Upcoming Conference to address product approval process.May 2, 2007 -
MCAA is proposing 1-day conference for representatives of third-party testing laboratories (NTRLs) and MCAA member companies. Areas of concern include internal processes/efficiencies at NRTLs, timeliness of approvals, cost of testing, and training. Available resources to perform testing or evaluations, and willingness of agencies to work as a partner are also an issue.
MCAA Members to Consider Issues in the Product Approval Process
(Archive News Story - Products mentioned in this Archive News Story may or may not be available from the manufacturer.)
Measurement Control and Automation Association
PO Box 3698
Williamsburg, VA, 23187-3690
Press release date: April 30, 2007
The Measurement, Control & Automation Association is an industry association whose member companies design, manufacture and sell instrumentation and equipment used by American industries that demand product compliance that must be certified by third-party testing laboratories (NRTLs). Member companies have noted that while product design and life cycles have shortened, the third party approval process has become increasingly complex, expensive and time consuming.
The Association believes that there is an ever-widening disconnect between the business practices of the NRTLs and the testing and certification needs of instrumentation companies and their customers. Acting on the belief that the Association can be a catalyst to bring the parties together in a process intended to enhance the competitiveness of member companies, the Association is proposing a one-day conference to be held between July and October 2007. Representatives of each testing laboratory (the NRTLs) will be asked to attend along with MCAA members. A structured dialog will be laid out so that MCAA companies can learn how to approach the approval process to minimize delays and unforeseen expenses. Similarly, MCAA members will have the opportunity to air issues with regard to communication, delays and rising costs and see whether these laboratories can develop a better business plan with regard to the products of our industry.
The background of this endeavor is that during MCAA industry events member representatives began to discuss increasing time delays and higher costs through the major agencies they were using to get both domestic and international approvals on new products. As a result, MCAA gathered comments from a broad cross-section of its membership about their experience with the product approval certification process, primarily through NRTLs as certified by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA).
The process was, perhaps, best described by one instrumentation manufacturer, "It is very much like going to the dentist." Areas of concern by MCAA members centered in four main areas:
1. Internal Processes/Efficiencies at NRTLs. Many members noted the difficulty they had in communicating about the approval process. They noted "old processes" which hinder efficiency and especially pointed to the inability of the agencies to fix a reliable schedule for project completion. Particularly vexing are comments such as "They make decisions that impact cost and product design, without involving us." At the bottom line, the agencies are tagged by MCAA members as not understanding who the customer is.
2. Timeliness. Virtually every respondent to the MCAA Survey indicated that they experienced delays in the approval process. Some non-manufacturers noted "We are indirect victims of the long approval processes, which delays our ability to sell the affected products." Many companies also mentioned that agencies don't always meet their own delivery dates, protracted as they are.
3. Cost. No one would be surprised that cost is an issue but some respondents believe that their products are essentially being held hostage by the ever-increasing cost of product testing and certification. No recognition appears to be given to companies with ISO 9001:2000 quality programs nor of the fact that OSHA requires only semi-annual follow-up audits (quarterly followup audits were cited). Coupled with the long delays in the process from application to approval, the cost increases experienced recently are especially galling to MCAA companies.
4. Training. Inconsistency in the application of standards or the capabilities of trained staff to perform testing or evaluations was a complaint that a number of MCAA companies raised. Others put some blame on themselves-small companies do not have resources to be experts on the standards and the approval processes of each agency and they find that the agencies do not work as a partner with them (except at a cost). One member noted that in the past they had excellent results when the approval agency did testing at the manufacturer's site but apparently this is out of practice now. A key factor here is that approval agency personnel must be proficient in their various technical areas of expertise. However, it is additionally incumbent upon the approval agencies to try to provide manufacturers with all the information resources to submit all the required documentation and samples so that the process is not impeded on our end.
MCAA asked the ten NRTLs appropriate for industry products to update listings on their capabilities at MCAA's website (measure.org/Testing.htm). All listings have been updated accordingly except for TUV Rheinland (cannot certify to intrinsically safe) and TUV America (did not respond).
The Measurement, Control & Automation Association is the national trade association representing manufacturers and distributors of instrumentation, systems and software used in industrial process control and factory automation around the world. MCAA exists to help the management teams of process and factory automation product and solution providers run and grow successful businesses by offering timely, unique and highly specialized resources acquired from shared management benchmarks and strategies. For more information about the Association or about Product Approvals, visit the website at www.measure.org or contact MCAA at email@example.com or 757-258-3100.