Crown International established a Strategic Quality Team in 2006 and has now upgraded its factory to include a Reliability Test Lab equipped with some of the industry’s most sophisticated and rigorous testing equipment.

While Crown has operated its own testing equipment for some time, the manufacturer’s testing criteria have become more stringent in recent years, often resulting in the need to send items to an outside laboratory for evaluation. Having its own comprehensive lab in-house not only accelerates testing during the early phases of product development, but also now allows the company to conduct quality audits on lines already in production.

Heading up the Strategic Quality Team is Crown senior director of engineering, Bob Chadderdon, who comments, “This initiative has replaced older equipment and supplemented our existing tools with state-of-the-art, higher-performance equipment offering much better data collection capabilities. Simply put, this new lab lets us do more, faster. We have also integrated our own Harman HiQnet™ products into the lab as signal sources so we can monitor and control long-term operational testing remotely.”

The equipment in the test lab does not simply run units through simulated environmental stress; it rakes them through some of the most extreme conditions imaginable. For example:

  • A thermal/humidity chamber allows for accelerated life testing in environments ranging from -95 to +355 degrees Fahrenheit at up to 95 percent humidity.
  • A new, highly automated shaker table can generate 100 g of acceleration and report test results in real-time across the network. One of the many benefits of this piece of equipment is that it allows identification and correction of vibration issues in very early prototypes.
  • The drop-test equipment subjects the test item to a high impact drop not once, but twice: the first time in the factory-packed box and then the unit, itself, sans packaging. This test demonstrates how well the equipment can withstand the rigors of handling by people and machinery in the distribution environment and beyond.

The machinery in the test lab provides the physical testing, but, for a more cognitive approach, the Strategic Quality Team was developed. “This is a cross-functional team dedicated to taking Crown’s quality to the next level: delivered quality, internal quality and, through development of best-practices, assuring that future products meet the highest expectations,” notes Chadderdon.

Among the members of this team are an electrical design engineer, a mechanical design engineer, an industrial engineer, and a more traditional quality engineer. One goal of this group is to identify opportunities and lead improvement projects that often involve several different functional departments and help guide internal process optimization.