Product testing is one of the most important stages of a product’s life cycle. It enables the company to find out the flaws inherent to their product, find out what improvements need to be made, and improve their customer’s experience with their product. When choosing a product testing lab, there are many things you should consider.
What is a product testing lab?
A product testing lab is a facility that audits the performance of a product for its quality, safety, and durability. The lab is usually equipped with a variety of tools and instruments to do all sorts of exams – some instruments even measure the performance of the product in different conditions.
Most labs have a variety of specialist and technological tools that enable them to run a gamut of tests on a product — from EMC testing to persistent pollutants testing, all the way to chemical testing. Some labs specialize in certain types of products or services like automotive or aviation, others on specific product types like mobile phones, toys, and foods.
Companies use these labs when they need to test their new products before they go on sale.
Products need to be tested because they are not perfect — no product on the market right now is perfect. They all have flaws. Testing is done to understand these flaws and weigh the value of fixing them right away or taking on the risks of shipping the product as it is.
Testing is also done to find out what improvements can be made in the design or production of the product.
The general idea, in an idyllic world, is that flaws need to be fixed before a product is launched. This is not always the case, as solving an issue at a late stage might mean a further investment a company is not willing to fund. Or a delay that may hurt their brand reputation. In such a case the product is sold as is and a technical debt is incurred with the consumer — such is the case with software and handheld devices. The “fix” is sidelined into an update.
By testing, companies can evaluate their risks and understand the type of vulnerabilities and threats they are facing. A product is not perfect and will never be perfect as long as it is being manufactured by humans.
It is also important to note that some errors need to be solved and patched regardless of their cost. Errors that have to do with consumer safety, environmental issues, and compliance issues — designs, criteria, and official regulations that need to be met to get a certification and meet the standards required by the law.
Factors to consider when choosing a product testing lab
Without compliance, certifications, and certain key reports it is not possible to sell some products in well-regulated markets — markets like the USA, or EU for example. This is why it is critical – depending on the product group and requirement – to undergo rigorous laboratory testing. Product testing labs take into account a variety of complex resolutions and stay on top of the constantly shifting Federal landscape – one that continually evolves and undergoes updates to its guidelines. They take into account FCC directives, the German Product Safety Act, RoHS Directives, and other requirements such as the EU Toys Directive of 2009.
There are a couple of factors to take into consideration when deciding on a product safety testing lab — let’s take a look at them.
The laboratory should be accredited to ISO 17025
ISO 17025 is a quality management system standard for calibration and testing laboratories. It is designed to ensure that the laboratories provide accurate, consistent, and objective measurements. It’s important to find a lab whose equipment and guidelines have been analyzed by an objective party.
Scope of accreditation
What type of accreditation do they have and what type can they get your products? This is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing the right product testing lab. This ensures their credibility and your brand’s credibility. Some testing requires labs that have experience with certain certifications.
Aside from finding a product testing lab that has exactly the type of audit you need, it might also be smart to think ahead and take into consideration future types of testing. Try to find a lab that easily and dynamically facilitates additional tests. Some labs even provide services regarding compliances and federal standards. Before you settle on a lab, examine their list of services.
Particularly in the food industry, where so many products are highly perishable, turnaround time is pivotal. This is a major factor when deciding on a laboratory since it ends up influencing a lot of your product launch strategy as well as the overall schedule.
Before plunging headlong into a decision, determine how the lab reports their findings. Some labs simply deliver raw data, while others provide reader-friendly versions. This will help you and your team better understand how your product is doing — while also giving you the necessary ammo for certain certification processes.
Distance and logistics
Another important factor is the distance of the facility or lab. If it has a courier service, how efficient is their transportation, etc. This plays a large role in deciding on what product performance testing lab to hire.
Find third-party product testing labs or suppliers that are familiar with the specific requirements of the product in question. Whether you need to test product performance, electromagnetic field, reverse engineer a certain trait, run a toxicology report, label ingredients properly, etc. Each product is different and so is the testing for it — not only the type needed for certifications or compliance but those your board may require to sign off on a product’s quality.
Expertise is perhaps one of the most important factors when choosing the right product testing lab. Read about the team and the staff and their current clients. Ask what sort of testing they have previously performed — speak with everyone on the organizational tree, grill managers, and engineers, and ask specific questions regarding your product and the test they need.
The cost of testing is a determining factor for some people, nonetheless, it should never be an overriding factor. Affordability is important but remember, sometimes “cheap” really does mean “cheap” in every sense of the word.
Labs must have strict protocols and guidelines in place that guarantee your confidentiality as well as your product’s safety as far as intellectual property goes.
The importance of choosing the right lab
Safety is one of the most important aspects of any product. A company needs to show its customers that its products are safe and comply with applicable regulations.
It is not enough to just provide a guarantee on your product, you should also be able to demonstrate it through your product testing. Customers will be more likely to buy your product if they know that it complies with safety regulations.