When materials and components are not fit for purpose there is a high risk of customer complaints, product failure and the possibility of claims for compensation. Product specifications are a vital part of the buying process and ensure product uniformity. They assist with the task of demonstrating that due diligence has been exercised and that ‘all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure a product is safe’.
Key areas where SATRA can help retailers who are thinking of resourcing:
* Advice on the content of product specifications
* Up to-date information on product safety legislation including: The General Product Safety Regulations 1994 and 92/59/EEC; glass in furniture; bunk beds; upholstery; wire management in office furniture; the UK Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988
* Detailed performance standards for materials, components and complete items–SATRA’s Furniture Guidelines are useful here
* Training buyers and specifiers in the complex issues relating to flammability regulations and especially their responsibilities with demonstrating traceable compliance
* Assisting with factory inspections–on the look out for product weaknesses
* Evaluation and testing of prototypes to check compliance with regulations and performance guidelines. SATRA uses only UKAS-accredited procedures
* Resolving disputes between manufacturer and retailer. SATRA’s expertise and impartiality can be crucial here
* Examining products to see where improvements can be made on productivity and profits–using value analysis as a key development tool
* Re-designing and writing assembly instructions so they make sense and are easy to use
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SATRA can advise on furniture designs and drawings or prototypes can be evaluated before expensive tooling is committed.
Clearly it makes sense to prove that a new product is fit for purpose before a commitment to production or purchase is made. SATRA laboratories can be used to carry our preproduction evaluation and where problems are identified SATRA specialists can advise on remedial and more importantly preventative action.
Getting the furniture made ‘right first time’ is in everyone’s interests. SATRA VisionStitch is a product already used in the upholstery industry to train sewing machinists to attain improved levels of productivity. Many furniture companies are already claiming improved efficiencies of around 15%.
Testing at source
Whilst SATRA encourages companies to send items to them in the UK for evaluation and testing to established guidelines and specifications, it is recognised that testing at source may be more economic. SATRA can support companies that wish to set up their own testing departments through assistance with equipment, calibration and training staff, etc
Three examples of significant UK requirements:
1. Safety of upholstery and beds with mechanical and motorised mechanisms. Such furniture is deemed as a ‘machine’, The requirements are that the UK supplier must ensure that the product conforms to the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994. The items must be CE Marked but this can be done by the manufacturer as a means of self certification to the above standard.
2. Glass Standards and Regulations. The standards which apply to the use of glass in furniture are covered by BS 7449 and BS 7376, which deals with the inclusion of glass in furniture. All furniture must also comply with the General Product Safety Regulations 1994.
3. Domestic upholstered furniture. There are specific requirements laid down in English Law and contained in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. There are two tests that relate to covers–the match test and the cigarette test. These tests apply equally to any type of cover material–woven, knitted and non-woven fabrics, coated fabrics, vinyls and leathers.
The SATRA Quality Mark and ISO 9002 certification are two major credentials that demonstrate an ability to produce products to a consistent level of quality. Manufacturers should use these to demonstrate a commitment to producing ‘quality first time and every time.’
With customers in the market place becoming ever more sensitive to global issues and standards it may be necessary to consider the need to demonstrate that environmental, health, safely, and ethical trading issues have been addressed.
SATRA experts regularly visit furniture manufacturing plants in China, Malaysia, Italy and Spain to inspect manufacturing facilities on behalf of UK based retailers and resourcing companies. These inspections are useful to highlight areas where improvement is required.
Transit and storage
Furniture is not perishable but it can suffer dramatically in storage and transit if the conditions are severe or if the correct packaging has not been used. SATRA can use special climatic chambers to assess the risks of adverse shipping and storage conditions. It can also provide a small, robust device called ‘Sensor’ which measures both temperature and humidity during the critical shipping process.