All About Product Qualification
One aspect of product development that is often overlooked and forgotten is product qualification. Product qualification refers to the tests that are done on prototypes or the final product to be sure that it will properly operate across all external conditions and will conform to all government regulations. Without these tests, the product development is incomplete. Here are some examples of things that have gone wrong on improperly qualified products.
- After a long ocean shipment from Asia, an excited entrepreneur receives their shipment only to find that all the polyethylene bags that the product was packed has stuck to the product.
- A customer purchases their product and quickly realizes that the display cannot be seen in normal outside daylight.
- When a product is received on a pallet shipment, the products on the bottom of the pallet are smashed and destroyed.
- When a company decides that they want to sell their product in Europe, they realize that their electronics aren’t suitable for the hazardous waste requirements in the region.
- A new company has a hit product that sells 15,000 units in 3 weeks. After 1 month in the market, customers start returning the products since the labels start to come off of the product, making it unusable.
These are only a few examples of what can go wrong when the product isn’t qualified properly. Some of these examples might not seem too severe but all of these issues resulted in the company spending a large sum of money to rectify the situation and solve the problem. This could have been avoided if the product qualification was done properly from the start. Below, we outline the steps that should be taken to properly qualify your product. Even though it might be tempting to take a risk and skip some of the qualification steps to save money, it is not recommended.
- List out all the normal operating conditions of your product. At what temperature will it be used? Will it be used with in the rain? Will it be used at high altitude? These are only some of the questions to be answered but it is imperative that you understand how your product will be used.
- Determine the extreme conditions that the product (packaged and unpackaged) will need to withstand. In this step, think of all the extreme conditions that your product MIGHT need to withstand. Remember that you have no control on how your customers or shipping company treat your product, so expect that they will do the worst things possible to it. The product will get baked in a hot car, will get dropped in a gutter, will get kicked off of a table, and could possibly be stepped on. Determine which conditions you want your product to withstand and those which the product does not need to withstand.
- List out each country that your product will be sold. Research what regulations are required to sell in that country. In Europe, you will need a CE mark. In the United States, you might need to get FDA approval. Each regulation will require some sort of testing which must be performed and passed.
- Translate all the conditions and regulations into actual tests to be performed on your prototypes or production units. Examples of these tests include environmental stress tests, transportation tests, operating environment tests, electrical tests, and safety tests. A test lab will have standard test equipment that is used to run each of these tests.
- Work with a laboratory to perform the test suite as required.
Product qualification and testing is a critical step in the product development life cycle. Be sure that the product passes the qualification tests prior to starting production and selling your product. While this phase of product qualification might seem excessive and expensive, remember that it is always less expensive to do the qualification properly from the start rather than hoping that nothing will go wrong. If something can go wrong, it most likely will go wrong.
If you need more information on the correct way to qualify your product, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team has years of experience qualifying products and designing quality into the product from the beginning. Please contact us with any questions or contact me directly at joseph.donoghue ( at ) leardon.com