Selecting Safe Educational and Sound Producing Toys for Children

Sound Producing Toys
Concern regarding sound levels and the effect it may have on a child’s hearing is growing. The Sight & Hearing Association recently tested 24 toys and found 16 of them produced sounds louder than 85 dB, which is the level set by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) for mandatory hearing protection. What is most alarming is that the top two toys this year are intended for infants under the age of six months.

Walking down the toy aisles in a store, you will find many popular toys that produce sounds of various types.

Major categories include
• Percussion toys (drums, xylophone, tambourines)
• Voice toys (phones, spelling devices, microphones)
• Wind toys (toy instruments)
• Shooting toys (cap guns)

However, for children, hearing damage adversely impacts the development of speech and social skills, leading to learning problems. There is a wide range of causes of hearing loss in children. However, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can result from unsafe toys and is entirely preventable. For this reason, global regulatory authorities have developed criteria to regulate sound-producing toys.

Toy Safety Standards
• ASTM F963-17
• EN71-1
• AS/NZS 8124.1:2016
• GB6675.2-2014
• ISO 8124-1:2014

Educational Toys
Many available toys are educational. As such, they may be useful for developmental and learning tools. Parents should select the toys that foster the imagination of children, like those which encourage creativity, education, or physical activity in addition to being fun.

“Real educational toys are not the flashy gadgets and gizmos with big promises, but the staples that have built creative thinkers for decades,” says Roberta Golinkoff, Ph.D., head of the Infant Language Project at the University of Delaware.

One good example of this is an open-ended toy. These are toys that are useful in a variety of ways and that encourage children to engage their imagination by finding new ways to interact with the toy. Children use them to invent and build their creations while experiencing the satisfaction of designing and building a finished product.

Examples
• Play Kitchens and House
• Blocks, Stacking and Building Sets
• Dolls & Action Figures
• Animal and Farm Sets
• Cars, Trains, and other Vehicles
• Push and Pull Carts

Puzzles are another example of a toy which can fall into the educational category. Puzzles are great for spatial awareness, pattern recognition, problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.

Giving Children age-appropriate toys to play with is the best way to take advantage of educational toys. Good educational toys are those that capture children’s attention and keep it. No matter which toys you choose, one of the best things you can do is to get in on the fun.

Even when toys appear benign, some toys have been sold with materials that include hazardous chemicals. So, parents must be diligent in choosing safe toys. Informed decision making and development of good judgment requires research.

Resources to Check
• Safe Kids Organization
• Toy Safety Wikipedia
• USA Consumer Product Safety Commission
• The Toy Association
• World Against Toys Causing Harm

HQTS has long advocated for toy safety. Our quality control services, which include toys testing and inspections, has underscored our ongoing interest and concern for safe toy production.

CLICK HERE to download the full PDF

CLICK HERE for more information

Steps for Managing Product Quality

Managing product quality

  • Take correct steps to prevent product defects prior to production
  • Use companies such as HQTS to help identifying product defects
  • Analyze product defects
  • Take actions to prevent them from reoccurring

Quality is key to success

  • Quality built into the production during production itself
  • Much easier and cheaper to deal with through preventative measures
  • Factors directly impacting product quality including materials used, production process and expertise of the factory

Finding the right supplier

  • Understand the suppliers and factories experience for your specific product type
  • HQTS audits contain:
  1. Machine and equipment maintenance and calibration
  2. QC procedures
  3. Management structure

Suggsetions for finding the right supplier

  • Production sample strongly recommended
  • Client has the right to request golden sample from each supplier considered
  • Engage final supplier with order requirements and specifications

Key points to consider for golden sample

  • Need to update alongside own design changes
  • Need to be handled with care
  • Need to updated with time and quality degradation
  • Need one for each item
  • Need to make sure they are not tampered with

HQTS can help with

  • Check the correct version of sample provided
  • Check the quality of sample meets standards
  • Ensure sample has not been tampered with

