Product Sampling of Passive Fire Products:
Passive fire products and systems significantly protect lives, property damage, and fire incidents. It acts as a barrier to the passage of smoke and fire for a specific duration, depending upon the location of the building, the performance of the product, and associated fire hazards.
The various codes throughout the World mandate that PFP products such as fire doors, façade systems partition walls, penetration seals, joint systems, perimeter/cavity barriers, etc., be tested to a relevant test standard(s) to meet the Local requirements. In most instances, the local regulations are set in place as per the fire incident carried out in the past. The stringent local norms are an outcome of such incidents. In UAE, the regulation says that all the materials, assemblies, products, and accessories concerning construction and Life Safety, Fire Safety, and Emergency Services shall be Listed, Approved, and Registered by the local civil defence before it is placed in the market. Such regulation sets the bar higher for the Life and Safety of the people.
To be able to meet local jurisdiction and Building code requirements, Product testing and third-party certification services should be carried out by an accredited laboratory & certification body like ESL (Emirates Safety Laboratory), which will conduct the assessment to see if your products and systems are meeting the requirements of ISO 17025 (for testing) and ISO 17065 (for certification) standards.
Between the testing and certification roadmap, one thing that provides essential details to the third-party certifier about the products and systems to undertake the conformity assessment is during the stage of product sampling activity. Product sampling is one such crucial activity in the product certification journey. Before the products or systems are tested in the laboratory, it requires witnessing the production batch by a third-party certifier of the test specimen at the manufacturing location. This activity of verifying the manufacturing process is called product sampling.
During the product sampling, a third-party certifier should carry out and get the following data from the manufacturer to undertake the conformity assessment, which will help with the technical evaluation of the products and systems; the lists are:
• Recording all the incoming materials, their origins, specification, supplier information
• Recording all the critical information such as construction method, production techniques, formulation, composition, mixture, drying time, Etc.
• Recording all the quality control procedures (before – during – after production)
• Understanding of the process map/plan or production flow chart
• Getting information about the machinery and the testing equipment
• Witnessing the complete production process of the test specimen.
• Marking of test samples
• Shipping of the test specimen (optional – product based)
• Sampling acknowledgement – a letter stating that the sampling activity was completed.
Usually, Sampling activity is carried out when the manufacturer plans to test a new product or an enhanced system (prototype) with a new configuration, such as different dimensions, change in material specification, lay-up design, colour, composition, production techniques, Etc. This activity is not a result-based approach. The resulting pass or fail depends on the testing standard associated with it.
Here, we'll be able to provide detailed information about how our sample taker conducts the sampling activity in the manufacturing location, which will help the audience understand the subject's broader perspective.
Step 1: Product Information
- Firstly, collecting the product information from the manufacturer to understand the product category, purpose or end use, and applicable test standard(s). This information will help us to provide the proposal to the customer for the testing & certification services. We will then go through the product brochure & installation guidelines to understand the Severity of the manufacturing process and to Know the number of days required for the manufacturer to prepare the test sample. So, a designated sample taker is allotted for the project, and they will be coordinating with the client directly to complete the activity on the date that was agreed upon.
Step 2: Raw Materials and their specifications
- Having raw materials information of the product/system is an essential task of this activity, which changes from one manufacturer to the other in many instances. We will collect the specific details about raw materials that go into the product/system, such as the Name of the Manufacturer of the materials and components, brand name, model, specification, grade, colour, tolerance level, Etc.
- If any composite materials are involved, the formulation should be provided, which will be verified during the activity. The manufacturer should demonstrate an inspection procedure and the test plan for each raw material to ensure the materials meet the required incoming specifications.
Step 3: Quality control inspections - during and after production
- While witnessing the test sample, the sample taker will verify the quality control inspection performed by the QC Inspector. It can be a visual inspection, or measurement of critical dimensions, while performing an actual test of the raw materials according to the test plan, Etc.
