Specifying products backed by proven high-quality manufacturing standards is the only reliable way of getting the performance you paid for.

Specifying products backed by proven high-quality manufacturing standards is the only reliable way of getting the performance you paid for.

Stephanie Ellis –Director –Corrosion CollegeMost manufacturers are satisfied to meet basic industry best practices and standards for product compliance. Unfortunately, this statement can even be true with niche products where there is an imperative to perform and where a customer spends additional cost for that level of performance.Forward-thinking manufacturers strive to differentiate themselves by producing products that exceedbasic standards. Such products frequently provide added value at competitive costs. Identifying and hard-specifying manufacturers that go above-and-beyond minimum expectations is the only way for owners and end-users to be assured of the product performance they paid for.

In today’s competitive, quickly changing, and sometimes litigious marketplaces, there is a growing acceptance of the fact that “not all products are created equal”, therefore specifiable products should offer objectively verified product performance along with proven consistent quality in the manufacturing processes.

In rapidly growing numbers, owners and end-users, as well as specifying-consulting engineers, have begun to reject products that simply meet standards shared by all other manufacturers, and accept products that have proven themselves to offer performance attributes exceeding basic compliances or the status quo.

 HOW NOT ALL PRODUCTS ARE CREATED EQUAL

As a case in point, let’s look at the example of PVC-coated galvanized rigid conduit and standards that govern the industry.

UL 6

All major brands of PVC-coated conduit meet the exact same requirements of UL 6.

“These requirements cover electrical rigid metal conduit-steel (ERMC-S), elbows, couplings, and nipples for use as a metal raceway for installation of wires and cables in accordance with CSA C22.1, Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1, NOM-001-SEDE, Standard for Electrical Installations, and NFPA 70, National Electric Code (see Reference Item No. 1 Annex a). ERMC-S is provided with a zinc, zinc-based, nonmetallic, or other alternate corrosion-resistant exterior coating and an organic or zinc interior coating. It is the user’s responsibility to determine the appropriate product for their application.

The last statement of the standard description is an important message of the user’s responsibility to determine the best product use for the application. The UL listing is important to the industry standard and the safety performance of the product, but by its own acknowledgement, not to the performance in the application of the product. UL Listed products also imply that those products, through a regulated service, are allowed to carry the UL label. The regulated service is continually followed up by a third party, in this case UL, for ongoing compliance in order to maintain the listing.

NEMA RN1

All major brands of PVC-coated conduit meet the exact same requirements of NEMA RN1, an industry best practice created by members of the National Electrical Manufacture’s Association (NEMA) as a guideline for applying plastic coatings to galvanized rigid steel conduit.

ASTM ANSI C80.1

All major brands of PVC-coated conduit meet the exact same requirements ASTM ANSI C80.1 that establishes the industry standards for electrical rigid steel conduit for use as a raceway for the wires or cables of an electrical system. Raceway systems (conduit, fittings, and enclosures) are relied upon to provide mechanical protection for circuit conductors and carry potentially dangerous fault currents.

ETL PVC-001

Only some major brands of PVC-coated conduit are verified to carry an ETL-PVC-001 label.

This gets to the heart of why not all products are created equal.

For many years, end-users and owners found it adequate to accept products based on the fact that they all shared the same standards.

No longer.

In the instance of PVC-coated galvanized rigid conduit, ETL-PVC-001 has become critical to proper product specification because not all manufacturers have been able to meet the quality standards necessary for passing independently confirmed product testing.

Unlike other standards that are traditionally safety-specific, ETL PVC-001 Verified is an internationally recognized listing based on performance evaluations and on predicting service life.

It is on the basis of independent, objective
 product comparisons by Intertek ETL that only some brands of PVC-coated conduit have been proven to provide ten or more times the protective service life of compared to brands that are not authorized to carry the ETL PVC-001 label.

ETL PVC-001 validates the coating performance of PVC-coated galvanized rigid conduit based on
 ASTM D870 and ASTM D1151/ASTM D2247. These accepted ASTM tests methods, along with the criteria set within ETL PVC-001 create the standard for predicting product service life. These tests are not intended to replicate a specific environment. Rather, they are designed to predict the service life of a coating under the two most common conditions that affect adhesive bonds: heat and humidity.

When a customer is expecting a product to perform and spends a premium they should never settle for a “one and done” test. Unlike some standards that only require a product to pass required testing once, ETL PVC-001 verification is based on a quarterly requirement to repeatedly and successfully pass the stringent performance tests demanded for verification.

Furthermore, ETL verification is an “open standard”. Testing is open to any manufacturer who believes that the quality of its protective coating can consistently meet ETL verification requirements. This points to the vital importance of owners, end-users and specifiers understanding the scope and purpose of all standards related to products with imperative. The absence of a listing, certification or verification demands an answer to the question: “why has this standard not been met?”

That is “how” not all products are created equal.

Let’s now explore “why.”

WHY NOT ALL PRODUCTS ARE CREATED EQUAL

The decision to produce a product that exceeds basic standard criteria is in part a conscious, philosophical commitment by a manufacturer it also requires a level of technical competence necessary to achieve a high level of quality and consistency in the production process.

To take the example of PVC-coated conduit one-step more: some manufacturers of this product are ISO 9001: 2008 certified. Others are not. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the manufacturers who are ISO certified are also ETL-verified. Those who are not ISO certified have not been verified by ETL.

ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards. ISO 9001:2008 focuses on meeting customer expectations and delivering customer satisfaction by ensuring an organization delivers a consistent level of quality to its customers by requiring well developed processes and procedures as well as implementing continual improvement.

ISO 9001 is a recognized quality management system (QMS) and is the only ISO standard that requires certification. ISO Certification is a seal of approval from a 3rd party body that a company runs to one of the internationally recognized ISO management systems. The certification can be used to tender for business as a proof of a company’s credibility, but also to install confidence in the potential client that they will keep their promises. Additional benefits to customers of ISO 9001 certified organizations are improved quality and service, on time delivery, and confidence that things will be right the first time – every time.

To self-initiate a level of regulated discipline in both product performance and manufacturing quality speaks to a company’s personal level of commitment to build a product that will perform at the level required, every time. All of this speaks to a business model that is based on numerous quality management principles including a strong customer focus, management leadership, a disciplined process approach and continual improvement with the end goal of consistent quality.

CONCLUSION: “LOOK FOR THE PROVEN PERFORMANCE.”

To review and to apply the lessons of PVC-coated conduit to any and all other specified products:

All major PVC-coated conduit brands comply with exactly the same standards — except that some are verified to meet the requirements of ETL PVC-001 Verification of product performance and predictability of service life in addition to base standards.

Not all major manufacturers of PVC-coated conduit are ISO 9001: 2008 certified. Currently those that are, have also been able to achieve ETL-verification through superior quality made possible by consistency in the manufacturing process.

Therefore, if reliability of product service life is important to engineering design, avoidance of costly or catastrophic product or system failure, it should be assumed in the specification process that only PVC-coated galvanized conduit, produced by a ISO-certified manufacturing environment and carrying the ETL verification label have met — or will exceed — the standards established by all relevant ASTM tests, including those predicting product service life.

Exactly the same logic can and should be applied to the specification of all products for any application. Specifying products backed by proven high-quality manufacturing standards, is the only reliable way of getting the performance you paid for, every time.