Due diligence testing of footwear
How SATRA can provide help with due diligence testing.
by Debbie Reed
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A previous SATRA Bulletin article on due diligence indicated the steps to take in order to provide an item of footwear that is fit for purpose. Here we look at one part of this system – ‘testing’ – and how SATRA can help.
Due diligence is carried out to show that all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure the product is safe and fit for purpose. Sample testing should always be part of any due diligence system. Crucial questions must be asked, such as ‘how often must testing be undertaken?’ and ‘at what point in the process?’ This information would normally be specified in contracts between the suppliers and retailers. Depending upon the demands of the contract, the testing regime may not be sufficient to satisfy some due diligence requirements. For example, rather than merely assessing initial prototypes, it is advisable to test samples that represent the main production.
|Prevention is better than a cure|
|What if… a child returns from school shoe her feet slightly damp from perspiring, only to find her white socks now discoloured from the dye transferring from the red lining in her shoes? It may wash out or the socks can easily be replaced, but what if the child then walks onto a light coloured carpet transferring colour from the damp sock onto the carpet. This could then become an expensive claim.
What if… in order to reduce costs, a shoe manufacturer uses insufficient componentry and/or poor quality insole boards when attaching heels to women’s court shoes? The heel might become detached during normal wear, injuring the wearer. This would result in a compensation claim, a possible recall, and potential reputable damage to the retailer, shoe manufacturer and shoe supplier.
If only… adequate and appropriate testing was conducted, a quality control system was in place and due diligence testing was carried out.
As sampling raises costs, suppliers inevitably want to select an economic amount for testing that effectively minimises the risk of unacceptable products reaching the customer. SATRA is able to assist by advising on the most suitable quality or safety critical tests for each product, focusing on testing the aspects that carry the most risk.
Suppliers or retailers themselves may carry out or request random ‘due diligence’ testing to monitor the quality of deliveries. These samples can be tested in-house or sent to SATRA for independent testing.
The benefits of using SATRA
SATRA works to the internationally recognised quality management standard ISO 17025 for all laboratory work. Our ISO 17025 laboratory management system is independently audited and assessed by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) – the UK’s national body for accrediting laboratories.
SATRA has provided testing services on materials, components and whole footwear for members for 95 years. During this time, SATRA has developed a high level of expertise, and its technologists and scientists are widely recognised for their quality and professionalism. This means that SATRA can identify the most appropriate tests and conduct them accurately and diligently. A fast response – generally at no extra cost – will be provided, along with expert interpretation of test results when required. Assessments can be made against a particular retailer’s specification, or to SATRA’s recommendations, which are continually evolving to accommodate new developments and changes within the footwear industry.
Assessing against specifications using a straightforward ‘pass’ and ‘fail’ report does not always give a complete picture. SATRA is simply not just a test house – it has technologists that have several decades of service and are able to use this vast experience and knowledge to interpret a result and offer additional advice that may help to resolve the problem or to prevent it re-occurring.
Any raw materials (such as componentry, uppers and linings) should either be tested or purchased against an agreed specification. It is vital to ensure that these raw materials are consistent from day to day, as in this way variations between products will be reduced. SATRA can provide product reports to help market new materials and components.
A product report is a single sheet, containing information that can help to promote a quality product. It includes details regarding the supplier/manufacturer, as well as the product’s full reference and description. The report contains test data but no guideline recommendations, so it can be passed to members and non-members. In some cases, SATRA can provide the details of the types/styles of footwear for which the material/component is suited. A product report will also give suppliers added marketing potential, and also enable shoe manufactures to check out various materials at a fraction of the cost associated with testing.
A minimum testing protocol is usually required to ensure that a confident technical opinion can be formed. A full reference would also be needed and, if there is a colour range, more than one colour may need to be assessed. If this is not feasible, then the colour tested is only listed on the report.
Finished footwear should be tested for relevant physical, quality and chemical testing before it is placed on the market. This testing may be carried out by several different parties, including in-house laboratories, nominated accredited laboratories, or within the company’s own factories.
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SATRA can help to assess whether the required standard has been maintained throughout the production, and this can be carried out in several ways. Raw materials can be sent directly to SATRA in the UK or, for companies in China, to SATRA Technology Services in Dongguan. On arrival, SATRA can perform the tests requested or select the most suitable tests to assess the product, either to your specification or to SATRA’S recommendations.
Samples of completed footwear, as with the raw materials, can be submitted, either listing the tests you require to be conducted or allowing us to recommend the most appropriate tests. Should you wish for a completely independent sampling process, SATRA can visit your premises or retail establishments and select samples for testing. For each of these styles, an overall visual assessment (highlighting any possible noticeable defects) can be given and the most appropriate tests be performed.
The chosen tests may be physical or chemical (such as for restricted substances), or a combination. There are over 200 tests for footwear materials, components or complete footwear. Being able to call on its considerable pool of knowledge, SATRA will be able to help advise and perform the most suitable tests in relation to the end-use.
It is important to remember that the purpose of testing is not merely to identify unsatisfactory items, but to identify any poor shoemaking procedures that need to be corrected. It is through an appropriate level of testing that suppliers can go a long way to demonstrate that they have undertaken all reasonable steps to ensure that the product is fit for purpose.
How can we help?
Please email on us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like SATRA to perform due diligence testing or to produce product reports. Visit www.wholeshoetest.com for information on tests that are suitable for a range of footwear styles.
This article was originally published on page 42 of the December 2014 issue of SATRA Bulletin.