Proficiency Services

For almost 40 years, Smithers Pira has provided comparative testing services - enabling test laboratories to monitor the proficiency of their testing procedures and equipment.

Our services are ideal for paper manufacturers, converters and printers – many of whom use it as the foundation for their own ISO accreditation. These services are provided as an annual subscription, with samples available up to six times per year.

We provide the following services, which cover in excess of 100 different standard tests:

We can also provide customised inter-laboratory comparative testing for specific company groups, and indicative value sample packs for a range of tests. Smithers Pira are also a co-ordinating, qualifying and distributing laboratory for the European CEPI-CTS service, providing Round Robin testing in collaboration with 500 paper testing laboratories around the world. 


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Why is Proficiency Testing needed?

There are a number of reasons why laboratories may incorrectly report results, including: 

  • Sample handling errors
  • Inadequate staff training
  • Incorrect testing procedures
  • Faulty test apparatus
  • Errors in calculations
  • Reporting errors

Errors can cause manufacturing 'down time', waste product and reduced production efficiency. They can lead to customers rejecting materials, forcing them to be discontinued or remade. Out-of-specification materials can also cause product failure, and suppliers who are associated with inconsistent or unreliable materials also risk the cancellation of repeat orders.

These problems are less likely to occur if the laboratory has a robust quality system in place - including external assessments of the routine testing procedures using proficiency testing schemes.

The need for ongoing confidence in laboratory performance is not only essential for laboratories and their customers but also for other interested parties, such as regulators, laboratory accreditation bodies  (for example ISO 17025) and other external auditors. 

Process

Customers are provided with test materials which are assessed/measured using the customer's normal laboratory procedure. The results of the customer testing are then returned to Smithers Pira for statistical analysis and interpretation. Effective proficiency testing schemes need to be well run and provide samples which are representative of actual test materials. 

Proficiency testing provides an effective insight into the accuracy of routine test results, but only if the samples are treated in the same way as routine tests. This means that each stage of proficiency testing, from receipt of samples to conditioning, preparation, testing and reporting are handled by the same technicians who would normally perform the routine tests. If this is not how the proficiency samples are treated, nothing will be learnt about the accuracy of the routine tests - even if the proficiency results are outstanding. 

Benefits

Proficiency testing is an effective way of helping laboratories to ensure that their tests are correctly performed and reported, and have a number of benefits:

  • Monitoring and improvement of measurements
  • Benchmarking against other laboratories
  • Improved process control
  • Demonstrate competency to customers and accreditation bodies
  • Staff development and training
  • Evaluate methods and instrumentation calibration
  • Establishes the effectiveness and comparability of test methods
  • Validates tolerances and uncertainty claims