4. After you’ve talked to your customers, joined one or two of the relevant trade organizations in your industry, and done some research, go back and reconsider #1. You may find that the requirements to start your own lab are much more expensive than simply sending out your materials for testing to a 3rd party testing lab or may require employees with skills and training PERFORMANCE FABRIC that you can’t easily obtain. Even if you have to test several samples from each lot, that is often more cost-effective than building a lab from scratch. The testing organizations will give you package pricing for tests that you use often. If you’re on the fence regarding whether to invest in the lab, use a 3rd party lab for one year, and keep detailed records of all your testing expenses. Compare that yearly expense with the expense of starting and maintaining your lab now that you’ve done a bit of homework. Depending on your company’s accounting procedures, you may need to see a return on that lab investment within 3 or 7 years. This practice will help you put some firm numbers behind your decision one way or the other.
Restricted Substance Testing
Restricted substance testing is more complicated in terms of the technology used to conduct it, so your choice regarding how to conduct that testing is pretty simple- send it out to an accredited 3rd party test lab for testing. Unless you already have an ICP spectrometer or an XRF device, you will be sending out your samples for testing. Please note that even if you have an internal lab you use to conduct your QC and/or performance testing, you will still need to send out for restricted substance testing if it is required.
There are many restricted substance test protocols, but they are generally either a requirement of your customer, required legislation, or both.
Examples of restricted substance testing plans from customers include: Nike RSL and adidas A-01. Most major apparel companies have an adopted testing plan similar to these. Examples of required legislation include Prop 65, REACH, and CPSIA. Many 3rd parties have gotten in on the action by creating their own testing protocols that attempt to satisfy the required legislation AND the major customer requirements. A great example of this is Oeko-tex 100 certification. In my opinion, Oeko-tex is currently the best testing restricted substance test protocol in the world for the money because it does a very good job of incorporating the legislative requirements (AKA The Law) with major customer requirements. I see more and more companies on a weekly basis getting their materials Oeko-tex certified AND using that certification as a marketing point in their product promotion.
Another plus for Oeko-tex is that so many apparel companies recognize it that once you get a product line Oeko-tex certified, you get a free pass on about 90-95% of many major customers required tests. Translation: you don’t have to pay twice (or 3 times) for the same test on the same material.