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Advisory services

Case studies

The UL advisory services group has conducted projects on behalf of many clients around the world. These clients are as diversified as a white good manufacturer to an entertainment company to an insurance company.

  • High energy physics laboratory -- lab and safety program

    Situation

    A high-energy physics laboratory in the U.S. had been cited by OSHA for multiple safety violations, including deficiencies in equipment installation procedures and use of unevaluated equipment. The client's own safety audit verified the OSHA findings and an electrical safety action plan (ESAP) was developed to address all deficiencies.

    Complication

    Before the ESAP plan could be fully implemented, a subcontractor attempting to perform unapproved "hot work" on a service panel inadvertently initiated an arc blast/ flash resulting in life threatening injuries. Consequently, the laboratory was shutdown for over six months and 10% of the staff was laid off due to the inability to conduct project work.

    Solution

    UL worked cooperatively with the client and the federal government to design, develop, and administer a comprehensive equipment-based inspection program, the first of its kind for a national laboratory. In addition, UL designed and implemented a comprehensive safety training program for nearly 100 internal and subcontract staff in topics ranging from NFPA 70, 70E, and hazard based safety engineering to several UL Standards for safety.

    As a result, the lab was allowed to resume operations, allowing some 3,000 visiting scientists from universities, laboratories and industrial concerns from around the world to resume critically important scientific research. The nearly 100 client staff that completed the initial UL safety training are now qualified to both perform safety inspections and serve as electrical safety monitors at the laboratory.

  • Global entertainment company: lab and safety program

    Situation

    A globally known theatrical production company contacted UL to assess one of its venues, a 1.5 million gallon aquatic pool, complete with underwater lights, cables and hydraulics. The client asked UL to conduct a thorough review of its safety programs and procedures as well as the equipment utilized in and around the pool. The objective was to ensure the safety of all maintenance staff and performers and help prevent electrical problems or accidents that might lead to costly repairs or loss of revenue due to potential disruptions of performance schedules.

    Complication

    Instead of a typical fixed structure, the stage consists of seven independent lifts operating above and within the pool. The electrical lighting, controls, hydraulics, communication and navigation systems plus performers in the pool combine to create a most unusual safety challenge.

    Client staff had operational and trade electrical knowledge, but were generally unfamiliar with hazard identification and electrical risk mitigation techniques for marine environments. In addition, management's desire to perform work without disrupting show schedules and practice sessions required a unique and creative human safety intervention.

    Solution

    Applying multiple hazard-based safety engineering principles, UL performed the first known field evaluation of an underwater theater, employing world-class safety experts, including a certified diver, to conduct extensive non-destructive tests and develop a report on safety issues and pragmatic mitigation recommendations. UL also evaluated the extensive corrosion protection system, preparing a three-dimensional voltage map of the entire pool, locating areas of increased corrosive activity and allowing the creation of an upgrade plan for the corrosion system. Results from life cycle tests on several anode types were used to recommend an anode replacement schedule.

    As an added benefit, UL's corrosion test data and supporting recommendations allowed the client to take steps to prevent accelerated corrosion, thereby saving an estimated $2 million in pool repair bills over a two-year period.

  • Global appliances manufacturer: modular review program

    Situation

    One of the world's largest appliance manufacturers and a long-standing participant in UL's Client Test Data Program (CTDP) began experiencing compliance problems with certain product categories. The client appreciated the flexibility that CTDP participation provided to their design engineers who could work closely with on-site testing personnel, thereby reducing certification times.

    Complication

    The client was struggling with higher than normal attrition rates and they lost several key engineers who were quite knowledgeable with UL Standards and testing procedures. As a result, the quality of testing and reporting suffered, ultimately leading UL to downgrade the client to the Witness Test Data Program (WTDP), threatening production timelines and increasing the cost of compliance. To address these issues, the client contracted with UL to develop a program to help regain its CTDP status.

    Solution

    As UL explored the gaps in existing experience and competencies, the team also recognized a need for the client to better integrate in-house testing with design and launch activities. UL developed a comprehensive program combining multiple support services, including modular reviews during product design and construction stages and incorporating real-time feedback on actual production projects to supplement classroom training for both new and existing staff. The UL team also assisted with the design and set-up processes for newly expanded labs which ultimately led to reducing compliance lead time by almost 2 weeks for key household appliance categories. The client now has internal staff fully trained on the use of state-of-the-art equipment and testing techniques, helping them not only in the pre-testing of prototypes, but also ensuring that safety requirements are embedded in the product development process.

