Approval management ensured the quality of Schneider Electric’s approval process
For many years, FORCE Technology has been known in the technology and innovation businesses as a recognised test house, and within the last few years, we have developed the concept of approval management – a structured approval practice which speeds up the process of introducing a new product to the market.
With the approval management concept, customers are presented with the opportunity of receiving an even more complete service regarding product approvals. Jakob Steensen, Principal Consultant at DELTA, explains:
“There are many other factors concerning approvals than just making a test report. You need specific requirements regarding documentation, you have to follow conformity assessment procedures, ensure correct labeling and manuals and, depending on the type of approval, engage with national authorities. With our approval management, you will be sure that the approval is correct.”
The French company Schneider Electric – which has 1000 employees in Denmark working with product and system development, sales, production and IT development – is a global specialist in optimising and managing energy. For some time, Schneider Electric has been acquainted with DELTA’s approval management concept. Recently, the concept has been applied to the ‘Wiser Radiator Thermostat’, an important product which enables the measuring of electric energy and of the managing of water-based and electric heating for larger intelligent home automation systems.
The thermostat, which uses wireless communication, is developed for the French market and before launching, it had to be approved for the European market. Hardware Engineer Jacob Sørensen from Schneider Electric’s Danish development department handled the approval. According to him, the first challenge was to find out which requirements were applicable, and which harmonised standards, in order to CE mark the product.
”Previously, we have had our products tested at DELTA and we have good experience with them. Therefore, it felt natural to let them help us in the approval process because, we know the house and their test facilities, and we know what they stand for,” Jacob Sørensen says.
The three phasesDELTA has divided its approval management process into three phases:
The first phase is about specifying the product that needs approval. For this, DELTA makes a so-called conformity requirement specification which states the particular requirements needed for the product to be approved. The specification works as a sort of memo for the customer so the customer knows the overall route to compliance as well as being instructed in details on how to prepare test samples before testing.
In general, the specification lists all the procedures, directives, standards and rule parts needed in order to get the product tested and approved. In the case of Schneider Electric, Jacob Sørensen tells that this first phase started with a meeting between the two partners after which DELTA prepared the first suggestion to the specification.
“Then I reviewed it, commented on it, and in the end we made a final version. Subsequently, we started the testing,” Jacob Sørensen says.
Thus, phase 2 is the classic test phase. This is where DELTA performs the testing of the product as well as the test reports. Sometimes testing is not enough; technical assessments can also be necessary.
In this phase, DELTA and Schneider Electric agreed to do a so-called pre-compliance test of the radio parts of the product because this part can often be tricky.
“It is a sub-element of the CE test where some of the critical aspects are pinpointed. In other words, it was a test to find out where we were heading. Then, further into the testing process, we did the full CE compliance test with EMC, radio and safety,” Schneider Electric’s Jacob Sørensen explains.
The last test leads to the third and final phase in the approval management process. This phase is about the final documentation in which DELTA helps the customer finish the complete technical construction file which is the foundation of the product approval.
In practice, this is how it’s done: DELTA sets up an FTP site on their server through which they, in a structured way, can put all the technical material into a special library for that purpose. DELTA’s Jakob Steensen elaborates:
“We run this as an iterative process where customers upload technical data according to our instructions. Afterwards, we review it and let them know if something has to be corrected. When this is done, the customer can download the approval from the FTP site and keep it in the drawer or show it to the authorities on request,” Jakob Steensen explains about the final phase of the process.
Avoid negative surprises
Often, a significant amount of money can be saved by working out an effective, synergetic test, especially when test results can be inherited from other products or from other modules within the product.
“You can save up to several times the expense of doing an approval management project instead of just doing a normal testing project,” Jakob Steensen says.
“In the aggregate, approval management ensures that what is done is correct. To have DELTA’s logo on one’s approval papers – and to have somebody from DELTA speak about one’s product – is like having the certified public accountant approve your accounts. It means that no one is questioning it because, fortunately, we have the experience in doing things correctly,” Jakob Steensen emphasises.
Jacob Sørensen from Schneider Electric agrees:
“To use DELTA is a quality assurance which ensures us that we are conformed, and that we have a documentation package to show people both internally and externally that the approval is correct. DELTA knows what it takes and after such a process, there will be no surprises. Mistakes could happen when you do it by yourself, internally, in which case it may be difficult not to lose yourself in the detail,” Jacob Sørensen says.
Schneider Electric’s ’Wiser Radiator Thermostat’ is now for sale on the French market.