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How the “Testing & Certification“ (testxchange) Platform Helped to Bring Millions of Safe Face Masks to the Market

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Dr. Malte Zur testxchange

We talked to Dr. Malte Zur of testxchange about “testing, inspection and certification“ (TIC) and here is said about it.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Dr. Malte Zur: We are doing ok. It has been a tough year for us, but I guess that is true for most of us. We were lucky so far with our closest family, all being mostly well and healthy. One of the toughest challenges was how to organize our personal life with two working parents and two primary school kids not being able to go to school for many weeks. Again, probably nothing special as true for so many families in Germany and around the globe, but not easy nonetheless. 

Tell us about you, your career, how you joined testxchange.

Dr. Malte Zur: I have been an engineer for all my life, building model airplanes as a kid and restoring old French cars when I was a little bit older. Later I went on to an engineering school to be formally trained as a mechanical engineer. I worked in R&D for many years, mostly related to testing in one way or other. I was, e.g. working on wind tunnel testing for cars and doing durability testing of transmissions in the famous Porsche Research and Development Center in Weissach. Working on my PhD at the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), I was involved in material testing for fibre-reinforced plastics. Together with a friend, I developed a new testing method for these material tests, which became a global standard. Based on this new method, we did a spin-off from BAM and built up our own material research lab. Working in the industry for “testing, inspection and certification“ (TIC), I learned that many of our daily problems working with our clients had to do with the fact that there was no marketplace for this market, globally representing more than 150 billion euros. So I went on to found the first digital platform for this market, called testxchange.   

How does testxchange innovate? 

Dr. Malte Zur: Our market is far behind in terms of digitalization. With testxchange, we strive to improve the transparency of a highly fragmented market consisting of many thousands of highly specialized test labs (just as the one I founded myself). Moreover, testing is a very complex service that takes time, sometimes weeks or months. Our vision includes drastically improving the efficiency of conducting testing projects with cloud software (SaaS) that helps both sides of the market collaborate more easily and faster, thus reducing the time to market products such as automotive components. 

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Dr. Malte Zur: The pandemic actually gave us a boost, increasing the demand for testing services many times over. We have started to help cope with the increased demand for respirators and other protective equipment. Numerous new manufacturers and importers were very quick to help meet this global demand, especially for face masks. In order to be able to market their protective products in a quality-tested and legally compliant manner, these companies have to find suitable testing laboratories and certification bodies. Fortunately, our platform offered a great solution for precisely this problem and was thus able to help bring millions of face masks to the market and at the same time making sure that these products are safe and keep the promise of protection. This can only be guaranteed by tests in accredited test labs.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Dr. Malte Zur: Before the pandemic, our business was mainly brokering testing projects to our partner labs. We suddenly needed to speed up the process drastically, as millions of face masks were urgently required, basically by yesterday. So we adapted and introduced our ”virtual lab“ model, which allowed our customers to contract testxchange directly instead of a lab. We would then take over the entire process for the client and contract the best test lab for the job ourselves. All of a sudden, we were able to finish a testing project sometimes only within a couple of days, where before our customers would discuss back and forth with several labs, sometimes taking many weeks to get the job done. So that was a great success story for us and especially for our clients. 

How do you deal with stress and anxiety?

Dr. Malte Zur: After a long break, I re-discovered my love for cross-country running. Especially now during the pandemic, that is a great way for me to reflect on difficult problems and release pressure and stress. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Dr. Malte Zur: There are a couple of more local competitors that focus on the marketplace part of our business. We believe that by offering smart tools to support companies to collaborate efficiently, we create a lot of value that will translate into long-term success for our platform. 

Your final thoughts?

Dr. Malte Zur: Building a platform in a conservative and quality-focused industry like ours feels like a marathon race, it takes time, but at the same time, you have to keep up a high pace. I am glad that I love long-distance running!

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