The Problem with Test Reports
It was one of our hottest selling bags and we were flat out-of-stock. At least a dozen backorders had already piled up by the time the container with 150,000 new pieces finally arrived at our receiving dock.
The product, a polyester backpack with a zippered pocket, came in four colors, each with a matching coated zipper pull. The arriving pieces should have gone into production as fast as the container was unloaded. Instead, I received a chilling email from my in-house testing lab:
"Product failed XRF test upon receipt. Lead: 4,600 ppm in surface coating of zipper pull. Shipment quarantined."
4,600! The legal limit was 600 ppm if those bags were decorated for children. How could it be? Didn't we have a pristine test report from a major third party lab just weeks earlier?
Yes, it was true. This shipment failed but weeks earlier we had received a current test report in which the same product from the same factory passed every test with flying colors, and from one of the most respected CPSC-certified labs in the world. What could have gone wrong?
A lot went wrong, we learned. To begin with, the sample that was sent to the testing lab was made from a different batch of material than the production pieces. That's not unusual. As long as the product spec, bill of materials and factory doesn't change you shouldn't have to send every batch to be third party tested.
But that's the point. Something obviously did change but no one knew about it. Maybe not even the factory. It's the same thing that happened to all those Barbie Dolls back in 2007. In this case it was the zipper pull. The production pieces were sprayed with a different coating than the sample.