Product Certification Consultancy
Product Certification Consultancy
With over 20-years’ experience in product conformity assessment and certification Building Knowledge provides in-depth knowledge of the specification and supply of construction materials.
The process of bringing good quality and safe (i.e. “conforming”) consumer products to market can be complex and time consuming. And you may need one, or more of several different types of certificate with your products. Product certification includes product certificates, quality certificates, and environmental declarations.
See article “Is Sustainable Construction Sustainable?"
So when determining your product of choice and its end usage, questions to ask might be:
- What certificates do you need for supply of the materials to your intended market e.g., quality certificates, product certificates to national or technical standards, Environmental Product Declarations? (See below)
- What information do the different parts of your organisation need?
- How to organise your internal processes and align external processes and partners within your supply chain?
- How best to document the necessary processes and procedures?
- If things go wrong (e.g., a product recall or an insurance claim), then what needs to happen?
- What steps should your company take to limit the damage?
- How to deal with the appropriate authorities, customers, testing agencies and insurance companies?
- How can product compliance advice contribute to the operation and success of these processes?
Environmental Certification and Quality Certification vs Product Certification
So what differences need to be considered in the types of certifications?
Product Certification types
Certification assessment generally follows ISO methodology, such as ISO 17000 series for product manufacture, fabrication and delivery, or ISO 14000 series for environmental assessment. However, certification assessment can vary in terms of assumptions and information included. Consequently, the results for products that fulfill the same function may not be consistent with one another. Therefore, reference should be made to the specific certification body and certification scheme used to demonstrate conformity to ensure appropriate validation has been undertaken and maintained over time. A certification body independent of the product supplier should be used in preference to a certifier owned by the product supplier, or its industry association.
Quality Certification vs Product Certification
It is important to remember that “Quality Management Systems” certification to ISO 9001 is not product certification, and ISO 9001 may not be used on products, labels, or packaging to indicate that the product meets the requirements of any product requirement.
Reference to ISO9001 may only be used to indicate that the company supplying the product meets (either by its own statement or by third party assessment or by independent accreditation) follows the requirements of ISO 9001 in its quality management systems
Environmental certification has become increasingly important for suppliers and customers demonstrate compliance with applicable regulations and this can cause confusion between suppliers, customers, and local regulatory bodies.
Care must be taken to ensure that data is both specific to the company (and site) and current to the report. Report CEN 15941 in fact states, "generic data should never replace specific data when specific data are available". Again, a certification body independent of the product supplier should be used in preference to a certifier owned by the supplier or its industry association.
Product Category Rules
The product rules applied can determine if the product is fully assessed as fit-for-purpose for a determined requirement…
Product Category Rules (PCRs) provide guidance that enables fair comparison among products of the same category. Certificates should include the description of the product category, the goal of the certificate, function, scope, system boundaries, cut-off criteria, allocation rules, impact categories, information on the use phase, units, calculation procedures, requirements for data quality, and other information.
With environmental certification, the goal of supplier and product certification body is to help develop EPDs for products that are comparable to others within a product category. Standards such as ISO 17065 and ISO 14025 establishes the procedure for developing PCRs and the required content of a certificates, as well as requirements for comparability.
Duplication in certificates for similar products in different countries arises from the different purposes of the certificates, the varying standards they were based on, or the use of different product categorization systems. Different interpretations of certificates can cause variances in data reporting within a product category.
However, certificates that are effective require the use of standard factors in their formulation and delivery. Global harmonization of PCR and EPD standards remains a challenge.
Challenges in adopting certification
So what PCRs, scheme and certification bodies should we adopt?
- Diverse range of PCR's: The presence and adaptation of non-uniform PCR's for the same product lead to fluctuating and varying certificates, which in turn leads to false comparison between the products. PCRs vary according to the geographical scope of the product, lack of specific standards of data and lack of consistency between certification scheme program types and operators.
- Complex and inconsistent database: Due to the complex and time-consuming nature of data collection procedures, the scheme requirement for a PCR becomes prolonged. Due to lack of precise site-specific data and the use of generic data over specific data can leads to inaccurate declarations and certificates.
- Lack of satisfactory and acceptable third-party critical review: Inconsistency in sharing a common view on specific aspects and reviewing of only general aspects, leaving out more specific aspects, leads to varying interpretations of EPDs for similar products.
- Financial Constraints: Financial constraints in developing and maintaining approved certification can become expensive if not well designed and maintained (and assuming the correct type of certification and certification body is selected in the first place).
- Incomplete formation and interpretation of results: Due to the lack of availability of PCR's and EPD's for many products, it becomes very difficult to publish a complete and elaborate EPD for a product which involves the previous products in their life cycle. Lack of transparency in declaration procedure and uniform interpretation leads to an inconsistent comparison between products.
Understanding the constraints of operating in a regulated marketplace can be the difference between product acceptance and rejection.
Regulatory requirements for building products and standards are complex, and constantly changing. Ensuring that your business and products comply with the regulatory requirements of government agencies such as Roads Authorities can be challenging.
This is where an experienced regulatory consultant can provide significant value.
Understanding how these regulatory controls impact on your product and how your product meets standards and specifications is critical to be able to position your product to maximize its acceptance in the market.
Products that sit on or near the boundary between civil infrastructure and general structural can be challenging for supplier’s, engineering specifiers, builders, and authorities to determine how to proceed.
Knowledge of the regulatory requirements is critical to provide advice on the most business appropriate pathway for the product.