Below are the questions asked during the live event, along with their respective answers.
Q: You mention a number of areas to improve workflow – what areas do you believe have the greatest impact?
A: This is somewhat of a difficult question to answer. Every lab is different, but eq. can provide immediate benefit, vs. cultural or lab layout changes, which can take significantly longer to implement. The eq. that can make the biggest impact to a lab includes the multi-tone generator for Radiated and conducted immunity testing and a Real-time spectrum analyzer for emissions testing.
Q: How risky do you believe it is to sacrifice quality for cost when it comes to test equipment and systems?
A: I believe any risk associated with quality is high because today so much relies on electronic product’s ability to properly perform in its intended environment. The examples are endless, but just take a few seconds and think about the product you are testing. What happens if there is a problem with performance due to electromagnetic interference or if your product interferes with another device. The end results can be significant.
Q: What are some good resources to look into for developing a sound Quality Management System?
A: ISO 17025 is one standard specifying EMC test lab quality management requirements. This is a very detailed standard. The latest version was published in 2017. NAVLAP and A2LA are accrediting bodies that come to mind. Their websites contain some useful information. Of course, experienced lab personnel willing to buy into a quality system is of major importance.
Q: Hi, what is the minimum technical experience you think is required for a beginner EMC lab manager?
A: At a minimum, one should be involved in at least a few full-cycle product tests in order to perform everything that is needed for a given product. For example, a product that requires testing to MIL-STD-461 will require several different types of testing. A lab manager should be able to recognize and identify the required tests and be able to provide an accurate prediction as to how long each test will take and what effort/resources are required. The best way to be able to identify this, I believe, is to run the tests yourself or at least work closely with the technician performing said tests.
Q: Can you please recommend any literature on team lab management?
A: ISO 17025 is one standard specifying EMC test lab quality management requirements. This is a very detailed standard. The latest version was published in 2017. NAVLAP and A2LA are accrediting bodies that come to mind. Their websites contain some useful information. Lastly, you can look to the Program Management Institute for literature on current best practices for program management.
Q: What certifications do you look for with the testing personnel and the test labs?
A: iNARTE is an internationally recognized certification body that recognizes qualified engineers and technicians in the EMI/EMC, product safety and ESD fields.
Q: Do you think is a good idea to distinguish between technicians and Project Managers? Or would you prefer engineers that perform both tasks at the same time?
A: I think this depends on the situation. For small teams, I believe it is beneficial for employees to cross-train and share roles in order to provide continuous resource support. For larger teams, I think it is beneficial to have defined program manager(s) in order to direct team efforts.
Q: Can you site the pros and cons of in-house calibration of equipment in bulk versus sending individual equipment out for calibration, e.g., on a yearly basis?
A: Really, it comes to down-time management. If you send out your equipment in bulk, this will certainly halt lab operations. However, this limits your down-time to a single, specific period. If you’re managing individual calibrations, if proper care is not taken, it can be easy to have numerous operation deficiencies.
Q: Thank you for your presentation and useful webinar. I have two questions: 1- what type of regulations you use for the development of an accredited lab? 2- How do you conduct the calibration of the lab equipment, through the supplier or done by a lab? Thanks.
A: In terms of regulations, EMC labs typically follow ISO 17025 for quality management and look to NAVLAP and A2LA for accreditation. As far as equipment calibration, it really depends on the equipment and the manufacturer. Often times, it’s easier to send everything to a third-party lab, but there are a few suppliers that offer accredited calibration as well.
Q: How do you avoid the potential pitfalls of blindly trusting fully automated emissions testing?
A: This is why it is important to fully vet a software suite before using it in day-to-day operations. Some software packages rely on the user to enter all of the appropriate settings and parameters for testing, but other packages will guide the user and perform testing according to an industry standard. Further, some software packages go through verification testing for each new version that is put on the market. Always research a software package to determine if it’s the best fit for your situation.