Q&A: Outsourcing Your Lab Testing

Q&A: Outsourcing Your Lab Testing
Learn about why it’s the right time to outsource your lab testing and the benefits in this Q&A from Lori Knous, General Manager of Smithers Akron-based materials testing laboratories.

What challenges are companies facing?

There have certainly been some unprecedented challenges since the pandemic began in spring of 2020. It has upset supply chains, created labor shortages, and have interrupted how our teams interact and get work done. Material and product shortages have increased costs and pushed product development cycles forward and backward. Recently, with the increase in COVID-19 cases, there have been many interruptions to daily work across all departments. Some of the biggest effects we’re seeing are:
  • Labor Shortages - Companies have been dealing with an unusual job market with a large number of employees changing jobs or leaving the workforce, forcing companies to go on hiring sprees, increase hourly rates, and offer hiring bonuses to try and hire workers with hopes employee retention. As mentioned above, a lot of employees have been out sick or quarantined due to surging cases of COVID-19. 
  • Operating Cost - Supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and the pandemic have caused interruptions to companies' operations and increased operating costs; including the cost to run their internal labs.
  • Low Profit Margin – Declining sales and labor cost increases have led companies to reconsider the use of their internal labs or equipment when they haven’t been able to generate enough revenue, leading to low or negative profit margins.
  • Scheduling – Research and development are essential to businesses, but it takes time and expense. Due to a wide variety of disruptions, companies have had to reduce spending and prioritize other engineering projects when their in-house labs are over capacity and are short-staffed, delaying or removing R&D projects from their scheduling. 
  • Evaluating alternative materials and products – With material and product shortages worldwide, companies have been forced to look at new sources and variations of what they purchase. Every time they have to evaluate new options, validating that new material or product is critical to maintaining final product quality for their customer base. This adds a whole new list of validation projects to their internal teams on top of their existing development work.

How can outsourcing help?

Outsourcing portions or all your testing programs can provide companies with the flexibility needed to stay on schedule with projects or to redirect their internal resources to more valuable activities as prioritized by the company’s goals. Every month that a new product is delayed simply means missed incremental revenues and profits. Investing in an external lab to get to market on schedule or quicker, generally provides an extremely positive ROI. The cost of testing can be a fraction of the full impact of missed revenues.
From a technical point of view, working with experts in their industries and technical specialties creates an extension of your internal team and at times, can add expertise that you may not possess internally. It also provides that independent, third-party evaluation of your technical challenge that can provide insight that your team may not have considered. 

What should you consider when outsourcing?

When looking to choose an external lab to support you, there are a couple of key factors to consider:
  • Accreditations like ISO 17025 as well as specific industry programs such as NADCAP provide a strict framework that the labs must work under to ensure quality results. It also requires annual audits and comprehensive documentation on processes and procedures to provide you with confidence in the methods and results. 
  • Proven expertise and experience in your industries and applications is critical. As mentioned above, a true partner in outsource testing provides knowledge that can either compliment or supplement the expertise that you possess internally. Experts are active in industry committees, have years of relevant experience and can be trusted to provide testing guidance for your challenges.
  • From testing capabilities to a diversity of expertise in the testing team, a wide variety of testing options is extremely valuable when looking for an outsource partner. Depending on your program, there may be a variety of test methods or techniques required to meet your testing goals. Working with a lab who can either accomplish the full program within their lab or can seamlessly manage a program with additional resources can provide you with peace of mind throughout the process. 
  • Trusted, credible lab facility that conforms to the highest ethical levels for data accuracy and confidentiality. 

What does Smithers do to make the outsourcing process seamless?

Each project that we take on starts with a discussion about goals and final data requirements. Our experts have seen a lot of different applications and test methods. So, ensuring that the test program being requested with provide you with the data that you need is the most critical part of the process. We will often provide suggestions or guidance on alternative test methods as needed.
During the testing process, our experts and internal support staff communicate testing status and are dedicated to keeping test schedules on track. If there are issues while testing, our teams will contact your team immediately to discuss next steps or alterations to the program as needed.
After our reports are issued, the team remains available to support any questions you may have. In addition, our technical consulting team is available to provide additional expertise and feedback on results should your team require it.
Our extensive library of standards and our documented processes ensures that each test is conducted correctly to industry requirements.  We not only provide tests that conform to industry standards, but we also have the ability to configure tests specific to your applications.

How can we help?

Smithers team of qualified experts works to meet your laboratory outsourcing needs and will support you by providing a wide variety of testing and analysis on raw materials, final products and components, and more.

Experts at Smithers have decades of proven scientific experience and have been solving the toughest technical challenges for our clients for years. We understand independent testing and will help your business exceed your goals.

Our testing services offer global coverage, industry leading expertise, and the capacity that clients may not have in-house.

To learn more about Smithers lab outsourcing testing, get in touch with Lori Knous, at 330-762-7441 or lknous@smithers.com.

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