Why your supplier should join a proficiency testing service

Why your supplier should join a proficiency testing service

Proficiency testing verifies the accuracy and consistency of laboratory testing done by paper manufacturers, converters, printers and other institutes such as universities.

While laboratory testing provides raw data, it lacks the context of results from previous tests and any form of comparison to results from other laboratories for the same tests; reducing the value of the testing and with no benchmark to aim for and no proof of quality.

There are several scenarios where testing that has been done by your supplier or your own laboratory may not be accurate. This includes:

  • Sample handling errors
  • Poor training
  • Incorrect test procedures
  • Malfunctioning test equipment
  • Equipment ‘drift’ in performance
  • Data collection and reporting errors

Sometimes these errors can develop into much larger problems in the future, such as production issues, product failures and customer dissatisfaction.
 
Without any kind of comparison, the laboratory would be unaware of any problems that need to be addressed.

How can proficiency testing help?

By signing up to our proficiency service, your laboratory gets to see the overall ‘big picture’ of their data. It highlights trends in the data recorded over time, as well as comparing mean average results from the same tests with other laboratories, giving an understanding of the quality of testing and accuracy of results.

One of the most common problems is equipment ‘drift’, which is where testing apparatus slowly degrades over time, or a component is gradually failing. While not an immediate problem, it does indicate that action needs to be taken quickly to prevent any further decline in the accuracy of data. This would be very difficult to spot outside of proficiency testing, until it is too late and the equipment has failed, leading to costly down-time and unexpected expense.

Errors in the processes and data can also be spotted quickly. Without the context of previous data or comparisons with other laboratory results, this would be difficult to realise and can be quickly addressed once discovered.

Having assurances in laboratory testing is crucial for not only you and your customers, but also to ensure you satisfy the demands of accreditation bodies and auditors.

Participation in a proficiency test program is becoming a requirement if you are looking to be accredited to ISO 17025:2017.

How can Smithers help?

Smithers runs a bi-monthly proficiency program, whereby you or your supplier/laboratory will be sent test samples, at which point they will then perform tests on these samples, filling out a results sheet. This sheet is submitted back to Smithers, where the team compiles the data from all of the participating labs into one document. Smithers then issues the compiled data as a report to each participating laboratory.

Every laboratory is anonymized, however you will be made aware of your own results. This allows you to maintain privacy, whilst being able to assess results in the context of all other members. This discreet process ensures your laboratory is protected from scrutiny from others.

Upon receiving your results, you will quickly be able to see either if your testing is ‘on track’ or if there are areas where either results have dramatically changed or have begun a trend to drift away from their optimal operating performance.

Smithers is also a part of the European CEPI-CTS service, providing testing in collaboration with 500 paper testing laboratories. By joining up to this service, you get access to bi-annual reports from a much larger sample.

Ultimately, our proficiency program ensures the quality of data and processes, thus giving you confidence in your supplier and your overall product.

Find out more about our proficiency services.