SDCE’s Proficiency Testing Programme has moved into the third round of its pilot stage, bringing together textile professionals from all over the world to put testing performance into a global context.
Following the completion of its first two rounds, Round 3 is the penultimate pilot scheme, testing professionals in the areas of Colour Fastness to Washing, Colour Fastness to Sea Water, Colour Fastness to Light and Dimensional Change of Fabrics Induced by Free Steam. Following the collation and publication of results – estimated to be around the end of August – one final round will complete the pilot stage, and the formal SDCE Proficiency Testing Programme will launch in 2022.
Having been invited to participate on a complimentary basis while the scheme works towards its accreditation, participants have hailed the programme a success. PTP offers testing professionals the opportunity to assess their performance, equipment, staff and procedures through the completion of a series of tests in line with BS, EN and ISO Standards. The collation of results puts each performance into the global context of an international results table, with the added benefit of identifying participants only through a number, so that their performance remains confidential to them.
“Industry reaction to the Proficiency Testing Programme has indicated that there is a very real need for a globally-recognised independent benchmarking scheme,” says SDCE’s technical manager Jonathan Foister. “Many laboratories are already accredited by ISO 17025; the main ISO Standard used by testing and calibration laboratories, but regular participation in a PTP scheme demonstrates an ongoing commitment to quality control and technical competence. The initial response was very good, and we only expect to further develop the scheme as more testing professionals return to a laboratory setting as Covd-19 restrictions begin to ease across the globe.”
Feedback gathered from participants indicated that the scheme gained an overall approval rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars, with 73 per cent of respondents describing the exercise as having been “extremely useful”, while the remaining 27 per cent said that the exercise had highlighted some interesting points.
The vast majority of participants – 93 per cent – said that they felt confident or very confident in carrying out the tests as instructed, while the subsequent report was rated 4.9 out of 5 with regards to the ease of interpretating individual results.
Interestingly, around half of participants indicated that they would be looking to improve their ranking as a result of the exercise, suggesting that SDCE’s Proficiency Testing Programme can highlight areas of potential improvement for established testing facilities all over the world.
The results represented an extensive global cross-section, with representation from Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, despite challenges posed to conducting the scheme by the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the participants, the opportunity to gain an advantage over competitors was particularly relevant given the current challenging climate.
“Lately, we have been made aware of several laboratories gaining ISO 17025 accreditation in the textile sector,” admits Mehdi Zaatir, technical manager at Total Testing Service in Monastir, Tunisia. “As an ISO 17025-accredited laboratory ourselves, we partipiate in PTP schemes to empower our technical staff and to maintain our high levels of quality assurance. Do we want to know how our performance compares with that of our competitors? Of course we do; we want to deliver our results with as few uncertainties as possible.”
Participants lauded the scheme as being invaluable in identifying any areas requiring improvement before reaching the potentially-damaging stage of customer complaint.
“Being made aware of any weakness in any section of our performance means that we can take serious action, and ultimately become stronger,” says M.Nik Panjeh, managing director at Niktex Consultancy in Iran. “We were the first ISO 17025-accredited laboratory in Iran and we carry out our own internal testing, but we want to go above and beyond that. We have not previously participated in a PTP scheme, but we believe that it would give us assurance and even more confidence in our testing results.”
Many respondents also praised the anonymity of the benchmarking scheme, maintaining that results should be informative and confidential, without any potential compromise to the reputation of a facility.
“The ability to identify faults or deviations is of course useful,” reported one UK-based textile testing facility. “However, having information shared with other laboratories giving an insight into faults with certain tests could harm a laboratory’s reputation, which is why most PTP participants prefer to remain anonymous.”