Quality control checklist

On-site packaging tests

  • Packaging requirements refer to materials used in carton, labelling, assortment etc.
  • On-site tests and check include
  1. Hi-pot tests for electrical items
  2. Drop tests for all products
  3. Many other tests

Defect classification

1.Minor defects

  • Not acceptable in large quantities

2.Major defects

  • Result in product returns
  • No threat to safety or health of consumer

3.Critical defects

  • Threat to safety and/or health of consumer
  • Do not comply by regulatory standards

Inspection checklists

Individual checklists

  • HQTS can use own checklist
  • Or provide checklist to client for modification
  • We can work together to refine checklist to your standards

Summary

  • Finding the right supplier/factory Stipulating your standards in contract and prior to production
  • Using samples in careful and consistent manner
  • Providing checklist to your supplier with all your quality requirements clearly presented
  • HQTS can help you to prevent quality issues prior to production

 

 

Supply Chain Trends In South Asia

Asian Supply Chain Diversification

Global economy and political shifts have lead to the diversification of the supply chain

GDP of South Asian Countries

Increased GDP over the last three years for India, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Vietnam from increased purchases for export and other growth factors

Largest Manufacturing Industries in India

India Exports

Largest Manufacturing Industries in Vietnam

Vietnam Exports

Largest Manufacturing Industries in Pakistan

Pakistan Exports

Largest Manufacturing Industries in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Exports

Trade War Affects China Export

“China exports fall most in 2 years as slowdown and trade war bite”

Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong, Tom Hancock in Shanghai and Tom Mitchell in Beijing. Financial Times, January 14, 2019.  Get the article here.

“President Trump raised tariff to 25% on $200 Billion Chinese goods”

Katie Lobosco   CNN Business, May 10 ,2019. Get the article here.

Regulations In South Asian Countries

Issues:

  • Child labor
  • Slave wages
  • Unskilled workers
  • Poor infrastructure

Risk Mitigation

  • Factory or supplier Audits help identifying and solving problems in your supply chain
  • Auditor accesses facilities, policies, procedures and records to verify factory’s ability to deliver quality products over time
  • Inspectors can conduct quality inspections to ensure product meet your requirements

Summary

  • Companies facing pressure during global economic crisis
  • Ignoring risks often ends up in a catastrophe
  • Reliable quality partner with local office can identify and prevent problems

Get the PDF version of this article from here: HQTS_Supply Chain Trends in South Asia.

Select Safe Toys for Babies

What safety factors need to be considered when selecting plush, soft-fill and teething toys for babies.

Plush and Soft-fill Toys / Teething Toys

Babies learn about the world through their senses of touch, sight, and smell. Thus, toys play an integral role at an early age in helping them grow physically, mentally and socially. Since toy safety is a crucial issue for parents, choosing toys should be done based on sound information and judgment. Before choosing toys, it is essential to consider all appropriate safety and regulatory issues.

Soft-fill and Plush Toys
These toys are a favorite. Cuddly animals or dolls with different textures help babies to discover and develop their sense of touch. However, before purchasing, many safety factors must be weighed.

A general safety checklist should include:

• Materials
– Look for non-toxic toys and phthalate and BPA free
– Make sure the label indicates the material is washable.
– Avoid toys with batteries unless the compartment is not accessible to a
child, i.e., screwed shut.
– Look for toys that are flame resistant

• Choke Hazard
– Avoid buttons, batteries, yarn, ribbons, eyes, beads, cords, string and
plastic parts that could easily be chewed or snapped off.

• Construction
– All seams and appendages should be tightly sown and resist spreading
under pressure.

• Sharp Edges
– Avoid sharp edges such as plastic horns and claws.

• Size
– Avoid oversize soft-filled, and plush toys for small babies due to the
danger of suffocation.

