When you’re ready to outsource your project for testing, here are eight factors to consider when choosing a testing laboratory…
1. Capability & Expertise
Probably the most important factor when choosing a testing laboratory is their expertise and capability to expertly and accurately test your product.
How do you tell? Of course talk to their salesperson or main point of contact, but if you’ve got more in-depth questions ask to speak to an engineer. Many labs will allow you to speak with the person who will be working specifically on your project to answer your questions. Are they knowledgeable? Helpful? Yes. Then you’re off to a good start.
2. Availability / Time to Market
Next and also vitally important is 1) is the lab is available when you need them? and 2) will their turnaround time meet your desired deadline?
3. Array of Services Available
Next, obviously you need a lab that can perform a specific test for this specific project, but what other services might you need either now or in the future?
At the end of the day if your product doesn’t pass the test, many labs simply give you a pass/fail report and send you on your way, whereas other labs offer additional services such as engineering. These labs can help you solve the problem immediately if you run into an issue, helping get your product to market faster. Some labs even offer proactive services to help their clients before testing begins by reviewing the design for regulatory and reliability compliance standards.
Many times it also makes sense to work with a lab that is capable of handling your potential future projects in other areas as well. It adds convenience working with the same lab on multiple or varied projects. You’re in their system; they know you and your preferences, and you know them and how they work. It’s an all-around win-win.
4. Customer Service
We all understand the importance of good customer service, but how can you tell what kind of service you’ll get before you even use a lab? Generally there are three ways to tell:
1) Take a friend’s word for it. If you’re referred personally to a lab by a peer or business acquaintance chances are the customer service will be great.
2) Take a stranger’s word for it. If you’re reading reviews on a third party site (like Yelp or Google), chances are they’re fairly trust-worthy, you’re just lacking that personal connection to the referrer.
3) Client reviews on the lab’s own website. Quotes from former clients are good, but keep in mind the lab will usually only post the best of the best which may not give a complete view of the lab’s customer service history.
5. Results / Reports
Another detail that will make a big impact on your overall experience with a lab is their report output and turnaround time. Find out before you sign on with a lab if your results will be delivered as raw data or as an easy-to-read custom report, as well as how long it will take to receive your report.
A couple of things will affect your location radius. If you’re a hands-on person and would like to hand-deliver your product to be tested or if you’d like to be present during testing (if your lab allows it), you’ll want to choose a local lab. But if you’re planning on shipping your product then feel free to make a nationwide search.
7. Accreditations / Certification
Organizations like the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program and the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation provide third-party accreditation in response to Congressional mandates, administrative actions by the Federal Government, and/or requests from private-sector organizations and government agencies. Outside accreditation ensures credibility and assurance of usable data.
Cost is an important factor, but our advice is not to let it be your main determinant. Often expertise, time to market and additional services will save you not only time and be more convenient, but also will potentially save you money with faster turn-around time and having things done right the first time.
PTI delivers EMC/EMI, environmental, reliability, product safety and hazardous location test capabilities for Texas and the US. Our commitment is to help you navigate the regulatory environment, realize your certification goals and those of your customers while getting your product to market in a timely manner.
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