Smithers transit testing laboratory situated in the South East of England near Heathrow and Gatwick airports, provides pre-shipment testing of packaged products and environmental testing (also called durability testing) for unpackaged products and components. Smithers has been an International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) Member since the 1990s. The laboratory is ISTA Certified and accredited to ISO 17025.

Package testing and product testing involves subjecting a packaged product or unpackaged item to the physical rigours of real life hazards, under controlled laboratory conditions. This involves vibration testing simulating road, rail and air transit, or representing vibrations that occur during use; shock testing and drop testing representing manual and automated handling and in-service shock events; compression testing representing warehousing storage and compressive forces arising during shipment and use; climatic conditoning covering regional or global conditions, from elevated temperature and humidity to sub-zero conditions; and reduced pressure (vacuum) testing representing the effects of high altitude or air-freight shipment.

The lab is utilised to validate existing product and packaging solutions, to achieve regulatory compliance, to investigate packaging or product damage issues, to validate and support cost reduction projects in packaging, and to improve customer service by reducing field-service requirements.

Formerly called Pira, Smithers' UK lab was re-developed in 2005 to provide state of art testing facilities to clients from throughout Europe. The equipment has scope to asses from primary packs and parcel sized packages to full pallet arrangements and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), with large scale vibration testing and shock testing equipment and walk-in climatic chambers. The laboratory hold UKAS accreditation for many of its activities including thermal testing and environmental testing (UKAS Lab No. 0112), and is also ISTA Certified.

Smithers is also able to test the performance and integrity of magazine inserts, sachets and giveaways, with our unique in house testing facilitities, commonly known in industry as 'Pira Testing'.

Post-test Integrity Capability (ISO 11607)

In the UK Smithers also offers extensive post-testing integrity testing services (in accordance with ISO 11607), including gross leak detection, dye penetration testing, seal strength testing, determination of leaks by bubble emission and visual inspection - these services are delivered through Smithers state of the art Materials Testing and Primary Packaging Testing business, on-site adjacent to the Distribution Testing Laboratory.

Market sectors

A wide range of sectors utilise Smithers Leatherhead packaging and product testing laboratory, including:
  • Food and beverage
  • Personal care and household
  • Medical and pharmaceutical, including instrumentation and equipment
  • High tech, including displays, lasers, personal and industrial electronics
  • General consumer products
  • Luxury products
  • Packaging for dangerous goods
  • Automotive, aerospace and defence.
For the medical sector the laboratory regularly undertakes thermal and climatic package testing for package suppliers and manufacturers of temperature sensitive products (TSPs).

Transit testing expertise

The laboratory team includes consultant and test engineer staff members, providing a mix of real life supply chain knowledge with laboratory experience across the range of packaging material and engineered product sectors. Smithers UK lab is unrivalled in its knowledge of packaging as relates to shipment and distribution (from primary packaging to secondary and tertiary pack performance).

Team members regularly present at international events including the ISTA's Transport Packaging Forum and European Symposium. The team has a combined experience of more than 100 years in packaging and testing and includes a number of internationally recognised experts: James Raw, Justin Scott and Sam Sheppard Fidler.

The lab has three ISTA Certified Packaging Laboratory Professionals at Technologist level (CPLP): James Raw, Justin Scott, Alan Gillespie.

Package testing services include both standard testing (using methods such as ISTA 3A and 3E or ASTM D4169), and tailored test programmes based on our extensive supply chain knowledge and field data gathering. Tailored projects regularly revolve around packaging improvement, validating more innovative products or packaging components, and reducing costs and damage.

For environmental testing and durability testing the laboratory commonly tests to DEF STAN and Mil Std specifications.

The laboratory team are also experts in field data recording of vibration and shock data, and climatic data. Test method development and field data recording projects have been conducted in Asia, Africa Europe and North America.

Summary of our UK Package and Product Testing Facilities

  • Laboratory conditioned to BS EN 20187
  • Head-space to 15m
  • Conditioning rooms with fork lift truck access, -50°C to +70°C
  • Thermal shock (BS-EN 60068-2-14)
  • Water Spray (ASTM D941)
  • Electro-hydraulic vibration 0.5 - 400Hz
  • Electro-magnetic vibration 3 - 2000Hz
  • Sine, random and mixed mode vibration
  • Shock, half sine and trapezoidal, 1.5m square table
  • Bump, rotary impact, free-fall drop and horizontal impact
  • Lithium battery testing
  • High speed video
  • Testing against UN requirements for dangerous goods packaging
  • Packaging performance testing to national and international standards.

Contacts and address

Please see the Expert Profiles on the right hand side of this page for main contacts. Further service specific contacts are presented at the bottom of this page.

Smithers Distribution Testing Laboratory (North Building)
Cleeve Road,
KT22 7SA

Tel: +44 (0) 1372 80 2121
Fax: +44 (0) 1372 80 2241
Service-specific contacts

Distribution Package Testing 
Contact Justin Scott
Tel: +44 1372 80 2121

Distribution Packaging Consultancy
Contact James Raw
Tel: +44 1372 80 2102

Magazine Sachet and Give-Away Testing
Contact Alan Gillespie
Tel: +44 1372 80 2081

Thermal Testing and Environmental Testing
Contact Daniel Spearman
Tel: +44 1372 80 2010

UN Dangerous Goods Package Testing
Contact Shaun McCallion
Tel: +44 1372 80 2097

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