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US toy testing facility expands to meet demand

What's become known as the summer of recalls has left quite a mark on the toy industry, and it looks like companies that pledged to up toy-testing levels within the US weren't just paying lip service. In fact, Specialized Technology Resources has expanded operations at its US outpost Shuster Laboratories to meet the increase in demand for domestic testing.
February 1, 2008

What’s become known as the summer of recalls has left quite a mark on the toy industry, and it looks like companies that pledged to up toy-testing levels within the US weren’t just paying lip service. In fact, Specialized Technology Resources has expanded operations at its US outpost Shuster Laboratories to meet the increase in demand for domestic testing.

Between 2006 and 2007, the number of tests conducted at STR’s US facilities doubled, and the requests have yet to slow down. So the company has staffed up, brought in more equipment and has cross-trained current employees at its 42,000-square-foot lab in Canton, Massachusetts and its Enfield, Connecticut HQ.

‘We were getting calls from companies that had never done their own testing before,’ says Susan DeRagon, associate director of the toy and premium division. ‘They had relied on factories to ensure that the product was safe. We also heard from current clients that just wanted to enhance their programs.’

Beyond toycos, licensors, other licensees and retailers have been increasingly availing themselves of STR’s services. DeRagon notes that licensors accounted for the biggest segment bump in recent months. No one wants their brand tarnished, if they can at all avoid it, she notes.

Beyond testing for lead levels, STR offers a full-range of services, including use-and-abuse tests and checks for flammability and small/hazardous parts.

To start testing, the company requests a minimum of a dozen samples. It takes approximately five to seven business days to complete the tests and costs vary, depending on the type of test and frequency. For example, a simple lead test can cost as little as US$35, shooting up to thousands for toys with large production runs that require full audits.

STR will also work with clients from the concept stage, review the design to identify potential safety issues, make modification recommendations and then test product function once it’s been sculpted.

The company, which has been around since 1944, has toy testing operations in the US, the UK, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It’s currently building a laboratory in Vietnam that will also include toy testing, and is also looking at upping its Mexican facility’s capabilities.

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