Conformity assessment in the electrical industry has a cast of four main actors:
- Standards Body, who sets Standards.
- Manufacturer, who seeks to sell to Customer.
- Certification Body, better known as CB, is the conformity assessment wizard who certifies Manufacturer’s product meets the requirements, provided mainly by Standards Body.
How does Manufacturer satisfy Customer?
Keeping the theatrical metaphor, let’s look at conformity assessment through the eyes of Manufacturer. I’ll take the part. My challenge? To satisfy Customer.
I can do so by making a declaration of conformity – a bit like giving my word that my product is compliant. Customer may also want to test it personally and – if it passes – grant it homologation.
Thing is, I have Customers all over the world. I can’t satisfy them all all the time with declarations and homologations. But I can satisfy most of them most of the time.
By demonstrating conformity with the canons of electricity set out by Standards Bodies. Customer is sure to accept my product if it complies with the two big standards families that divide the world. If Customer is North American that will be UL. If Customer is from anywhere else it will be IEC. That’s the big picture for my products.
To show I meet the high requirements of the Standards Bodies, my product needs to withstand tests in order to be certified. The examiner and certifier is CB – accredited third-party CB.
How do I, Manufacturer, choose Certification Body?
The first factor is the country where Customer works – the country determines the set of standards I must meet. CB must also be accredited by governments and/or the relevant Accreditation Body. A CB’s fees, turnaround time,, the recognition it enjoys, and the language it uses are also important.
I may actually have to work with several national CBs to prove conformity in different national markets.
Sometimes, too, Customer might ask my product to be certified by a specific Certification Body, like VDE in Germany or LCIE in France. In that case, I would try to work exclusively with that body for the entire conformity assessment process.
What does Certification Body do?
That depends on my relationship with CB. We might agree that it may look but not touch. I might ask CB to endorse my declaration of conformity. Or to approve the certification from another certification body – which happens in the EU where many of the 30 Certification Bodies have mutual recognition deals.
I could also ask CB to witness the conformity assessment process in my test lab. If it certifies my product it will also accredit my test lab and staff as worthy to perform requisite conformity assessment tests.
Some CBs are very hands-on. They run the technical assessment. And then there are those who look and touch, who do the technical AND administrative work.
Is Standards Body really an actor?
True, it isn’t really involved in the certification process per se. But it sets the yardstick against which Certification Body certifies. It’s the raison d’être of conformity assessment.
Are there any supporting actors you can think of? Let us know.