Safer toys, shorter time to market | Managing risks from the earlier stages of development

Sponsored content from API – The Household Goods and Toys Quality Experts

Pandemic uncertainty continues to impact industries globally, including the world of toys. While some brands are thriving, many are facing unprecedented disruption caused by qualified workforce reductions, delayed shipments, unsteady demand, and increased pressure to accelerate their time to market. 

In this unpredictable and challenging landscape, ensuring product compliance and anticipating and preventing risks have become more critical than ever, yet many risks and non-compliance cases are being uncovered. In Europe alone, toys were again the most notified product in 2020, representing 27 per cent of RAPEX or Safety Gate alerts.  

Ensuring compliance while improving time to market is tough to achieve when logistical and production uncertainties are adding pressure to supply chains and slowing down procedures. Because in-house brand teams cannot be onsite when travel is restricted, validating samples have become lengthy, back-and-forth exchanges between factories and brands. And when timelines are tight, a feared – and too-common – moment is being surprised with a ‘FAIL’ result in a pre-shipment test at the last minute.

The most simple and effective way to address these challenges is to tackle risks as early as possible.

Some measures to anticipate risks that can be adopted even before production begins include: 

  • Accurate toy / non-toy classification
  • Adequate age recommendation and corresponding markings
  • Risk assessment and management of the design or prototype. 

It’s already common practice to move compliance measures upstream by testing pre-production samples. But while this can work with more reliable suppliers, it’s tricky to ensure that all suppliers use the same materials for mass production, particularly when the supply chain has been impacted by a sudden shortage of raw materials or logistical issues. Traceability has never been more important to avoid complications at the end of the production line. 

Chemical risk alerts on toys continue to be alarmingly high, with the identification of numerous banned chemicals that pose serious risks to children’s health. In recent years, one of the more common examples has been the presence of phthalates in the plastics used to make dolls. For example, instead of testing the PVC doll, brands and retailers can move upstream to track and test the PVC input and ensure it’s coming from an approved source. Where do the pellets originate? Who is the plastic supplier? This means taking a step back to evaluate the supplier’s performance based on the finished product and their processes and materials. 

Overall, tight control of supply chains and strong traceability can help prevent pre-shipment failures and reduce time to market. Taking a different and more preventative approach, API helps brands and retailers shorten their time to market through tailored support, both onsite and remotely. API’s toy quality specialists in Asia and Europe act as bridges between brand teams and factories, connecting each brand’s specific requirements with technical experts in the local language.

Some of API’s solutions for toys across the entire supply chain include: 

  • Product development assistance
  • Risk assessments of design or prototype 
  • Compliance testing 
  • Recommendations on performance and fit-for-play 
  • Documentary validation: Integrity and Technical Compliance File 
  • Marking verifications 
  • Inspections 
  • Factory assessments (technical, CSR, environmental audits)
  • Sustainability solutions 
  • Technical support 
  • Supply chain traceability 

Find out more about API solutions for toys here

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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