Intertek redefined the industry a few years ago with the inclusion of Assurance into the classic portfolio of Testing, Inspection and Certification, as a tool to provide systemic risk assessment and end-to-end solutions to customers. Holding a solid ground through ATIC (Assurance, Testing, Inspection, and Certification), Intertek believes its initiatives have been widely valued by customers across industries and geographies as stakeholders have tried to grapple with rapidly changing risk profiles over the pandemic.
Team Apparel Resources (AR) recently talked to Sandeep Das, RMD – South Asia & MENAP Products, Intertek to know how Intertek is supporting the market that has evolved tremendously ever since pandemic disrupted the businesses. Here are the glimpses.
AR: First of all, tell us how the last two-and-a-half years have been for Intertek and its business in India, Bangladesh, and in its overseas markets?
Sandeep: Amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, the last two-and-a-half years have been both challenging and rewarding for Intertek. Intertek has been ahead of the marketplace to understand the industry requirements and invest in bespoke service innovations to support industries.
Most of the initiatives launched by Intertek during the Covid period were purposed for the time – for example, investing in a PPE Centre of Excellence (COE) in both India and Bangladesh, and the launch of innovative services like Protek that provides a holistic approach toward workplace safety assessment and employee well-being.
There were others focused on Mega Trends affecting the world like the consciousness on Traceability and Sustainability – which saw a number of solutions like SourceClear, ESG Assurance, the launch of High-Performance mark (HP mark), Vegan Mark certification, Recycled Polyester verification, etc.
AR: Intertek came up with Protek services during 2020 which was a COVID-19 year to help businesses keep their people safe. Please share with us how is the demand for your Protek services today from the Asian sub-continent?
Sandeep: Demand for Protek services is still increasing as organisations continue to realise the importance of health, safety, hygiene and well-being. We have seen in various sectors that investments are taking place to improve their processes which can take care of the well-being of employees.
Our certification and training programmes like ISO14001, OHSAS, which help the prevention of spread of infections are regularly being adopted, especially as the training and awareness programmes continue to gain traction and importance.
Some of our key clients are still taking this forward in all their offices worldwide and not limited to the country. We have noticed that it is not only large organisations that are sponsoring the participants for Protek training modules, even mid-size and smaller industries are also starting to sponsor participants for trainings related to health and safety.
As there is an increase in usage of digital mediums, the demand for our training and certification has grown almost threefold where we provide the services related to information and data security, etc.
Therefore, overall the requirements for these services are increasing and are not limited to large industries.
AR: Intertek opened PPE Labs in India and Bangladesh last year. We can see a drastic decline in medical PPE manufacturing in both countries. However, industrial PPE manufacturing is seeing huge investments in India even in 2022. How are these trends affecting the operations of your PPE labs?
Sandeep:We have taken proactive steps by setting up the PPE Centre of Excellence (PPE COE) initiative with one-stop solutions. Intertek has been ahead of the marketplace to invest in an opportunity. So, we see it as an opportunity and not as a challenge. Since its inception, our PPE COE has supported customers with regulatory and bespoke testing, CE Marking, FDA registration, while also providing technical assistance to our customers with local and global experts.
It is true that the beginning of the pandemic brought an urgent requirement in scaling up medical PPE production, with many garment manufacturers entering this new and niche segment, resulting in initial challenges with respect to the right sourcing of raw material and finished product compliance. With the easing out of Covid restrictions globally, vast vaccination drives, and recalibration of demand, many garment manufacturers have now come out of this segment and are focusing on their core businesses i.e., the apparel segment.
However, the pandemic has permanently changed the way people look at personal health and safety – this new sector has currently progressed significantly, invested a lot, resolved various challenges and obstacles, and is moving forward in a positive direction with support from the Government, Regulatory Authorities and core manufacturers in the healthcare segment. It continues to look promising.
We are open to all local and global customers for their quality assurance requirements as far as PPE is concerned. We are receiving a positive response and queries from manufacturers to support them for their product compliance. It looks like leading manufacturers are reviewing possibilities to expand their production capabilities and explore the global market for the post-pandemic situation. Considering the increasing demand at this moment and anticipated future demand, the industry needs to keep investing in this segment.
AR: If you track the growth of the global business of assurance, testing, inspection, and certification in the last decade, which product segment is growing and which is shrinking – especially in India and Bangladesh? What is the global phenomenon?
Sandeep: The ATIC industry has always been a by-product of manufacturing and as these activities have expanded across the globe and the supply chain has become more and more fragmented, the market has introduced more and more regulatory frameworks – to ensure the quality and safety of the manufactured goods.
As various countries have developed their unique supply chains, the ATIC industries locally have adapted and built capabilities to service their quality assurance needs.
Based on the above, Intertek South Asia provides a wide-ranging portfolio of services covering a large number of domains – based on what the market needs. As we see a change in manufacturing patterns, we alter or expand capabilities – we are definitely seeing a shift in the manufacturing of Hardline products as well as Electrical products in India, as a result of the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Apart from this, there are Mega Trends that affect the industry, and as partners, we try to equip ourselves accordingly. The post-Covid world is seeing a lot of focus on Sustainability, Traceability and Well-being – our services in these segments are seeing a huge increase, not just in South Asia but across the world.