Teething Toys
Babies that drool and chew on anything they can find indicates the start of teething. Teething is an exciting developmental time but has some discomfort, both for mom and baby. Teething toys are available to help your baby chew on something safe, and useful. Teething toys can provide a measure of relief. They come in a wide variety of shapes and materials, but due to the fact they used in the baby’s mouth, safety should be a primary concern. The journal Environmental Science & Technology research published a study that found that among 59 teethers tested in the USA, 26 were found to include unsafe amounts of hazardous substances.

A parent’s safety checklist should include the following items at a minimum:

• Chemicals
– Look for only phthalate, antimicrobial agents such as triclosan and
triclocarban, and BPA free
– Look for non-toxic labeling, but also research the manufacturer
– Liquid filled teethers generally have salt water or glycerin and water,
so are considered safe, in the event of breakage or leaking, but it is
essential to check.
– Avoid teething toys that appear painted.

• Size and Shape
– Do not choose a teething toy that is too small nor too large

HQTS toy experts hope all parents and babies can enjoy the safe use of toys throughout childhood. As a top provider of toy testing services in China, we work hard to prevent unsafe toys from entering the market and damaging a child’s prospects for healthy growth.

Watch for future papers on HQTS safe toy initiatives.

No Chance for Bribery! An Example of a Recent Scam

Ensuring quality in your supply chain goes beyond inspections and testing, and often include many other necessary services. For example, loading supervision. A recent example underscores the importance of including this in your quality planning.

 

Our inspector arrived at the loading area to perform loading supervision. A key element of the service is a comprehensive inspection and assessment of the container. In this case, the container was found to have damage and a bad smell. Further investigation uncovered the fact it has been previously used for frozen seafood shipments. Our inspector contacted logistics company and his manager to report the issue. The logistics company sent some employees to resolve the issue. They used glass glue to seal the damages, and sprayed air freshener to cover the smell. However, our inspector did not believe these methods they used cannot solve the problems. An executive with the logistics company tried to bribe the inspector to accept the container so the goods could be loaded. HQTS inspector refused the bribe and explained the company’s code of conduct.

 

Upon informing the client of the situation, the loading order was cancelled, and the logistics company was forced to provide a replacement container. Our client was very pleased with the professionalism of our inspector.

 

See here how a loading supervision works:

container loading inspection

A New Perspective for “Made in China” Products

Products bearing the “Made in China” label have long been considered as goods of questionable quality. When China reformed, opening for business to the world, it quickly became a global leader in manufacturing. This was due to a cheap labor force and access to raw materials.

made in china

However, substandard manufacturing processes made it difficult to produce refined products of high quality. With the accumulation of decades of experience in manufacturing, processing, supply chain management, and increasing demands for quality improvement from domestic and international consumers, China has greatly improved its manufacturing capabilities. This demand has resulted in the emergence of both high-end manufacturers and third-party quality assurance providers, with a focus on inspections, supplier evaluation, and testing.

Certified quality control providers in China must strictly comply with the requirements of the ISO17025 management system, which is recognized by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment (CNAS), a member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). Testing and inspection results issued by certified QC providers are recognized internationally. For example, testing lab results are periodically compared with the results from international labs to ensure they comply with ISO17025 requirements.

Understanding the state of the quality control inspection and testing industry is also key to understanding the shift in perception of “Made in China” products.

For example, clothing and textile products. Because they are close-contact articles, standards governing their manufacture have been implemented by quality assurance bodies around the world. Among the most well-known are the U.S. AATCC and ASTM, ISO, Australia AS, British BS, EU EN, Japan JIS and China GB. The testing standards tend to be similar, and primarily cover issues related to component materials, tensile strength, shrinkage, color fastness, hazardous substances, flammability, etc. However, the standards and requirements may differ considerably by retailer, importer, country and region; leading to varying degrees of product quality.global markets Therefore, the quality of “Made in China” products increasingly depends on market requirements, rather than a preconceived notion.

