China plays for export toy licences

CHINA is placing great emphasis on quality certification of products, as well as system certification using ISO 9000.

In 1992, the China Import and Export Commodity Inspection Bureau (CCIB) took a further step in this direction when it announced that, from July, all toy companies wishing to export their products will first have to obtain an export quality licence.

The policy requires a company to have its product samples tested by a government inspection bureau. If the products pass the test, a team of assessors from the bureau will then undertake a quality system audit.

Results of the audit will determine whether or not the company will be granted a five-year quality licence.

Echo Electronic Toys Factories in China, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Echo Toys Co., is one firm that has realised the need to obtain an export quality licence to be able to continue exporting electronic remote-control cars and other mechanical toys to its European and American markets.

Echo Toys' management agreed to concentrate its efforts on obtaining the licence, and temporarily postponed plans for ISO 9000 certification.

In September, Echo Toys invited Merchandise Testing Laboratories (MTL), a Hong Kong quality management consultant, to advise the company on the implementation of the quality systems at its two factories on the mainland.

The first phase of the three-phase programme called for a visit to the Echo Toys' factories at Dongguan and Shenzhen to assess how closely the existing systems met the CCIB and ISO 9003 requirements.

A quality system audit was undertaken to see how the production capability and quality system were structured.

It was found that certain practices, which were acceptable in the past, would not meet the CCIB licence requirements, and that most existing methodologies could be improved.

Having determined what needed to be done, MTL put forward a plan for Echo Toys' management to approve.

The plan, in particular, spelt out the sequence of events, laid down realistic deadlines taking into account production schedules, and allocated responsibilities.

Echo Toys was also advised to appoint a steering committee to implement the changes.

''Our responsibility at this stage was to provide advice and guidance,'' said Dennis Woo, the quality services manager of MTL.

''We stressed the importance of top management commitment and participation by all the factory employees.'' Echo Toys was advised to adopt a three-tier management system.

The first tier related to ISO 9003, and, in October, the Quality Manual was produced.

It concisely set out the company policy, explained how the quality system was organised and managed, and restated the ISO 9003 requirements.

The second tier consisted of quality procedures related to the first tier, and spelt out how the quality system was to be operated and maintained.

Ten procedures were written by the appropriate Echo Toys' manager, based on the existing quality activities.

All employees took part in a quality awareness campaign to ensure a successful implementation of the systems.

Policy statements were circulated, talks were held for the work force, posters were placed in strategic locations, customers' comments on product quality were circulated, and almost everyone in the company attended some kind of training.

This was followed by internal quality system audits, to ensure that the systems met CCIB requirements and Echo Toys' documentation.

Throughout the implementation process, regular reviews were carried out as part of a predetermined schedule, and fortnightly management meetings were held between Merchandise Testing Laboratories and Echo Toys.

A pre-assessment audit in December identified a few small improvements that needed to be done, and they were easily introduced in the available time.

At the end of the month, CCIB assessors descended on Echo Toys.

As part of the audit, they examined all the elements of the system, such as equipment calibration, raw material and product identification, employee training and warehouse management, to ensure that they complied with CCIB's requirements.

The result was a resounding success, and the award of the coveted CCIB licence.