AR: Geographical Indication (GI) of textile products, recycled fibre authentication, traceability of textile value chain, etc., are some of the demanding requirements from brands and manufacturers globally which is going to grow multifold in the future. What are Intertek’s solutions for these areas?
Sandeep: All transaction certificates issued by Intertek have a geographic indication of the product specified. As the demand for sustainable and traceable products is increasing globally, Intertek has developed Intertek SourceClear to manage traceability and supply chain performance.
Through SourceClear, organisations will gain the following benefits:
- Visibility of one’s facilities, subcontractors and business partners in the scope of certification
- Traceability of verified recycled or organic content in products and materials
- Guided online end-to-end process for managing certifications
- Enhanced reporting of sustainability goals, data and documentation accessible in one platform
- Secured sharing of authentic and verifiable certification with customers
- Achievement of trusted and verified supplier partner status to one’s global customers
AR: While conducting lab tests for garments or textiles, what are the common mistakes or loopholes you find are prevailing in these products that the industry needs to overcome and keep pace with global standards?
Sandeep: Higher input material and process controls, and an awareness of regulation updates in time can help manufacturers to minimise failures on final products, thus saving crucial time and costs that get incurred in overprocessing.
Awareness of desired restricted substances list and inventory management also plays an important role in avoiding crucial RSL failures.
AR: Of all chemicals in textile and apparel products, health risks associated with lead and phthalates are considered crucial, especially in kids and juvenile products. How strongly Intertek is addressing these risks generated from bad chemical compositions in products?
Sandeep: There are several countries across the globe that have strict regulations for toys. In India, similar regulation was introduced in 2017 to mitigate the risks involved. Our expertise in the testing of toys and other child-appealing articles helps to ensure that the products meet the highest standards of quality, safety and performance. We work closely with industry stakeholders such as associations and regulatory bodies and give our inputs based on our global expertise with respect to regulatory requirements and enforcement of test standards.
AR: Do you think brands, manufacturers and other players in the textile value chain need to work as a cohesive force to support initiatives like Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) which is somehow missing on a large scale despite so much talk about it? How can Intertek help these stakeholders?
Sandeep: ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme is a great initiative and over the last decade has paved the way for cleaner and sustainable chemical management within the fashion industry. ZDHC contributors such as signatory brands, chemical industry, textile & footwear industry, solution providers and associates have been a driving force towards the success of the Road to Zero Programme and it is essential that more brands, manufacturers and associates collaborate to further strengthen the ongoing success of this programme.
Intertek has been associated with the ZDHC programme since its inception and holds an active role with the ZDHC academy to increase awareness amongst the players in the textile and leather value chain. Intertek’s network of ZDHC-approved laboratories for wastewater testing, MRSL level 1 conformance, and auditing expertise are supporting the manufacturers for better input controls, processes, and output controls to build a safer, cleaner and sustainable supply chain.
Intertek ToxClear, our newly launched innovative digital chemical inventory management platform, helps brands and suppliers improve traceability and transparency in the supply chain through 24×7 visibility and control on chemical inventories and performance.
AR: Indian apparel manufacturers and retailers are systematically diversifying into the soft toy segment. They are even getting policy support from the Government for textile toy manufacturing in India. Intertek already offers services for the toy industry. How do you see the increasing focus on textile toys from your business perspective?
Sandeep: Increasing focus on textile toys will certainly help Indian toy manufacturers to further grow and sustain in the global market. The entire world is shifting its focus towards environmentally-friendly alternatives. Environmental impact can also be controlled by increasing the usage of compostable and recyclable materials in toys, which makes textile-based toys a child-friendly sustainable option from a long-term perspective.
At Intertek, Sustainability is core to our business, and we are also supporting the industry on the ESG front, offering services such as carbon footprint audits and biodegradability studies.
AR: Another trend noticed recently is large manufacturers are setting up their in-house testing facilities that are buyer-accredited. This might reduce the dependency on third-party testing services! What’s your take on this?
Sandeep: Yes, buyers have been driving more visibility and controls in their manufacturing supply chain. Accreditation of in-house physical testing labs within manufacturers’ facilities helps them to build up capability for real-time QC checks on product quality and production lead time optimisation. We see it as a step towards enhanced collaboration with manufacturers as Intertek has been providing end-to-end assurance services, supporting customers in building up their in-house lab capability. Also, this doesn’t rule out the requirement of testing of products through neutral third-party testing laboratories as regulatory frameworks across the world get more and more complex and are rapidly changing.
AR: What are your expansion projects that are already there in the pipeline? What should the industry expect from Intertek in the future?
Sandeep: Intertek has established itself as a champion of risk-based quality assurance, developing and providing science-based solutions to the stakeholder community. We will continue to stay close to customers and their needs and invest in capability building to address the ever-changing needs of quality assurance.
Stakeholders of the future – governments, customers, and society – will look at Quality, Safety and Sustainability in a different way and Intertek will provide them with end-to-end science-based solutions … that’s how we see ourselves going forward.
We will continue to be a force for good.