Is your company going to deliver a product to the Ministry of Defence? In that case, the right packaging is an important part of the delivery. It is obvious that your product will have to endure a lot during transport to its final destination. It is important to protect the product so that it arrives undamaged. The Ministry of Defence wants to be sure that the packaging that protects your product during transport meets all requirements. That is why they usually ask for a test report or certificate. All considered, a test plan is a complex and specialist document to draw up. It is useful to do this together with your packaging specialist. I will explain why.
The test protocol
If a new packaging is developed for your product, the packaging specialist usually starts a certification process. During the certification process, the quality of the packaging is tested in various ways. Everything, of course, is in accordance with the standards that the Ministry of Defence has included in its Requirements Plan. A test protocol or test plan is needed to carry out all the tests properly. As the commissioning party, you are responsible for drawing up this test protocol. However, your packaging specialist will be happy to help you with this. The protocol describes the test procedure and the preconditions under which the tests are carried out. For example, the configuration, the environment in which the tests are carried out, the mode of operation and the acceptance criteria that determine whether the tests are successful or not. I will explain this in more detail below.
When defining the configuration, it is important to know what should be included in the test and what should not. The packaging must ensure that the product reaches its final destination in good condition. It is therefore not useful to test only the packaging. You also want to be sure that the packaging sufficiently protects the product it contains. When testing the packaging under conditions such as heat and cold, vibration, shock and dropping, a dummy is often used to get a good reproduction. Instead of the original sensitive or electronic equipment. So think carefully in advance about the configuration with which the tests will be carried out.
Mode of operation
Mode of operation’ refers to the condition in which the product is used in practice. Most packages and products have one mode of operation. Sometimes, however, there are several modes of operation. It is necessary to know this in advance and to record it, because additional tests are often required for several modes of operation.
To a large extent, the commissioning party determines the acceptance criteria itself. Because they know better than anyone when the functioning of the product is affected. This is also recorded in the protocol, so that it is clear what the product must be checked for after the test.
As an example I would like to give the acceptance criteria for EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) tests. Most standards use the following general acceptance criteria:
- Performance criterion A: No influence allowed.
- Performance criterion B: A self-healing influence is allowed after the test.
- Performance criterion C: influence allowed which can be remedied by the user.
Depending on the type of immunity test you translate the performance criteria A, B or C to the specific acceptance criteria for your product.
The acceptance criteria of a vibration test and a drop test are much easier to understand. The packaging of sensitive equipment must protect this equipment against the vibration factors described in the specifications. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is then the answer. By the way, you will not want to do this test with your real product, but with a dummy as I already explained in the configuration. With a ‘no’, there is a big chance that your product no longer works and can be written off!
Specialised testing agencies for specific tests
Is the test plan complete? Then submit it to the Ministry of Defence. As soon as you receive a ‘GO’ from them, you can instruct your packaging specialist to start the certification process. For a number of specific tests, the packaging specialist will call in a specialist certification or testing agency. After all, one certification agency may issue a certificate for electromagnetic radiation, for example, and another for vibrations and shocks or scratch resistance of the paint.
You can also rely on your packaging specialist to select the right certification agency. He will deliver the prototype of the packaging together with a prototype or dummy of your product to the most suitable, independent certification agency. And if the certification process has a positive outcome? Then you can start your assignment for the Ministry of Defence with confidence.