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Negative reviews, we’ve all had them in one form or another, but negative reviews from customers online can have a catastrophic impact on sales. In this article Jean-Pierre Rosserot, technical director at SGS, explains how performance testing could help shield manufacturers from negative customer reviews.

Currently, 88% of consumers state website ratings and reviews as their primary source of information when considering buying a product. This puts retailers and manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment under increasing pressure to ensure their products are safe and meet the demands of consumers who are increasingly tuned in to sustainability, energy efficiency and green issues.  

To retain competitive advantage, it’s important for manufacturers to consider their products from the perspective of how happy the consumer is, or will be, with their purchase. The key to having happy consumers is in understanding their expectations and then either matching or exceeding them. Taking the perspective of the user should be the starting point for any testing protocol in order to anticipate possible consumer feedback.

Performance and reliability tests 

Performance and reliability tests verify the ability of a product to function at required parameters under various conditions throughout its lifetime. Intensive testing of specific samples will ensure that failures only occur in the lab and not in your customers’ hands. It’s an ideal step to prepare goods for the rigorous marketplace testing and competitor comparisons often carried out by consumer groups.

Performance testing is not related to any directives and in most cases is carried out at the end of the product development stage, after all other tests have been completed successfully. Performance testing enables the functionality, usability, durability and electrical performance of products to be measured, compared and evaluated. A performance test plan, which entails verifying all relevant test protocols and certificates, can reduce product recall risks and cut your costs.

Performance certification can also be used by manufacturers and suppliers to help differentiate their products in the marketplace. Following testing, the certification can be displayed on packaging, thereby demonstrating to consumers that the declared characteristics have been thoroughly tested and validated, building brand recognition and increased consumer trust in your product. 

Reliability testing ensures a product works as expected in normal and unusual situations. Such tests enable producers and retailers to estimate a product’s life span and identify the causes of failures.

Products must be ‘fit-for-use’. A ‘fitness-for-use’ assessment identifies possible product weaknesses and allows manufacturers to compare their products with their competitors’. This allows a manufacturer or supplier to position their product in the right competitive environment. It will also mitigate some of the risk associated with negative feedback.

‘Fitness-for-use’ assessments match the prime areas of usage that are commented on by consumers. These include:

  • Instructions to user
  • Handling
  • Performance
  • Durability
  • Usage

Usability is a large part of those expectations and usage assessment has become one of the most important tools available to a manufacturer when helping them define and anticipate users’ feedback.

Which protocols need to be applied to the product will, of course, rely on the type of product. With electrical and electronic equipment, a variety of testing protocols can help manufacturers and suppliers monitor and rate their products.

Energy Rating labels, which evolve from test results, enable consumers to compare the energy efficiency of E&E products on a fair and equitable basis. Energy efficiency is measured against specific standards which are periodically updated, prescribing higher levels of energy efficiency. 

Tests can provide valuable data on the energy efficiency of consumer electronics including:

  • Photometric tests for lamps and luminaires
  • Stand by current measurements of consumer electronics
  • Energy consumption of refrigerators
  • Efficiency of transformers

To ensure the proper functioning of various components in a product, comprehensive tests can be undertaken to assess:

  • Keypad/switch durability
  • Bending and twisting on PC card and memory modules
  • Insertion/extraction durability test for connectors
  • Mating/unmating/normal force tests for connectors
  • Terminal retention force testing
  • Flexibility tests for cords
  • Evaluation of solder joint reliability

Manufacturers can also better prepare products for consumer use by submitting them to tests that mimic extreme scenarios that might happen during use:

  • Hot/cold temperature step stress test
  • Rapid thermal transitions stress test
  • Combined environment stress test
  • Vibration step stress test
  • Highly accelerated stress screen

Environmental conditions also impact on the function of consumer electronics and these can be tested through environmental simulations for temperature, humidity and weather:

  • Cold/heat testing
  • Temperature cycling testing
  • Salt spray test
  • Thermal shock test
  • Ozone testing
  • Altitude/low pressure testing
  • Temperature/humidity cycling test
  • Water/rain/dust proofing test
  • High temperature gradient cycling testing
  • Mixed flow gas corrosion test
  • Steady state temperature/humidity testing
  • Solar and UK irradiation testing
  • PCT (pressure cooker testing)

In addition, tests can be undertaken for environmental simulations for mechanical stress including:

  • Sine wave/random vibration testing
  • Bump testing
  • Mechanical shock test
  • Drop testing
  • Bouncing and loose cargo/swinging testing
  • Package and transportation testing

Through testing, manufacturers can ensure their products go the extra mile. Ideally, it will lead to product improvements based on test result data and enable poorly performing products to be redesigned or removed from the market.

Online reviews are a phenomenon of today’s consumer markets and negative feedback can directly lead to a drop in future sales. Employing performance and reliability testing services will help manufacturers reduce risk and ensure compliance of products across the EEE market.  

In finding the right service partner, manufacturers will gain the confidence to navigate the processes from product design through to production. Priority should also be given to those organisations focused on the reparability and sustainability of products. In doing so, manufacturers will not only be gaining an advantageous position within the market, but they will be taking the right steps to address sustainability, energy efficiency and green issues.