China manufacturers are now able to manufacture products across the all levels of the value chain, from high quality products at a higher cost, to mid-range and cheap inferior products at lower costs. This is a marked change from the past when limitations in technical and quality competencies in China resulted in a reputation for producing inferior products at low cost.

From the standpoint of buyers, importers and exporters, regions and governments, retailers and consumers, requirements for safety, environmental protection, appearance, function, etc. also vary considerably, thus impacting product quality. Different manufacturing and supply chain models are developed to support these requirements, which are then conveyed to Chinese manufacturers. The manufacturers carry out production and quality management as per the requirements to ensure satisfaction of the customer, receipt of payment, complaint and product recall mitigation, and sustainable development. Manufacturers with the best success in satisfying buyers outside of China are usually the enterprises with suitable scale and technical strength, and who can guarantee the level of product quality. To do so, they must be familiar with, and capable of managing, product quality demands across a broad spectrum of requirements.

Therefore, top manufacturers understand the importance of product inspection and testing from material selection through manufacturing. Proper application of quality processes and techniques helps to avoid reworking of finished products, refusal of entry at port, or recall after the products are sold on market. A qualified product inspection and testing report is quite important for guaranteeing the product quality and for increasing the trust among parties.

 

inspection report

How do inspection and testing providers guarantee the accuracy of inspection and testing reports and the quality of products made in China?

If an inspection or testing provider finds that a product does not comply with relevant criteria, details and proof of non-compliance are clearly recorded in the final report. Providers should not make any false statements or provide inaccurate information for any non-compliance discovered in products during the quality control process. While there are some exceptions, the quality control provider should generally not be viewed as an advocate for the buyer or seller, but rather as an independent, objective third party. As such, it maintains its own integrity, neutrality, and objectivity while providing reliable quality control reports; allowing it to preserve a professional reputation and sustainable business development.

A provider that violates these standards may come to the attention of the relevant regulatory bodies, by means of a complaint. In this case, an investigation is triggered, and any providers found to be repeat violators of prohibited acts would be barred from working in the industry. CNAS certified providers must report their findings of compliance or non-compliance truthfully and accurately; it comes down to their very survival in the industry.

This underscores the importance of engaging only with a CNAS, or other accreditation body, certified quality control provider. It ensures the integrity of the quality control standards and compliance with customer requirements. This helps to avoid compromising situations as suppliers who seek approval based on a single high-quality sample, bribery, and other games they play to circumvent the requirements.

Another factor in changing the perception of “Made in China” products is the growth of the OEM industry in China, the products of which are typically of very high quality. These include products being manufactured for Apple, Armani, GUCCI, and most other well-known brands.

ecommerce

With the rise of internet and ecommerce in China, as well as improvement in manufacturing processes and technologies, some Chinese enterprises have transformed themselves into design and manufacturing powerhouses. This is also changing the view of “Made in China”. These companies are building globally recognized brands such as HUAWEI, XIAOMI, and many others, and are poised to capture significant global market share in their categories.

These developments fully demonstrate that China manufacturing, supply chain, and quality support capabilities are accelerating quickly, and that China manufacturing no longer represents inferior products of low quality. Taken together, these support a new perspective for products “Made in China”.

made in china

Quality Control – DIY or Call in the Experts?

Will in-house quality control, or a third-party quality control provider, best help me achieve my quality goals? Which approach makes the most sense from a budget perspective? Can I affectively do both? How can I trust someone to know my product as well as I do? How can I control ethics and bribery?

The answer to these questions are clearly different for different organizations, and situations. This article will merely provide you with some considerations – advantages and disadvantages – that may help you in your decisioning process.

