Understanding Product Testing: Safety, Quality, and Usage
- What defines product testing
- Testing products for safety, quality, and usage
- The different guidelines for testing
Product testing (also known as consumer testing or comparative testing) helps measure a product’s performance, safety, quality, and compliance with government regulations and industry standards.
Testing a product helps identify problems before it reaches the consumer. It also helps make sure the product complies with the company’s technical standards and marketing claims. Product testing is also essential to ensure consumer happiness and safety.
A product is only as good as the quality of its components and tests. All products should be safe, high-quality, and able to withstand regular use. When rolling out new products, meeting and exceeding industry and government standards and utilizing high-caliber testing practices are essential for long-term marketplace success.
Product safety standards and regulations
Ensuring product safety helps prevent financial losses from product returns, liability fines, loss of contracts, and costly product recalls.
Major industry trade organizations develop industry standards. Voluntary standards usually exist to protect the consumer from product hazards. While the term “voluntary” sounds like standards that a company can ignore, they are the minimum performance standards a product should meet. Ignoring these should never be optional.
Governments also create regulations surrounding industries or products. Unlike industry standards, government regulations are mandatory. Governments usually introduce these standards when an industry fails to prevent or solve serious problems.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a database of industry-specific government regulations for U.S. goods. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also has a regulation resource to help companies move forward with their design process. The CPSC provides manufacturers with a list of regulations, mandatory standards, and bans for all types of products. However, the Federal Register is the official, primary source for all regulatory information.
Suppliers should not only comply with current safety regulations, but it’s also necessary to stay informed about pending legislation within the industry to make sure the product is already compliant with potential future regulations.
Keep in mind that imported products manufactured outside the U.S.A. must adhere to U.S. consumer product safety standards. Direct import suppliers must also comply with these regulations.
Product testing and certification
Product testing is essential to ensure product safety. Except in the case of children’s items, manufacturers can test their own products. However, the most objective testing comes from a third-party testing service or lab.
First-party and third-party testing
When creating internal product tests, a manufacturer should ensure that these tests are valid and replicable. Some manufacturers hire engineers to develop tests for new objects.
The U.S. government requires manufacturers to use a third-party, CPSC-accepted laboratory to test all children’s products they produce. However, non-child products do not require third-party testing.
A product should not only pass muster on the factory floor, but it should also stand up to the stresses and dynamics of regular use. The testing process should reproduce the circumstances of use and potential damages that users might inflict during everyday use.
Some manufacturers even go as far as to test their products for extraordinary uses. If it can withstand being run over by a truck, being dropped off a building, or stretching to twice its size, it can withstand almost any abuse the consumer can dole out.
Some specific general-use products (such as bike helmets and bunk beds) require manufacturers to issue a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC) to verify that they meet defined safety regulations and standards. Manufacturers must test each applicable product or have a reasonable testing program (often defined within specific product regulations). The GCC must accompany the product. CPSC maintains a list of product regulations that require a GCC.
Know the competition
One way to produce a quality product is to learn from competitors. A supplier that notes problems with a competitor’s product can solve these problems with its initial design.
A company can also reap the benefit of competitors’ research by noticing what changes they make to their products. Competitors may make changes based on market research or new trends. However, they might also make changes to get ahead of pending legislation or address safety issues or recalls.
The quality of a product is only as good as its materials and components. Auditing potential suppliers helps determine if they can meet supply needs and provide materials that meet quality standards.
The finished product should conform to detailed, pre-determined product standards and specifications. Components and final products should be uniform in shape, taste, color, size, weight, labeling, appearance, etc. Any differences that consumers experience should only come from future product improvements.
Quality control is essential throughout the production cycle. Ideally, there should be product inspections during several parts of the production process to catch problems as early as possible. Inspections during production prevent wasted time and materials. Random checks and end-product inspections are also essential.
Inspectors should have a detailed list of product specifications. It should include classifications to help inspectors determine gradations of quality to determine whether defects are minor, major, or critical.
Some areas for scrutiny include:
- Appearance: Do all the products look the same?
- Quality: Has the manufacturer made all the products equally well?
- Performance: Has the supplier verified that all the products are in working condition?
- Quantity: Do all packages contain the same amount of product?
- Packaging: Is the packaging strong enough to protect the product during shipment?
Regular product testing, market research, product reviews, and observance of pending regulatory legislation can lead to a product’s continued improvement.
Final words about product testing
Testing and quality control can help increase customer loyalty from positive branding, earn repeat business, and entice new customers. It can also improve safety for customers and reduce liability risks for the company.
Suppliers that have high standards in testing and continuously produce high-quality products earn a reputation for excellence. Excellent products result in a higher likelihood of securing and maintaining a contract to sell at Walmart.
Metrics to watch
New suppliers need to watch some metrics when they start selling products to Walmart. These metrics include daily sales and store inventory. With SupplyPike’s Retail Intelligence, suppliers get actionable insights into their data.
Retail Intelligence – Sales and Store On Hand
SupplyPike helps new suppliers win at Walmart. We have pricing models for suppliers of all sizes, including small startups. Take a look today!
Written by The SupplyPike Team
About The SupplyPike Team
SupplyPike builds software to help retail suppliers fight deductions, meet compliance standards, and dig down to root cause issues in their supply chain.Read More