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114 The PCB Magazine • March 2014 by Todd Kolmodin 7 Tips for Choosing the Right Test Service c o l u m n testiNg todd Do you need to go outside your company for your testing service? Maybe you have tempo- rary capacity issues, or maybe your own equip- ment is down, or maybe you just want to make sure you have an established back-up plan that will be there when you need it? Whatever the reason, it is very important to choose the right outside testing service, because ultimately, you are not just choosing an objective service pro- vider; you are choosing a partner. And not just any partner, but one that represents your product and company in the best possible light. Therefore, it is important to carefully and diligently select the service bureau that is going to best meet all of your needs. To help you do just that, here are seven things to consider: 1 How does the place look? Does it look profes- sional, well m a n a g e d , clean and or- ganized? Does the equipment appear to be in good working order? Does the work look like it is organized? Are the panels properly stacked? How do they handle issues? This is the time to pay close attention to detail. I even check out the bathrooms to make sure they are clean; a quality auditor once told me that this is the first place that he looks when go- ing into any facility to do an audit. He told me that nothing reflects the care and concern of an organization better than the way they keep their restrooms. These things should give you a pretty good preview of what the service bureau is really like. 2 Take a close look at their equipment. Is it modern and up-to-date? If not all new, is it well maintained? Has the equipment been cali- brated recently? Do they perform preventive maintenance on their equipment? There is nothing worse than going to an outside service because your equipment is broken down, only to have their equipment break down. I mean, what's the point of a back- up, after all? Do they have traceability from the panels they have tested to the equipment it was tested on? This is critical! 3 Speaking of traceability, check out their record keep- ing and ask to take a look at it. This could be the most important part of your survey. Here's an important rule of thumb: Their record keeping should be better than yours. In fact, their entire test operation should be better than your test department. It should be; they are the experts and they are supposed to be better than the rest of us.

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