At the heart of a really strong product claim is a third-party test to prove it.
But which test?
Not all tests are equal, nor are they equally beneficial to your product’s reputation. And since testing can be expensive, it should be planned with forethought about what tests will convince architects, engineers, specifiers, and other relevant decision-makers.
Design professionals rely on performance standards, such as those created by the consensus group ASTM International. These standards often refer to a particular test or group of tests, and have associated standards for the test methods. The standard creates a level playing field where apple-to-apples comparisons are possible. When a specifier compares multiple products that were tested to the same performance standard using the same test methods, the specifier can make an intelligent choice.
Too often, manufacturers don’t pay close enough attention to the commonly accepted standards and applicable test methods. They’ll do tests themselves without proper verification, or have tests run for them that don’t relate to the commonly accepted standards. Then they have test data that sounds good, but it’s the kind of data that doesn’t do much good to convince a responsible specifier.
And, contrary to expectation, that data doesn’t enhance the product’s credibility, because it was badly collected. It could actually degrade the reputation of the product and the manufacturer.
Another common mistake is to claim compliance with a standard, but not cite the test that backs it up. The claim sounds good, but it doesn’t meet the sniff test. A specifier is more likely to go with a product that has applicable test data readily available, simply because it’s the safer choice.
A report by the US Access Board on co-efficient of friction testing (http://www.access-board.gov/adaag/about/bulletins/surfaces.htm) highlights the difficulties created by using non-standard tests. It discusses a standard test method that was altered by use of a silastic sensor instead of the leather required by the protocol for the UL standard. The report states that the substitution “results in significantly higher values for the coefficient of friction of the surfaces being measured. As no correlation was made to any other standards or methodologies in the research, the values for coefficient of friction cannot be compared.”
A thoughtfully designed test program can be a very worthwhile investment in a product’s saleability. An improperly designed program is just a waste of time and money. Chusid Associates helps clients determine the most applicable tests with the best potential ROI, and helps design test programs that maximize useful data and eliminate irrelevant testing.