Decoder Test Results
We believe very strongly in NMRA Conformance testing and now routinely submit all items to the NMRA for testing. Please note that this was not always the case.
Let me explain a little about Lenz factory testing. It has evolved over time. We evolved it for self preservation. Lenz GmbH took a lot of criticism several years back for developing a decoder which we thought met the Standards and RPs, but it could not be programmed by one of fellow NMRA DCC manufacturer's systems. Out of this grew our internal testing program that is still evolving.
Each and every new decoder hardware and software version is run against the official NMRA automated standards test in the factory. We do not run it against all the variations that the NMRA does, but we do test it completely. Our goal is 100% passage of all these tests before we go to production. At first we only performed the test on major revisions but we found that a simple program change led to an unexpected problem with one of our fellow DCC manufacturer's systems. These tests are now a routine part of every decoder development. As a result our decoders pass these tests all the time without any problem when we submit them to the NMRA.
Next we perform the RP tests. The scripts for these tests take a lot of manual time to perform and we find that most of our errors crop up in this area. Our goal is to pass the formal NMRA tests the first time through. Unfortunately, we have yet to succeed with this goal. Each and every time we submit a new decoder to the NMRA a new problem is found. These problems are normally with the RPs and often are in areas we simply did not expect. While this is frustrating, it simply points out that our internal testing continues to need improvement. We are working with the NMRA to refine these tests in order to improve them even further. Why? Because if we find a problem in testing it is a lot easier to fix than finding the problem post-production.
We want you the consumer to not have to worry if our decoders will work or if you will have problems with using them on your DCC system. It is our responsibility as a manufacturer to test our products and test them throughly.
In addition to testing with the NMRA we also beta test our products with as many different systems on real layouts as possible. These tests are also important as sometimes problems show up where we did not expect them. Finding and fixing a problem early sure beats trying to fix a problem after product release.
We also test each and every decoder that leaves the factory. Again this is self preservation. We fully warrant our product and we found that without these tests, mistakes happened. This means that you do not have to worry about performing complicated decoder tests prior to installation. Simply install the decoder and check out your installation on a programming track before operating your locomotive.
This testing process takes time and yes it does delay product release. But it greatly reduces the stress level after product release which is why we go to these lengths with testing. It is simply good business to focus on quality.
Some have raised the question on time to perform the NMRA tests and implied that the process is lengthly. We must disagree with this assessment. Yes it is true that we must check often with the volunteers on the testing status, as sometimes communication problems occur and most often they are caused by us. While all testing times can improve, we are generally pleased with the testing approach. As for having an independent testing agency perform the tests, we do not think this is a good idea. The purpose of these tests is to find errors and we much prefer having people who try to find the problems rather than a test lab who does not understand our unique problems nand whose job is simply to pass a product through a canned series of tests.
I recently went to a lab for a FCC test. It cost $1300 and a day of my time. It did not show us anything we did not know as they performed the same tests we had done in Europe. NMRA DCC testing takes considerably longer and we do not see a benefit of paying a test lab to simply redo a canned series of tests.
We believe DCC testing is an area where the NMRA is doing a good job. It is a fair process where no manufacturer has any advantage or disadvantage over any other. We support the NMRA in this venture and will continue to help them improve the tests even further.
RP Test Results
The NMRA performs a large series of functional tests on a decoder to ensure that it functions correctly when each bit sequence is sent to the decoder. The primary tool for doing this is a packet script program that sends a specified sequence to the decoder while the results are observed.
What does this mean to you the consumer?
It means that our decoders faithfully follow the complete Standards and RPs. No matter which NMRA DCC command station you run our decoders on, they will work as well as if not better than the manufacturers of your command station native decoder. No hidden suprises, no excuses, no partial implementations, no compatibility problems!
We are very proud of our decoders and proud that they carry the NMRA conformance seal. Building a NMRA DCC decoder is easy. Building an NMRA DCC decoder that completely and faithfully complies to all the NMRA standards and RPs is much more difficult. It takes a lot of extra work to achive full NMRA conformance and it sure would be a lot easier to just release products without having them tested and having to correct the problems identified during the test. But releasing products that do not completely comply or are full of defects in against our company culture. We feel it our responsibility to provide you with the best product we can and testing is just part of good sound quality control.
We stress quality in our products and this is just one more way of demonstrating our committment fo multi-manufacturer compatible NMRA DCC model railroad control.