As industries continue to rapidly evolve and innovate, evaluating new products and technologies against established safety and quality standards becomes increasingly important. Gaining insights into the performance and reliability of products helps manufacturers and suppliers identify and address potential issues, optimize their designs and enhance the overall quality of their products.
In addition to product testing and certification services performed in a laboratory, another crucial avenue to determine a product’s, equipment’s or system’s compliance with safety and performance requirements across industries is through field evaluation services, which encompass systematic testing and inspecting processes completed in the operational environment.
In a field evaluation, products that do not have a certification acceptable to the code authorities, owner or other regulatory body are evaluated to the applicable product safety standards for the specific application and location where the product is being used. The process includes construction inspection for use of components, assembly and limited nondestructive testing to complete the assessment.
These services verify whether the product meets the required safety and performance standards set by industry regulators and organizations. By evaluating whether products comply with requirements, field evaluations help manufacturers, suppliers and end-users mitigate risks associated with malfunctions, safety hazards, and noncompliance.
As a global safety science leader with a longstanding history in delivering testing, inspection, and certification services, UL Solutions offers comprehensive field evaluation services to help bridge the gap between uncertified equipment and a compliant installation acceptable to the code authority. Keep reading to learn more about field evaluations and how they can help your company.
Applications for field evaluation services
Business owners, manufacturers and contractors may request field evaluation services for a variety of reasons. For example, they may need to demonstrate the safety and compliance of non-certified equipment, unique, custom, or limited-production equipment, modified listed equipment, or equipment that has been relocated to a different jurisdiction.
Field evaluation services can apply to products, systems and equipment across a broad range of industries, including:
In diverse manufacturing sectors, including automotive, aerospace, electronics, and consumer goods, field evaluation services assess factory automation equipment, industrial control panels, machine tools, and other products for compliance with safety and performance requirements and industry standards.
Energy and utilities
Particularly in areas such as renewable energy, oil and gas, and power generation, field evaluation services help verify the safety and reliability of standby generators, low- and medium-voltage power distribution equipment and other systems used in energy production, transmission, and distribution.
The construction industry relies on field evaluation services to assess products such as building materials, structural components, fire safety systems, and their installation for compliance with project safety and performance specifications and applicable building codes.
Field evaluation services can be applied to various transportation sectors, including rail, aviation, and marine to evaluate the compliance vehicles, infrastructure, and systems used in transportation.
In the healthcare industry, field evaluation services help assess medical and dental devices, equipment and systems to determine compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards.
The telecommunications industry uses field evaluation services to evaluate network equipment, infrastructure and systems.
The field evaluation process
Site-specific field evaluations help regulatory authorities determine the compliance of a product, necessary for approval of the installation. UL Solutions’ field evaluation process consists of the following steps:
1. Pre-assessment and planning
We work with our customers to define the field evaluation’s scope and objectives and to develop a detailed plan. We identify the specific tests and inspections to be performed in addition to necessary documentation and resources.
2. On-site inspection and testing
Our field evaluation experts assess the product, equipment or system, which may include visual inspections, functional tests, performance evaluations, and determination of suitability for installation in accordance with the adopted installation codes.
3. Data analysis and reporting
We analyze the data we collect during the on-site inspection and testing phase to identify issues, risks and areas for improvement. We then prepare a comprehensive report outlining our findings and recommendations. We also send our reports to the code authority who decides on the final acceptance or approval of evaluated and labeled equipment. When our field engineers determine the product, equipment or system meets applicable codes, standards and/or requirements, they apply the label at the installation site.
4. Corrective actions and verification
In this phase, manufacturers implement corrective actions to address the issues identified in the field evaluation report. The field evaluation service provider may conduct follow-up inspections and tests to verify the effectiveness of the implemented actions.
5. Continuous improvement and monitoring
Field evaluation services can be conducted periodically or as needed to drive continuous improvement and monitor the continued compliance of products, equipment and systems.
