Whether you’re trying to get a product through safety approval from one of the many Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NTRLs) or having full compliance EMC testing performed at an accredited or non-accredited third-party laboratory or an internal in-house test facility, it’s imperative for successful completion of the project that as a compliance engineer or technician leading a product certification effort, you trust but verify the work of these other entities. For the remainder of the article, we’ll call these other entities “service providers.”

What is meant by the phrase “Trust but Verify”?

Trust means trusting those who may be doing work for us. We have already been through the process to qualify our service providers – we don’t need to keep repeating that process each time we open a project with them. We know they are fully qualified and competent enough to carry out the activities we have asked them to do. We trust them to deliver the output of their work to the quality levels expected for our type of industry. Verify means following through with those we have entrusted to make sure they have completed the tasks we asked for, fully and accurately, before we sign off on completion.

Why is “Trust but Verify” Important?

“Trust but verify” is important for several reasons:

  1. You know the product better than the service provider.

Those we’ve entrusted to do work for us don’t know the product as well as we do and may miss important aspects that result in inaccurate testing or subpar certification or documentation.

One example is when EMC test personnel don’t fully exercise the EUT during emissions testing, passing results are obtained, and the non-compliant product is allowed to ship. When in reality, had the EUT been exercised correctly, it would have failed, and a non-compliant product would not have been allowed to ship until a fix was in place. Whose fault is it that the product wasn’t exercised correctly during EMC testing? One guess – it’s not the service provider’s fault. It’s your fault!

Another example is having a safety agency review spacings on printed circuit board (PCB) and declare the board didn’t meet the spacings requirements for the declared over-voltage category. The project was closed before you had a chance to react, and you had to accept a lesser over-voltage category rating for the product. Whose fault was it that the safety agency wasn’t even reviewing the correct PCB layout in the first place? Yours!

  1. Service providers have other customers besides you.

Whether it be internal or external service providers, service providers all have other customers they are working for besides just you. A lot of times, this means information overload for the service provider. Although your project might be important to them, if you’re project is disorganized, it’s going to take them a long time to sort through any issues given their heavy workload and all of the other projects they have going on at the time.

  1. Service providers have limited resources – just like you.

Similar to item 2 above, service providers don’t have extra resources to put into figuring out every aspect of testing your product. You need to take ownership and not assume you can just hand it over the wall for them to take care of for you. You need to be highly engaged, heavily involved, and be ready to supply information to your service provider before it’s even asked for.

  1. Service providers are always told schedule is a high priority.

Almost every project is a high-priority project if you’re a service provider. One way to show service providers that your project is in fact, a high priority is to communicate with them on a regular basis as much as possible. Provide service providers with any information they’re missing as soon as possible, hold regular status update meetings with them (at least weekly, more frequent if required), commit and deliver, and last but not least… continually “Trust but Verify.”

References and Further Reading

  1. Willink, J. & Babin, L., Extreme Ownership – How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, St. Martin’s Press, 2017.

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