Whether it be routine validation testing or one-off technical investigation, using the correct test method or protocol is key to running a successful assessment and delivering the right conclusions for decision making or regulatory compliance.

Using an 'off-the-shelf' standard

Often it is appropriate and necessary to use an internationally recognized pre-shipment testing method or standards, for example in the healthcare sector as part of a dossier when seeking EMEA or FDA approval. Numerous other sectors utilise off-the-shelf industry recognised methods, such as in the retail and e-commerce sectors where high volumes dictate testing must be time efficient and low cost to complete. Smithers has extensive knowledge of the range of methods commonly used including:
  • ISTA standard procedures
  • ASTM D4169, ASTM D7386 and associated ASTM standards
  • ISO, CEN and BSI standards/methods
  • DEF STAN and Mil-Std
  • UN for dangerous goods/hazardous materials.
Smithers' Sam Sheppard Fidler is Vice-Chair of the Global Board of ISTA and is Immediate Past Chair of the ISTA European Board. Michael Kuebler is a member on ISTA's Technical Council and David Shires is a member of ISTA Technical Board. Smithers is represented on the CEN and ISO bodies responsible for developing packaging performance standards.

Our laboratories are ISTA certified and accredited to ISO 17025.

Developing a focused test simulation

For many products, validation and troubleshooting requires a tailored laboratory assessment method to deliver a focused simulation, which takes account of product, pack and supply chain specifics. Focused tests often enable a more representative assessment of real life conditions when compared to using standard procedures, which by nature tend towards general distribution conditions. Standard procedures can misrepresent critical hazards of a specific supply chain, or simply not incorporate them. This is not because off-the-shelf standards are lacking, rather it is because standards are generally designed to encompass a range of conditions and environments, but cannot cater to all eventualities.

Smithers has been developing tailored test methods for global brand owners for more than 30 years, focusing on delivering realistic vibration, shock, compression and climatic hazards in the laboratory.

Developing a focused test protocol can involve field data recording (see further details below), but often is accomplished through desk-based review only.  This approach culminates in a protocol comprised of individual test elements (drop, vibration, impact, climatic events) taken from the range of off-the-shelf methods, but sequenced and programmed with intensities appropriate to the specific product and supply chain concerned.

This methodology combines the best of both worlds, delivering a focussed lab test method, but drawing on available data and tests from off-the-shelf, internationally recognised literature.

Custom test development using field data recording

For many brand owners, retailers and packaging suppliers, it is necessary to develop a focused protocol incorporating specific field data.  This is most commonly required where shipment is to a region for which little data already exists, or where damage levels are high and greater knowledge of the shipment environment is needed.

Smithers has been developing tailored test methods based on field data recording for global brand owners for more than 30 years. Smithers operates numerous data recording devices from well known suppliers of this technology, for gathering real life vibration and shock data, as well as climatic data. 

Commonly our field data recording projects include:
  • Site visits throughout the chain (point of manufacture, packing lines, palletization, warehousing, handling, distribution centers, retailer DCs back of store, front of store, point of sale)
  • Hazard observation and identification
  • Remote shock and vibration data acquisition
  • Supply chain process mapping
  • Rationalization of process and analysis of field data to produce tailored test method
  • Validation of the new method in the laboratory. 
Examples of our test protocol development projects:
  • Laboratory tests to predict the effects of the railcar shipping environment for a US automaker supported by continuous vibration and shock field monitoring allowing for a quantifiable level of confidence
  • Protocol improvements for cereal manufacturer enabling a more scientifically sound prediction of product settling as a result of distribution
  • Component validation test plan for critical parts of medical laser devices
  • Test simulation of returnable glass bottle and crate system for African market, for a leading worldwide drinks business
  • Field measurement program across Eastern Europe and development of European test protocols for major household products brand owner
  • Suite of tests in support of secondary packaging optimization for global packaging supplier, regional methods developed included Africa, South America, Asia and Europe
  • Tailored handling tests for large office products range.

Download a brochure for more information:

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Distribution Test Method Selection and Custom Protocol Development

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