SATRAs Laboratory Accreditation programme
Investigating the value of SATRA Accredited testing facilities within the supply chain and the expert support available to SATRA members.
SATRA Laboratory Accreditation has been a prerequisite for footwear supply chains for nearly 30 years. The programme was first established in the mid-1990s and was quickly recognised by the British shoe industry for its ability to empower manufacturers to accurately validate raw material and design concepts pre-production, and avoid costly returns and complaints through the testing of finished footwear.
As the global relocation of production began, the importance of standardised production-based testing continued to grow, resulting in the adoption of SATRA’s Laboratory Accreditation Programme in China during the nineties.
The network of accredited laboratories now incorporates over 200 manufacturers located throughout Asia, the Americas and Europe. SATRA’s laboratory management system has also evolved over time to be a practical, production-focused procedure based on the principles of EN ISO 17025 international standard – ‘General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories’.
The global supply chain continues to adapt to shifts in both labour cost and availability. The need to be agile has resulted in the use of expansive supply chains placing greater emphasis on the need to control the quality of raw material and finished product.
Supply chain integration
Integration of SATRA Laboratory Accreditation within a brand owner’s supply chain begins with the review of the product specifications and the supply base. During this process, the capabilities of all suppliers are evaluated, and any investment needs or modifications are identified.
Audit criteria is then developed, incorporating any brand-specific requirements relating to the control of incoming raw materials, frequency of sampling, use of online reporting systems and competence in brand-specific test methods.
Following the communication of requirements to suppliers, an audit plan is devised. This encompasses the various layers of the supply base, with each supplier receiving expert support from SATRA to implement a robust management system and training in the necessary test methods where required.
An initial audit of the supplier is conducted, with each receiving a detailed audit report, highlighting any deficiencies and areas for improvement. Brand owners receive insight into the performance of each supplier in the form of an audit score, with intervention often introduced where suppliers fail to meet expectations.
Implementation of SATRA Laboratory Accreditation has proven to standardise testing operations across the supply base, resulting in a streamlined product development cycle, an increase in product consistency and a deeper understanding of brand expectations.
“Clarks global laboratories have been accredited by SATRA for many years now, as have the laboratories of many of our suppliers,” comments Robin Preston, global product quality manager at Clarks International.
“SATRA has developed and extended recognised quality management systems to provide an extensive audit and calibration service specific to the footwear and apparel industry. Successful SATRA Laboratory Accreditation in our vendors confirms they are already demonstrating critical key requirements as part of supporting a global sourcing and supply chain network. From a quality perspective, we have an increased confidence in suppliers that have SATRA Laboratory Accreditation – typically resulting in lower levels of input from our team.”
Manufacturers of footwear materials and finished product find that SATRA Laboratory Accreditation provides opportunities for new business, with many global brand owners and retailers actively seeking suppliers which demonstrate an ability to understand the quality of their products and possess the necessary facilities to ensure that products consistently meet the required specifications.
Manufacturers who operate a SATRA Accredited Laboratory benefit from the use of the 'SATRA Accredited Laboratory logo' – carrying a unique number – issued to each laboratory and which may be used on test reports that feature accredited test methods. Reports are highly valued by brand owners and retailers, and their acceptance has significantly reduced the demand for third-party testing, as well as the associated cost.
Manufacturing groups which operate numerous production sites value the programme for its ability to standardise testing operations, resulting in robust quality control practices and a reduction in rejects and reworking. Many companies have also benefited from the ability for staff to relocate within the business, taking with them their SATRA-certified testing scope to complement the activities of other production sites.
Setting up a laboratory
If a company is establishing a test laboratory ‘from scratch’, SATRA’s expert team can assist in identifying a suitable laboratory space, while highlighting additional resources required throughout the process – such as conditioning systems, utilities and test equipment. It is important that items of test equipment are well maintained and routinely calibrated by a competent body. SATRA manufactures and supplies a renowned range of test equipment and offers independent, traceable calibration services to a global customer base.
Starting a laboratory management system
During setup, laboratories are provided with a management system framework based on SATRA’s accreditation requirements. This framework includes example records and documentation required to populate the management system, which can easily be modified by the laboratory staff to encompass the testing activities to be undertaken.
Full guidance is provided throughout the accreditation setup process, with the option of on-site consultancy to train management staff in the contents and purpose of the laboratory management system and provide assistance with the implementation of the necessary documentation, records and practices.
It is important that the laboratory utilises members of staff who are knowledgeable and competent in the chosen test methods. Records must be kept to document both training and ongoing competency.
During the initial audit stage, and each time the laboratory’s testing scope is expanded, the competency of nominated technicians is assessed by SATRA. Successful assessment would result in the test methods being added to the laboratory’s accredited testing scope.
Training in the chosen test methods is also offered by SATRA and conducted on-site by experienced testing personnel. This is a popular service and is often an ideal route for manufacturers whose team is entirely new to testing or requires support with a specific range of test methods.
The accreditation process
The laboratory management system is initially audited by SATRA’s team of qualified auditors, and each laboratory technician is assessed in the requested test methods that will eventually feature on the laboratory’s accreditation scope and certificates. Calibration of testing equipment is often carried out by SATRA in conjunction with this initial audit.
A six-month surveillance audit is conducted to review any actions raised and check for ongoing conformity, before placing the laboratory onto an annual audit plan.
Following successful accreditation, there are several logos that laboratories may utilise for marketing purposes (depending on their status), and they may also include their numbered accreditation logo on test reports that feature accredited test methods. The manufacturer will also appear on SATRA’s online list of accredited testing facilities accessed via the SATRA website (www.satra.com).
Accredited laboratories benefit from remote support from SATRA’s team of experts, as well as significant discounts on other SATRA services and products such as calibration services, test equipment and SATRA test methods.
A deserved reputation
SATRA Laboratory Accreditation has a track record for delivering value throughout the footwear and related products supply chain. The impartial audit process and robust management system are highly regarded by brand owners and manufacturers alike.
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This article was originally published on page 14 of the November 2020 issue of SATRA Bulletin.