Friday, May 22, 2015

Choosing a Third Party Certification Program

By Doug Berger

When choosing a third party agency for your product certification program, how do you know who to choose? What do you look for as indicators of their expertise and commitment to the highest levels of excellence?

First, make sure the third party has the appropriate experience. If you are a manufacturer of Wood Plastic Composite Decking, don’t use a third party that has never performed certification and testing on Wood Plastic Composite Decking.
Second, discover their full range of capabilities and accreditation. For example, ASTM International’s website provides a lab directory in which you can perform laboratory searches by entering text, selecting types of testing services and/or types of lab services, and defining the geographical region. 
 It’s important to understand that not all labs are accredited and most certification programs must be administered by an accredited laboratory.  The last thing you want is to spend time and money having tests performed, only to have them rejected by a certification body because they weren’t performed by an accredited testing lab. A lab’s accreditation is a 3rd party statement about the labs competence in performing the testing within the scope of accreditation.  You can search for an accredited lab that has your tests of interest within their scope of accreditation. To do this, use the search tools on the various accreditation websites, including International Accreditation Service (IAS)ACLASSAmerican Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) and Laboratory Accreditation Bureau(L-A-B). Be sure to discuss your accreditation needs with any lab you are considering.

Once you’ve pared down the list of possible labs based on expertise, capabilities and accreditation needs, there are a few additional factors to consider.

  •  Cost – this is an easy one, but make sure you are comparing apples to apples. You probably want a ballpark idea of the costs involved.
  •  Service - can you talk to a person on the phone? Is that person capable and willing to answer questions about the test and its applicability? This can be important, especially if you have no previous experience with the test method. The quotes you requested could also be an indicator of the type of service you can expect. For example, companies A and C get back to you very quickly to discuss your request and the specifics required to produce a quote and testing schedule, whereas companies B and D both take a week to respond.
  • Time frame - how long to get the testing completed?
  • Location - another factor to consider is the proximity of the lab, especially if you’re going to perform a large amount of testing and want to witness various tests throughout the project.

When choosing the right testing lab to help ensure a successful product launch, do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Check out the lab’s knowledge and expertise, list of capabilities, scope of accreditation and type of customer service. And consider them all in terms of both present and future needs. Lastly, factor in such considerations as cost, turnaround time and location.

NTA is an accredited, third-party testing agency capable of providing a wide range of testing, inspection and certification services. For more information about what we have to offer you, contact us.

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