  • Insurance company: lab and safety program

    Situation

    A leading insurance company wanted to develop a strategic sourcing model to concentrate purchases of aftermarket crash parts with fewer distributors who, in turn, would conduct testing and other related services on replacement parts for the client's policyholders. The client asked UL to assist in the development of their quality assurance program and audit the selected distributors for compliance with program requirements. Program objectives included improving the quality and consistency of parts entering the supply chain as well as cost reduction associated with fewer returned parts and volume discounts.

    Complication

    The distributor selection process involved lengthy qualification and negotiation with prospective vendors, resulting in contractual agreements with new distributors and the creation of new, unproven processes that would become the heart of the client's quality program. The client was concerned not only about the quality of parts entering its supply chain, but also how to develop and implement appropriate quality management and monitoring processes.

    Solution

    UL agreed to assume an oversight and advisory role for the client, including the provision of technical assistance to develop a robust quality assurance program and establish audit processes to monitor distributors' adherence to the client's critical requirements. UL also provided ongoing support through regular audits and other advisory service assistance as required to maintain and enhance the program.

  • Leading manufacturer/distributor of HVAC equipment: lab and safety program

    Situation

    The client is one of the world's largest manufacturers and distributors of HVAC systems and a global leader in the commercial refrigeration and food service equipment industry. Their overall objective was to be fully compliant with the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive and to ensure that it had the capability to respond to customer requests for RoHS and WEEE compliance information in a timely manner. They also wanted to develop a corporate policy to address non-compliant and non-responsive suppliers and to address the validity and acceptance of test data from various sources. Cost-effectiveness and brand protection were critical to the success of any program.

    Complication

    The company had been working for over two years to develop and implement a restricted substance program. However, it had concerns about whether all locations around the globe would be equally effective and compliant. In addition, it wanted to have a standardized corporate policy for all incoming and in-process products as well as outgoing products.

    Solution

    UL developed a multi-faceted approach to assess the existing compliance program, recommend enhancements and provide appropriate monitoring. Elements of our approach included:

    1. As-is program assessment including on-site evaluations
    2. Product/component risk profiling
    3. Implementation plan development
    4. Training
    5. Internal and external surveillance

    UL conducted a series of audits on the client's global operations to independently assess each location's progress towards compliance with regulations for electrical and electronic equipment, directive 2002/95/EC. Our approach followed standard ISO audit protocol in terms of conduct, areas reviewed and overall approach. Audit findings were utilized to develop an actionable plan to address process deficiencies and increase the level of confidence that the company would be compliant with all applicable requirements at each location.

  • Manufacturer of x-ray equipment for baggage screening: technical support services example

    Situation

    A premier manufacturer of large-scale x-ray equipment for airport baggage scanning was asked by the FAA and local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to make sure that their scanners met nationally recognized standards for fire, shock and associated hazards.

    Complication

    The client was moving rapidly to meet increased orders for new equipment while at the same time dealing with consolidation issues from a recent merger. New employees were expected to quickly learn design and manufacturing processes, but the company's design and manufacturing staff had little knowledge of relevant safety standards, including UL 61010-A1. They were also unfamiliar with rapidly developing rules from the TSA which had recently assumed the FAA's previous oversight role over airport security apparatus. In addition, the client was being asked to ensure that products shipped overseas were both compliant to the WEEE (96) and RoHS (95) requirements for the European community.

    Solution

    UL created a cross-functional team to help develop a long-term compliance strategy to meet both airport-related, TSA and FAA requirements understanding that no published standards were available to meet the full needs of explosive detection systems using computerized tomography technology.

    UL's multi-phased approach included training client staff on UL 61010-A1 as well as the WEEE and RoHS directives to help client personnel understand requirements and ensure that recognized components were used for critical assemblies. Benefits to the client included:

    • Meeting TSA safety standard requirements months ahead of the government's deadline.
    • Standardizing the use of recognized parts to allow construction of products compliant with WEEE/ RoHS requirements.