Our services are ideal for paper manufacturers, converters and printers – many of whom use it as the foundation for their own ISO accreditation. These services are provided as an annual subscription, with samples available up to six times per year.
We provide the following services, which cover in excess of 100 different standard tests:
- Paper proficiency
- Permeability proficiency - film testing.
We can also provide customised inter-laboratory comparative testing for specific company groups, and indicative value sample packs for a range of tests. Smithers are also a co-ordinating, qualifying and distributing laboratory for the European CEPI-CTS service, providing testing in collaboration with 500 paper testing laboratories around the world.
Why is proficiency testing needed?
There are a number of reasons why laboratories may incorrectly report results, including:
- Sample handling errors
- Inadequate staff training
- Incorrect testing procedures
- Faulty test apparatus
- Errors in calculations
- Reporting errors.
Errors can cause manufacturing downtime, waste product and reduced production efficiency. They can lead to customers rejecting materials, forcing them to be discontinued or remade. Out-of-specification materials can also cause product failure, and suppliers who are associated with inconsistent or unreliable materials also risk the cancellation of repeat orders.
These problems are less likely to occur if the laboratory has a robust quality system in place - including external assessments of the routine testing procedures using proficiency testing schemes.
The need for ongoing confidence in laboratory performance is not only essential for laboratories and their customers but also for other interested parties, such as regulators, laboratory accreditation bodies (for example ISO 17025) and other external auditors.
Customers are provided with test materials which are assessed/measured using the customer's normal laboratory procedure. The results of the customer testing are then returned to Smithers for statistical analysis and interpretation. Effective proficiency testing schemes need to be well run and provide samples which are representative of actual test materials.
Proficiency testing provides an effective insight into the accuracy of routine test results, but only if the samples are treated in the same way as routine tests. This means that each stage of proficiency testing, from receipt of samples to conditioning, preparation, testing and reporting are handled by the same technicians who would normally perform the routine tests. If this is not how the proficiency samples are treated, nothing will be learnt about the accuracy of the routine tests - even if the proficiency results are outstanding.
Proficiency testing is an effective way of helping laboratories to ensure that their tests are correctly performed and reported, and have a number of benefits:
- Monitoring and improvement of measurements
- Benchmarking against other laboratories
- Improved process control
- Demonstrate competency to customers and accreditation bodies
- Staff development and training
- Evaluate methods and instrumentation calibration
- Establishes the effectiveness and comparability of test methods
- Validates tolerances and uncertainty claims.