Key benefits of field evaluation services
Helps manufacturers identify and address issues early in the process
UL Solutions offers optional desk reviews of current designs prior to manufacturing (if requested), preliminary evaluation at the manufacturing site, non-destructive product testing and final evaluation at the installation site. We identify potential safety, and compliance gaps that manufacturers, owners and contractors must address for code authority acceptance and conformity with applicable codes, standards and regulatory requirements. These insights can help manufacturers reduce safety hazards which can lead to increased trust from customers, regulators, code authorities and other stakeholders.
Helps reduce costs and turnaround time
UL Solutions offers flexible scheduling and efficient turnaround time for field evaluations, helping our customers meet critical deadlines and reduce time to market. Additionally, by detecting and addressing issues early in the product lifecycle, our customers can reduce costly recalls, repairs and warranty claims with field evaluations.
Helps meet international compliance requirements
As more countries around the world adopt new innovations, the need for harmonized standards and regulations grows. Field evaluation services can play a key role in confirming whether products comply with international requirements and can be used safely and effectively across borders. As technology and global trends evolve, field evaluation services can adapt to meet the changing needs and expectations of industries and end users.
Key considerations for selecting a field evaluation services provider
Accreditation and certifications
Work with a provider with relevant accreditations and certifications that provide credible evidence of the knowledge and experience necessary to perform field evaluation services. For example, UL Solutions is accredited by the International Accreditation Service® (IAS) as a Field Evaluation Body (FEB) for all electrical equipment product categories. IAS provides accreditation based on requirements in the IAS Accreditation Criteria for Field Evaluation of Unlisted Electrical Equipment (AC354), ISO/IEC 17020 and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards. IAS accredited field evaluation bodies are qualified to evaluate unlisted electrical equipment in the field. The IAS FEB Accreditation assists the code authorities in evaluating and approving unlisted electrical equipment in the field.
Technical expertise and experience
Choose a provider with a proven track record of code authority-accepted field evaluations and extensive technical knowledge and experience in your specific industry. Some industries, such as hazardous locations (HazLoc) require field engineers to demonstrate competency in the industry and its equipment, installation codes and standards.
Regardless of the industry they’re supporting, field engineers should be adequately trained, should have passed rigorous exams and should have completed applicable continuing education requirements. Providers should also be familiar with the applicable standards. With our deep history, UL Solutions is a trusted, reliable thought leader in the compliance arena and our experts have real-world experience and training.
Comprehensive service offerings
Working with a dedicated and comprehensive service provider can help you simplify your compliance and market-access efforts. UL Solutions offers a wide range of field evaluation, testing, inspection, certification, training and advisory services. We also offer flexibility and customization to help meet our customers’ specific needs and provide ad hoc inspections when issues arise.
Customer support and responsiveness
Opt for a provider that offers excellent customer support, with a responsive team that can address your questions and concerns throughout the field evaluation process. Some providers send surveys after performing a service to get customer feedback. This is a sign that the company places emphasis on customer satisfaction. For example, UL Solutions monitors its Net Promoter Score (NPS) through customer surveys. NPS measures how likely customers are to recommend a company's products or services to others.
As technology continues to advance, field evaluation services will increasingly incorporate tools such as drones and augmented reality (AR) to improve accuracy, efficiency and safety. Additionally, online scheduling, real-time reporting and wireless transfer test data capabilities help improve the efficiency of field evaluation services.
Emphasis on sustainability and environmental impact
As industries strive to reduce their carbon footprint and adhere to global sustainability goals, field evaluation services will place greater focus on assessing the sustainability of products, equipment and systems. To further reduce environmental impact, companies can seek out field evaluation service providers that align with their sustainability goals.
At UL Solutions, we continue to expand our field evaluation capabilities and services to meet customers’ evolving needs as they develop and launch safer products that meet shifting compliance requirements. Visit our field evaluation services page to learn more about our offerings.