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Getting Started with Test Specifications

Are your profit margins hampered by product returns and complaints? Mitigate some of the costs associated with product returns by implementing a basic quality assurance plan with your suppliers.

When building a quality assurance plan, it’s important to start with high level product goals, and then drill your way down to how those goals translate into specific and testable requirements.

You may have product goals that encompass higher level values like sustainability, durability, or ease of use. The trick is to figure out what these values mean in the context of your product, and create a specific test plan that reflects those values.

Some questions you might ask in order to build durability into a product:

  1. Who is the product intended for? Age group, region, market, etc.

  2. What type of usage constitutes intended use of the product? This would be usage of the product within the scope of normal, expected use.

  3. What constitutes foreseeable use or misuse of the product? This would be usage of the product that may fall outside basic functionality, but could be within the realm of functionality for the end user.

  4. What are the environments in which this product can be used? Think indoor, outdoor, wet environments, extreme hot or cold conditions, etc.

  5. Are there mechanical such as hinges, springs, latches, that the end consumer would expect to be durable for the entirety of the product life cycle?

Here’s an example of how determining the intended use of a product could be applied towards creating a test plan to help ensure the durability of a piece of oven-safe glassware:

The intended use for this piece of glassware includes cooking a wide range of food items in an oven, allowing the glassware to heat up and cool down at a rate consistent with normal oven use.

Based on the intended use, a test plan might look like this:

- Place the test sample in an oven preheated to 500 deg. F for 3 hours

- After 3 hours, remove sample from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature

- After cooling, there shouldn’t be any visual evidence of breakage, pitting, darkening, or loss of functionality

This method can be modified by different variables such as cooking different types of food or filling with water before placing it in the oven. You can also cycle the test so that you’re allowing the product to undergo repeated use. And you can drop the test sample immediately after removing it from the oven, or submerge it directly into water to mimic thermal shock. All of these variables could potentially reveal different weaknesses in the glass, and help you get a better understanding of the limits of the product’s durability.

Once your test plan reflects your product values and the needs of your customer base, the next step is to ensure that your suppliers are implementing your test plan on each production lot. It’s important to communicate your product requirements up stream.

Communicate your QA requirements to your suppliers with Snowmelt. Download Snowmelt.

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