Testing in a New Product Development Cycle: 5 Things That Affect Your Lab Vendor Selection

New product development cycles vary in different industries, but in virtually all - automotive, military, medical device, electronics and communications - testing is required at several stages in development to ensure that all safety minimums and industry standards will be met when you approve the final prototype.

When you’re trying to determine a new product’s lifespan and point(s) of failure, having a qualified vendor that can offer the expertise, experience, equipment, and testing procedures best suited to your needs will make it easier for you to reach the production line. How can you find that vendor? Below are some questions you need to think about when assessing your testing needs.

1. What type of product are you looking to create?

Obviously, you must know the specifics of the prototype you are making. Your test vendor will need to know the answer to these questions:

  • How many samples will be tested?
  • What are the size, weight, and specifications unique to the product, including material composition and construction?
  • What are the test specifications?
  • What are the industry standards?

To get the best results from your testing, discuss with your lab contact the environment, settings, and parameters of your prototype. Describe any extreme conditions you need to test the prototype in as well as testing in real-world conditions.

It’s important to provide the testing laboratory with all of the integral and supporting components that are associated with the prototype so the lab can conduct the tests with all of the prototype’s parts. If for some reason specific components aren’t available, let the testing facility know as much as you can about your settings so they can most accurately reproduce testing conditions.

2. What is the expected testing timeframe and turnaround at different development stages?

Once your product is in production, testing timeframes will rarely vary. During development, however, each stage can vary drastically depending on:

  • Parameters of your testing needs
  • Test specifications, including material conditioning time, and
  • Lab availability

As the product developer, you know you must consider the specification standards that apply to your prototype, the number of samples being tested, whether tests will be run simultaneously or in a sequence, and the number of setups required. In some scenarios, conditioning samples can take a long time.

Because testing during product development is necessarily a learning process and each test set-up is likely to differ from the last, lab (equipment) availability can vary more so than in routine testing in regular production cycles.

Generally speaking, the better you can predict prototype development and manage your materials, the more responsive your lab can be to your schedule. When it’s time to conduct a specialized test, particularly one that requires several different pieces of equipment or specific expertise on the part of the technician, lab availability can affect your development schedule. Again, communication is the key to getting optimal results and turnaround time. If you have a good rapport with your lab contact, he or she might be able to offer different options for test set-up that could affect the testing timeframe.

3. What are your test specifications?

Depending on the industry you are in and your prototype’s application, there are several test specifications that your testing provider can implement. You need to know all of them to make sure your device meets specs and code.

The key to being successful here is having good communication with your laboratory technicians. Once the technicians understand your specifications and the conditions you need to test, they will be in the best position to help you obtain all of the data you need.

4. What types of data do you expect the testing to generate?

There is a direct correlation between the quality of communication with your testing vendor and the quality, accuracy, and relevance of the data you get back. Therefore, you should provide the most precise information you can about your designed prototype and be clear about the types of data you intend to test for. Likewise, you should expect to hear from your test vendor if the lab needs to clarify any of your parameters.

At the end of the testing process, you should receive a certification that shows that the testing was completed, a log of the testing performed, and any documents issued including details called-out in specifications, a list of the equipment used and equipment calibration dates. All of this information is useful, obviously; in many cases it’s also required by the law.

5. What do you know about your testing vendor’s operations?

Knowing your lab’s testing location, who your contact is and how to reach him or her, the lab’s turnaround time, the services it offers, and the accreditations is has are the most basic things you need to know when choosing a testing vendor. Beyond the lab’s basic capabilities and quality of work, logistics are also critical. Before prepping your equipment for shipment, find out how your vendor handles pickup and delivery, paperwork, and ongoing equipment maintenance and calibration.

Because the reliability of your test results have a direct impact on the quality of your product, you need to have a thorough understanding of your lab’s capabilities. When you do, and have good communication with the lab’s technicians, you know you can rely on their results and focus on your own work.

If you are in the process of reviewing your test partners and their facilities, need to find a new vendor, or have questions about services, contact us. We’d be happy to explain our testing procedures and discuss our capabilities in detail.