Personal Experience

I ran a sourcing business for nearly 10 years. In that time, I dealt with a myriad of quality and vendor issues. Some of these included: wrong product colors, wrong sizing, tools that bent or broke easily, substandard shoe leather, flimsy packaging, poorly loaded containers, horrendous factory conditions, and child labor.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

These are only a few of the many quality related problems I faced. In a few cases, just in time delivery of containers full of defective products had a significant negative impact on my business. I learned that a solid QC plan was necessary to keep my customers happy and business profitable.

In fact, I found a mix of in-house quality control and third-party inspections to be right in my case. My situation was different from many, in that my in-house inspectors wore many hats, not just as quality control inspectors. So, justifying the cost was easy for me.

I Know My Product Better Than Anyone!

You should! But, do you know all relevant import regulations? How about testing requirements, recall issues, and AQL inspection standards? Do you know all the tricks suppliers play to offer the best price against an awesome sample, while delivering a substandard product? Do you know how to best avoid production delays? Can you match the quality technical and industry knowledge of third-party quality control providers? Can you really trust test results from your supplier?

In many cases, the answer will be NO! Your business is to develop, manufacture and sell products. Sometimes it is best to leave quality control to the experts.

Cost

Consider the facts. Where pure cost is an issue, a third- party quality control provider is almost always the best option. Why? For example, it is seldom cheaper for someone to travel to Asia to do inspections than using a third-party inspection company.

If your company is large enough to staff in-house quality control in Asia, it can be workable, but the commitment and cost is still significant. Even in this case, there are times when it will be more cost effective, or technically wise, to bring in a third-party quality control provider.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

Scalability

Do you work with a single supplier or a few in the same city? Is your production infrequent? Doing your inspections with in-house staff might make sense. For many, however, production frequency and volume changes with the seasons and product types. Factories are in disparate locations. You might have a limited ability to scale staff to those needs. A third-party inspection provider gives you flexibility in achieving staffing, seasonable, and multi-location requirements.

Antibribery

Some assume this risk increases with third-party quality control providers. However, the risk of corruption must be factored into your in-house quality control model as well. In-house quality control departments are constantly dealing with this issue, because it often comes down to the local inspector, regardless of who they are working for. The key is a practical antibribery policy and how the policy is carried out.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

Of course, you can do this yourself. But the advantage of an accredited third-party quality control provider is unmistakable. A reputable provider will not only have an ethics policy and anti-bribery program in place, they can prove the results with data. It is simple for any company to say, “yes we have an anti-bribery policy”, or “all our inspectors are ethical”. This makes it vital to request documentation that proves how the program works.

Technical Expertise

Since nobody knows your product as well you, you may have a case for training in-house quality control inspectors. But, if you import wide range of products, a third-party inspection can provide expertise, and industry insight, you may not have. We are up-to-date with the latest trends, technology, and regulations. We also have deep experience and technical insight for a wide range of products. In addition, a good QC company will also be happy to accept whatever product training you want to provide.

Conclusions: Third-Party vs. In-House Quality Control

I have learned the hard way – a good quality control plan must be in place. In many cases I found the third-party inspections to be much quicker, more flexible and cost effective. Third-party quality control providers were more skilled at technical and social audits, which helped build value in my sales to retailers. They also helped me keep my in-house QC staff honest by means of unannounced inspector audits.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

A third-party quality control company also did all my testing. I learned to never to blindly trust self-testing by a supplier, or from their chosen labs. They tend to use their own equipment with dubious calibration record, or local testing labs that are not certified. So, the results were always suspect. If you do trust them, double check with a certified testing company from time to time. The supplier is usually not the one hurt by a recall or lawsuit, you are.

Even if you have the resources for in-house quality control in Asia, there will be times when third-party inspection services make total sense. Whether it be quality control inspections, factory audits, social compliance, supplier evaluations, consumer goods testing, or other quality assurance requirements, there will be a circumstance where third-party services can be a huge help.

Whatever you decide, remember, it’s your money and brand on the line.

And now, for short attention span people among us – the 60-second blog

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

DOWNLOAD

You can download the full article here.

And the infographic here.