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Research lab finds quality data in Prospector product testing engine

Bria Research Labs is using Underwriters Laboratories' Prospector database to boost its product development and testing process.

Product testing is a critical part of the manufacturing process and one that often occurs well beyond the walls of the plant floor. Many manufacturers rely on outside companies to ensure that their products meet compliance standards. Libertyville, Illinois-based Bria Research Labs is one such company. When it needed a faster way to search through and store its product development information, it turned to the Prospector database and search engine from Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Bria provides product development and testing services to the personal care industry. Its clients include R&D managers and manufacturers of finished products, as well as small business owners. Its staff members have been registered members of Prospector since Bria was founded in 2003.

According to Priscilla Taylor, product development chemist at Bria, the company selected UL as its database provider because Prospector's search engine was the easiest product to use at the time.

"It could handle the most information then, as I find to also be the case today," she said.

Taylor noted that one of the most user-friendly aspects of Prospector is its implementation process -- or rather, its lack of an implementation process. Since it is a Web-based product, Prospector users can access the database from any device with an Internet connection.

"There is no 'implementation' -- one merely creates a profile and registers as a member on the site," she said. "It's a fairly instantaneous process." Because of this, Bria was able to hit the ground running with its new system right away.

Improving supplier connections

Today, the researchers and scientists at Bria are using Prospector to find clinical data on any raw materials needed for product testing.

"As a smaller company, suppliers don't usually come knocking at your door," Taylor said. "Having Prospector truly helps, because you can pull up information on any product that you're interested in -- specifications, claims, toxicology -- and request material samples right there on the website." The system allows users to compare suppliers and available materials side by side in order to get the best samples at the best prices, she said.

When Bria requests a material sample through Prospector, the suppliers get that request immediately and are able to speed up delivery time, she added. Typically, the needed sample reaches Bria in no more than a week and usually must faster.

The convenience of Prospector has made life easier for everyone at Bria, according to Taylor. Having information from thousands of suppliers "under one roof" cuts down on research time dramatically, she said. Without Prospector, Taylor and her co-workers would spend half their work days visiting dozens of supplier websites or calling suppliers to get material quotes and place orders. Now, that time can be spent more efficiently in the lab instead of on the phone or in front of a computer screen.

All of this means faster all-around project completion for Bria's clients, who need their products developed and tested under typically aggressive deadlines. "Our clients don't often give us the luxury of time. They need these products ready to go tomorrow," Taylor said.

Taylor contributed her input on a recent revision to the Prospector site, which she said is now running faster than ever. She hopes UL provides more regulatory information in future updates to the database, especially regarding regional and global product safety and quality requirements.

"As a development chemist, having reliable technical information that is easily accessible is very important," Taylor said. "With Prospector in place, everything that we need is there and the whole process is expedited."

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This was first published in July 2014

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