Ensuring that products are safe for consumers to use is not only a moral obligation but also a legal requirement in most places. In this blog post, I'll detail how we carry out mechanical, electrical, EMC, and chemical safety testing at AutoStore and how testing guidelines differ between major regions around the world.
In the United States, there are about 40,000 fires at industrial or manufacturing facilities, resulting in 18 deaths, 279 injuries, and $1 billion in property damage. Looking at that statistic alone tells you why product safety testing can’t be overstated. Here are the basic reasons for why it all matters:
The primary goal of product safety testing is to ensure that products are safe for consumers to use. By identifying and addressing potential safety hazards, product safety testing helps prevent injuries or harm to individuals who use the product.
In many countries, manufacturers are legally obligated to comply with safety standards and regulations. By conducting safety testing, manufacturers can ensure their products meet these requirements and avoid legal liability. This also ensures that companies like AutoStore don’t have any bottlenecks or delays shipping equipment to customers. Customs officials simply check our documentation and find it all in order. This saves a lot of time and effort. And above that, when installing an AutoStore system, having all the certification and test reports in place makes commissioning and startup easier.
If a product is found to be unsafe or causes harm to consumers, it can damage the manufacturer's reputation and brand image. Product safety testing helps prevent such incidents, demonstrating the manufacturer's commitment to safety and quality.
Product safety testing can identify safety issues early in the product development process, saving costs by avoiding expensive product recalls or legal settlements.
By ensuring that products are safe, reliable, and of high quality, manufacturers can build trust with their customers, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.
Are there any other advantages for doing all the expensive and time-consuming tests? Of course, there are. By carrying out extensive testing, we know that our products not only fulfill regulatory requirements, but it also helps us sleep well at night knowing we have done everything expected to ensure the people using our products can go home to their families at night because we’ve met the highest safety demands.
AutoStore conducts a comprehensive range of tests to ensure the safety and reliability of its warehouse automation system. Here are some of the main areas of focus:
These are big-picture tests to make sure that the machines can’t hurt people by pinching, squeezing, or crushing in any way. Generally speaking, in order to comply with machinery safety standards and regulations, we test and observe the products in action to guarantee that there are no potential “danger zones” operators can enter and that all safety features like Port emergency stop buttons, guards, and safety hatches are operating properly.
Electrical hazards present themselves in the form of electrical shock, fires, and unexpected startups. To determine electrical safety, products are run under normal operating conditions, single-fault mode, and operator misuse. Temperatures of various components are monitored to ensure that no location ever produces excess heat that can cause fires. Plastic materials undergo flammability testing to ensure they can’t contribute to spread of fire.
Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) refers to the ability of electronic devices, equipment, and systems to operate without interfering with each other or being affected by external electromagnetic disturbances. This is important because electronic devices and systems generate electromagnetic signals as part of their normal operation. These signals can inadvertently interfere with other devices or be susceptible to interference from external sources. Interference can lead to malfunctions, data corruption, communication errors, or safety hazards.
We perform testing in an electromagnetic compatibility chamber, also known as an anechoic chamber, which is a specially designed enclosure that provides isolation from external electromagnetic signals and minimizes reflections of electromagnetic waves within the chamber. The primary purpose of an EMC chamber is to create a controlled space where accurate measurements and assessments of electromagnetic emissions and immunity can be performed on electronic devices, equipment, and systems. The shielded environment prevents external electromagnetic interference from affecting the testing process and allows precise measurement and characterization of the device under test. Every product undergoes three diagnostics within the chamber:
This is an important field since hazardous chemicals can have severe effects on human life and the environment. All parts within AutoStore products are researched to ensure compliance with different hazmat regulations. Whenever we’re unsure about the reliability of scientific datasheets, we test materials ourselves to be sure it doesn’t contain any banned chemicals.
While all the testing might seem straightforward, that's hardly the case. Because of the different regulatory bodies governing all of the countries and locales where AutoStore is sold, legal mandates can vary widely, from stringent to almost non-existent. Wherein one country might require third-party certification, another might allows self-declaration of product safety. In some countries, EMC testing needs to take place in a laboratory in that specific location. In others, testing can be done in a foreign country.
Manufacturers like AutoStore, which operates in 49+ countries throughout Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Australia must be knowledgeable about the specific guidelines and requirements for each market they serve.
In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the primary authority responsible for establishing product testing guidelines. The CPSC sets safety standards for various consumer products, and manufacturers are required to test their products to ensure compliance with these standards before they are sold to consumers.
In Europe, the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) implemented by the European Union (EU) plays a large role in regulating consumer product safety. The GPSD mandates that manufacturers ensure their products' safety before placing them on the market, and it provides guidelines for risk assessments and product testing. Furthermore, the EU has also established product-specific regulations, such as the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive, which restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electronics and electrical equipment. The main directive for AutoStore products within EU is the Machinery Directive which sets out requirements for machinery safety.
In the APAC region, product safety can vary greatly among different countries. For example, the primary regulatory body responsible for product safety oversight in China is the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR). The main law governing product safety in China is the Product Quality Law, which sets the basic legal framework for product quality and safety. Certain products, especially those posing higher risks, require mandatory certification via accredited testing labs before they can be sold in China. The China Compulsory Certification (CCC) mark is a widely recognized certification mark that indicates compliance with relevant safety standards.
In Taiwan, the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection (BSMI) is the primary regulatory body responsible for product safety. It not only develops and enforces regulations related to product safety, standards, and conformity assessment but also conducts testing and regularly carries out market surveillance to verify compliance.
Regardless of what the law says, at AutoStore we don’t compromise. We go above and beyond. Even if it takes longer time and costs more money to enter the market, we do what we must to meet and exceed safety requirements.
AutoStore has successfully deployed its warehouse automation system in various real-world environments across different industries. The system has consistently delivered significant improvements in operational efficiency, inventory management, and order fulfillment for their clients with a 100% clean safety record.
To obtain detailed case studies or specific references that align with your industry or operational requirements, reach out to us directly. We can provide you with relevant information and connect you with customers who have implemented the system in similar environments. Also be sure to check out our e-book, “Testing for the Future: Product Safety” and watch our video explaining firefighting procedures produced in collaboration with Underwriters Laboratory Inc. (UL) and a team of professional first responders from the United States.
“By carrying out extensive testing, we know that our products not only fulfill regulatory requirements, but it also helps us sleep well at night knowing we have done everything expected to ensure the people using our products can go home to their families at night because we’ve met the highest safety demands.”
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