recall

Exploding Dell notebooks with non-compliant Sony batteries.

A match made in retail hell.

4.1 million batteries in Dell notebooks needed to be recalled for overheating and potentially catching fire.

Research says that this was due to metallic particles being present in the critical parts of the batteries, at certain times causing instability in the battery.

These batteries were not only used in Dell computers, but other brands like Apple as well, so they recalled over 10 million batteries in total. 

Sony has recently agreed to pay $19 million dollars as settlements to this ongoing lawsuit.

What could have been done differently?

It has been said that the reason for this potential hazard was due to the presence of metallic particles, in the battery, in particular; nickel was found in these batteries. It unexpectedly got into the battery during the manufacturing process during two stages of the production process.

Here we can assess that the factory’s quality systems should have been reviewed and as to whether or not their QC team followed best practice in identifying potential defects.

There may have been bad storage practices causing a mix up between defective products and good one’s.
Compliance issues - Sony battery recall

A root-cause analysis would have been needed to adjust the production line to fix the problem. Once this analysis is completed and amendments made by the retailer, a third party representative would need to validate the preventative and corrective action for the defect. 

Factory audits can be an essential to safeguarding against product defects and recalls.

Practice due diligence here, ensure your quality control team is on top form and up to date with the latest in testing and regulation.

4. Fidget Spinners – Over 200 000 Have Been Recalled!

The latest craze amongst children all over the world.

The invention was originally intended to improve fine motor skills in children with learning disabilities, but grew in its popularity faster than what one could even blink. Compliane issues - Fidget spinner.jpg

In fact, the inventor today does not get a dime out of the sales of this popular children’s toy, as she was told her idea was not good enough and wouldn’t sell. Needless to say, millions of these toys are sold the world over.

But, she could count that as somewhat of a blessing…

Recently, over 200, 000 of them had to be recalled as they caused major harm to many children, with fingers getting stuck in the outer bearings to smaller parts being swallowed, where surgery was needed.

What could have been done differently?

This toy is specific in the types of international regulation and compliance that it needs to meet, but not many retailers can provide the necessary compliance documentation for this product.

It has been urged to rather seek out the compliant toys with all the necessary risk and warning labels on them.

As per international standard for general toys, it is required to drop this toy a few times only. This dropping of the toy often does not take into consideration just how often children drop these spinners. These spinners are dropped multiple times a day by end users, so this test in fact may not represent an adequate simulation.

A factory should be creating tough testing procedures to simulate the type of environment this toy will likely be exposed to.

These tests need to go beyond the standard testing criteria to ensure a durable, safe spinner is found in your children’s hands.

Apart from the strict QC procedures that should have been conducted, the correct lab tests should have been followed, as some spinners (the ones with batteries) were found to have high levels of lead present, posing a threat to its end consumers.

The appropriate chemical tests should have been performed to identify these chemical risks early on, giving your supplier time to rework the product to meet its compliance standards.

Conclusion

Strict quality control procedures need to be followed.

By ensuring you follow QC best practices for your product you begin to safeguard your brand, your product and even your end-consumer from a potentially bad quality product that can injure them, and cost you millions in revenue.

If you are not using a third party quality provider for all your testing and compliance procedures conducting things like; pre-purchase testing and inline inspections can be key to identifying these defects early on.

A bit of due diligence and strict QC procedures can go a long way in saving you the terrifying reality of product recalls and persistant compliance issues.

There are More Lessons To Be Learnt In This Case Study!

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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.

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Evaluating third-party toy testing partners?

Toy safety is the number one priority for parents around the world. Taking measures to conduct toy testing and maintaining compliance across various international toy safety standards shows customers in your destination market that safety matters to you too, and ultimately, that your products are suitable for all children to use and can be sold there.

 API are committed to assisting all toy brands and importers with expert quality assurance solutions that address issues from the very outset of toy conception and design, to inline inspection and pre-shipment testing, all the way up to loading checks and warehouse inspection.

Deciding which third-party provider is the most suitable partner to put your products to the test can be a difficult one, but it doesn’t have to be.

We have taken the liberty of drawing up a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about our toy testing and quality assurance solutions that will help provide you with peace of mind before you get in touch with us.

“Which quality assurance solutions does API provide for toys?”

API offers coverage throughout all of the stages in your supply chain which include factory audits, laboratory testing and inspection services.

Toy testing services throughout the supply chain cycle

 

“How do I find out what risks and dangers my toys may present?”

Through comprehensive design evaluation and hazard assessments, API can help you identify potentially dangerous design features and mechanical risks from the outset. All of this can help 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.

“Which directives and standards does API adhere to in their toy testing and certification?”

While EN 71 and EN 62115 apply in the EU, the ISO standards for international testing and standards such as ASTM and CPSIA are valid in the USA. API helps to certify and test your toys in accordance with the requirements of your destination market, ensuring that you remain compliant no matter where your business expands to.

“What is the turn-around time for international toy tests with API?”

The turn-around time for our toy testing procedures are as follows:

  • Standard: 5 days
  • Express: 3 days
  • Emergency: 1 day

What compliance documentation is needed to ensure conformity of toys?”

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 (Toy Safety Directive).

API’s Technical Compliance File (TCF) solution is a one process procedure that consists of 5 steps to ensure total product compliance:

 

 

 

“What accreditations does API hold in the toy quality space?”

API is a member of AFNOR ( Agence Francaise de Normalisation) and the Toys Standardization Committee in France.

This puts API in a unique position to update your company regarding the latest developments and discussions on toy regulations before new regulations are officially published.

We can provide you with a European Notified Body endorsed report by our French lab Albhades Provence, a member company of the Worms group.

The benefit of this is that when the Notified Body is convinced of a product’s compliance, it issues a certificate of conformity to confirm this. Only a notified body is entitled to do so.

API was also one of the first foreign entities to officially operate inspection services in China.

Our testing laboratories, of which we have 5 in Asia and 1 in Europe, hold the following accreditations:

 

Laboratory toy testing accreditations

 

“How is API uniquely positioned to provide me with the best quality assurance solutions?”

API prides itself on being able to focus on the unique issues each and every one of its clients faces by offering tailored solutions to address them.

Our team of ‘on the ground’ specialists are well-versed in a wide range of complex product categories, helping us to deliver more personalised services that include:

  • Dedicated key account manager

Each client has their own dedicated key account manager to handle their quality assurance needs, keeping an open line of communication with the client at all times for added peace of mind.

  • Direct contact with our laboratory specialists

When urgent decisions need to be made, having real-time information from the experts conducting your testing can help you avoid any costly delays. This is a service not usually provided by other quality assurance providers.

  • Assistance when you need it

Get in touch with your dedicated key account manager any time during Asian business hours on weekdays. Should you require further technical assistance, our experts are standing by to answer your queries within 24hrs, regardless of when you need them.

 

Do you have any other toy testing queries you’d like us to answer?

Feel free to contact us or simply leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.