Toy safety in China – a development partnership with the private sector
Title: Material management and product safety in the Chinese toy industry (completed)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Partners: Schleich GmbH; intelligent views GmbH
Overall term: 2010 to 2015
Over 70 per cent of the world’s toys are now manufactured in China. Defective components and product design faults have had a series of negative consequences for human health and the environment in recent years.
In addition to the direct health problems, which hit children and workers in the toy industry the hardest, faulty products are highly detrimental to consumer confidence and to the reputation of all products made in China. Product recalls threaten the livelihoods of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Chinese toy industry and their employees, who are often migrant workers from the poorest regions of the country. The cost to the toy industry as a whole is high.
To help tackle these issues, German toy manufacturer Schleich GmbH and GIZ pooled their resources and expertise to forge a development partnership on product safety in the toy industry on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A cost-efficient, user-friendly and flexible system for managing materials in the toy manufacturing process reduces the complexity of international value chains to a workable level and guarantees end-to-end quality and safety for the entire production process. The system is well-known throughout the industry and is used by companies and public-sector actors.
During the pilot phase, selected Chinese producers in Guangdong and Jiangsu received technical support and training to enable them to introduce a new material management system. The ‘semantic system’, as it is known, is based on technology from German IT company intelligent views GmbH.
Schleich GmbH provided special technical expertise for adapting and introducing the system and carefully documented the production process of the companies selected. From the outset, the material management system was designed in such a way as to enable other toy firms to use it.
GIZ is contributing its capacity development expertise and its experience in moderating dialogue between different interest groups. It is also holding information events and raising awareness of product safety among companies by publishing literature and organising training programmes.
Toy manufacturers have more efficient and reliable procedures for providing consumers and testing authorities with information about materials, production processes and tests already carried out on toys made in China. The system is simple, can be applied broadly, makes a sustainable contribution to protecting human health and the environment and strengthens consumer confidence.
The transparency and availability of information about the substances used, the supplier firms involved and the tests carried out serve to reduce companies’ costs and simplify their quality management processes. The system makes it easier and more cost-effective to pinpoint and eliminate risks in the production process and identify and implement adjustments required as a result of legislative changes. The positive economic effect can be leveraged for the industry as a whole in Germany and China, helping to secure employment and incomes for unskilled migrant workers in particular. The development partnership with Schleich GmbH also supports the SME strategy of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).