- The sample taker will verify how the QC representative documents the information in the internal forms to meet the target specification set by the organisation's Quality Assurance. If it doesn't meet the target specification, the sample taker will record the new QC parameter in the sampling report for our consideration, and the same will be noted during the surveillance visit (if conformity assessment takes place successfully)
- The sample taker will verify the quality control documents available in the production to see the latest revisions of forms and procedures used by the workers. Sometimes the forms and approach differ from what was provided before the activity. Any changes, such as the control number of the documents, parameters, tolerances of the incoming material/product, personnel changes, etc., will be recorded, and the sampling report will reflect the same.
Step 4: Witnessing the production of the Test Specimen
- The sample taker will aim to collect and verify (depending on the product or system category) some of the Key technical aspects during the production, such as the mixing/blending method, lay-up design, the formula of composition, and their percentage content with regards to a product sample, along with specifications and allowable tolerances.
- The sample taker will review how the manufacturer produces the test specimen in the plant versus what is stated in the product brochure. For example, the shop drawing of the product sample provided along with the Brochure matches what was manufactured during the on-site visit. Suppose there is a rectification of the design details required during the witnessing. In that case, the manufacturer shall provide a revised and approved design drawing to the sample taker as evidence of the final construction of the test sample.
Step 5: Product Traceability
- The word "Traceability" refers to "Track-and-Trace". This process can track throughout the manufacturing process, from when raw materials enter the factory to when the final products are shipped. As a sample taker, it's better to know the traceability study of the product sample during the on-site visit. Traceability can be found through the production process of the test specimen - from the design or lot number to the finished product. The approach reflects whether the manufacturer's traceability system can trace the development and the materials used from the beginning of manufacturing to the end and vice versa.
The benefit of Product Traceability is:
• It Improves companies' reputation
• To increase the quality of the product
• It can be Cost saving and generate higher profits
• It helps in Customer retention
• Value for money
• It can help in Root cause analysis
Regardless of which technology manufacturers follow, the process should carry out the quality checks at each stage of the production, follows inspection criteria, test plan, and technical schedule, and retains documents according to the internal quality procedure to maintain the traceability of the product.
Step 6: Calibration of testing equipment and Machineries
- The sample taker will verify the calibration and maintenance records of each testing equipment and machinery used for production/QC checks. The sample taker will ascertain if all the equipment's calibration can trace to national or international standards (third-party calibration certificates); if third-party tags are seen in the testing equipment, the sample taker will collect the test certificates and take pictures of all those equipment for his records whichever is used to manufacture the test specimen.
- If in-house calibration of some of the equipment is carried out through calibrated equipment, then the manufacturer should demonstrate how it is performed correctly per the procedure and how records are controlled. The sample taker will verify against which calibrated equipment the self-calibration of other equipment takes place.
Step 7: Marking the test specimen.
Once the test specimen is ready with the required dimension and quantity as per the test standard(s), the final marking on the sample(s) will be made by the sample taker that will act as evidence to the testing laboratory(ies) that a chosen third-party certifier witnessed the test specimen.
The marking on the product is done with the permanent marker on the product itself. The signature contains the date of the sample taken with the sample taker's initial and some other references specific to projects.
Step 8: Dispatch the test specimen.
The sample taker should know how product packaging and finished goods are stored in the factory. It includes any critical storage needs not mentioned in the product brochure, like temperature to maintain, handling of wet additive or dry, wrapping techniques, Etc. This information will help the sample taker decide the test sample's mode of transport. If the test samples are for small-scale tests, then the samples are collected by the sample taker to speed up the delivery of the test sample to the agreed lab. But it depends on a case-to-case basis.
These are some critical steps to follow during the product sampling of passive fire products. There needs to be more evidence provided for successful product sampling. The client should ensure that transparency is maintained throughout the activity. At the same time, the third-party certifier should ensure that no impartiality is carried out during the entire process and that confidentiality is maintained according to the agreement.