Product testing: how to assess and test a new product

Andrew Siu is the former Managing Director of Tochanda, the Pan-Asian manufacturing company responsible for the production of TRX from 2003 – 2016. Andrew was pivotal to the redesign of the original prototype helping it to become the brand it is today.  He is now the CEO of Auster Enterprises.  Auster is a premium quality, modular functional training system, which takes suspension training and functional exercise to the next level.

What role should the operator play in the product testing process?

By the time the product reaches the operator, it will have been through rigorous testing in order to come to market. You can assume it will be safe, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s the perfect product for your gym. Therefore a period of thorough testing will help you to ascertain if it will work for your facility and your members.

When the product arrives take time to look at it closely.  Pay attention to the finishes, are they smooth? Are there any sharp edges or potential hazards? Your job as the operator is to test how the product lives up to expectation.  It sounds obvious, but don’t just look at it and go through the motions, give it a proper workout! Spend more time looking at the features most appropriate to your membership base and make the test ‘real-life’ appropriate, testing it in the way it is most likely to be used.  Small or intricate parts are the ones most likely to fail first, so ensure they are working properly and that you are fully familiar with how they operate. This is so you can judge optimal from suboptimal performance, should you need to in the future.

If you’ve had a comparable product before it is important to test it for comparison sake.  If it is a new innovation, testing is crucial to fully understand the capabilities of the product. In my opinion, operators should look for innovation from all their products, even if it’s just one innovative feature. Innovation demonstrates the manufacturer is committed to bringing you the best possible products.
Operators love our patented Dual Carabiner, which makes it easy to change from straps to resistance bands or gymnastics rings in a matter of seconds.

What are the best questions to ask a supplier or manufacturer about a new product?

Ask about the capabilities of the product, such as maximum load or force.  A lot of comparable products will seem similar on the surface, but asking more questions will put you in a stronger position to make an educated choice.  If a product is more expensive – ask why. Try to drill down into how and why the materials were chosen.

Ask about the warranty as well as if the product has a recommended replacement date. These are becoming more common in the fitness industry and are important to factor into the value for money, you are receiving.

Talk to the supplier about the brand, are the products future proof? How do they plan to develop them, can they be updated or modified, what growth plans do they have? What training does the product come with?

Don’t be afraid to grill the supplier.  If they care about how their products are made, they should know about all the parts in them, the metals which have been used, and the safety certificates held for example. For instance, at Auster, we use aluminum with a coated finish, as it is strong and light. We choose the best materials to give the quality finish together with the strength and durability to make the best product possible.

Do you have any ‘easy’ tips to assess quality or identify if something has not been built to last?

Start by asking about certifications. The CE mark for Europe is a symbol applied to products to indicate that they conform with relevant EU directives regarding health and safety or environmental protection. Many manufacturers of quality items will go beyond the limits required by any certificate, but as a minimum, you should look for the CE mark.

In terms of the product itself, smooth, good quality finishes are what you are looking for.  If you spot any rough edges, badly connected metal or poor welding it might be a sign that the product has not been built to last.  Pay attention to the quality at the ‘stress points’ as these will take the most pressure if the product gets heavy usage, are there reinforcements to strengthen weaker areas?

Consider the actual experience of performing an exercise, is it smooth or clunky? If you do not enjoy the experience of working out on the kit, it is unlikely to be popular with your members. If possible, go and see the equipment in situ at another gym, check how the quality has lasted and talk to members and staff about how well used it is.

How important is it to feedback to the supplier/manufacturer and how willing are companies to alter products based on buyer feedback?

Feedback is essential as it helps drive a good manufacturer to create better and more innovative products.  At Auster, we made the first ‘fixed’ gymnastic rings on the market after feedback from users that they didn’t like it when rings moved around the straps.  I think smaller companies are more inclined to listen as they are more easily able to respond to feedback. It’s a competitive market and if you are not able to provide what the operator is looking for, there’s always someone else who will.

Auster has a strong relationship with all its customers taking feedback very seriously, we’ve been working closely with Third Space to refine our offering for their premium customer base as our ultimate aim is to create the very best possible range of products.

Posted in Fit-tech, Most Popular Interviews, The Fitness Network.