December 15, 2020
As you develop a new piece of furniture or furniture concept, thinking early about product certification allows you to decide on design considerations and make your testing and certification process easier. Early in the process, you may choose to outline a set of requirements that includes the regulatory requirements applicable to your product once developed. With this information, you can review the requirements and plan to integrate them into the equipment. In addition to understanding what can and cannot be done within the construction phase, planning early will be critical for the testing and certification process should you pursue testing with a third-party certification body like UL.
Plan for compliance
The compliance landscape can be challenging, so planning ahead may allow your team to make decisions on design considerations. Additionally, when submitting for evaluation, you can tell the testing and certification body what needs to be applied to your product. Prepared with this information, you will be able to more quickly receive a quote.
You should also start considering what items will be required for that testing and certification process. The following is a general list of information that will be required for any testing and certification process:
- Intended use of the product
- Markets you wish to sell the product into
- Multiple units for evaluation and/or additional parts
- The statement of line, including all model numbers being submitted with information on model variations.
- Instruction manual and user guide
We will now break down the general list to help you simplify project preparation.
Intended use of the product
This single item is key for determining the standard(s) to be used for the project. While furnishings can have similar features and designs, the key in determining the applicability of standards comes down to the intended use. As the manufacturer, you will need to define the intended use of the furnishing. This definition will lay the groundwork for the project. Note: If the furnishing may have more than one intended use, e.g., if it could be used in a household, commercial and/or hospitality setting, you will need to provide this information.
Markets where you wish to sell the product
Understanding the markets where you intend to sell the product is an important consideration before initiating a product for certification. Here are the questions you should answer and discuss with your UL representative about your testing and certification needs: Here are questions you should answer and discuss with your testing and certification partner:
- In what countries will you sell your product?
- What are the regulatory requirements for those countries?
- UL can assist you with researching these requirements
- How are you prioritizing the countries?
- What is your timeline for entry into the country list?
By understanding your markets and how you prioritize those markets, you may develop a proactive compliance plan. This would include sourcing components and materials that are approved for your intended markets, as well as understanding what types of design changes and variations are needed for those markets.
Multiple units for the evaluation and/or additional parts
While an investigation may be completed with one sample, using only one sample can cause delays and testing issues. For example, when a project begins, we will start with a construction review that will require the unit to be partially disassembled. With only one sample, that unit will end up in the laboratory or testing only after our team reassembles the unit. The engineer will determine the evaluation plan for the product, which will include identification of samples and/or components for review and testing, required testing, etc.
A list of all model numbers being submitted with information on model variations
We will need details on all the models you would like to have evaluated. This is critical to set the project scope. We will need to know specific details on the differences between the models being submitted. One of the best ways to communicate this information is in a table outlining the differences such as electrical components, enclosure size/materials, ratings, etc. This will allow our team to better understand and determine the representative model(s) that will need to be evaluated.
Instruction manual and user guide (instructions for product use)
For many manufacturers, an instruction manual or user guide may be one of the last items to be completed. However, a delay in providing the manual can cause significant delays to the project as the project cannot be completed without it. The standard(s) will typically have specific items required to be included in the instruction manual. If the manual is not finalized, a working draft should at least be provided early to help ensure a clear understanding of the functions, intended use, cautionary statements and basic ratings. If provided later in the project, it may lead to the need for retesting and/or redesign.
Other areas to consider
Now that you understand the key items needed to get a project started successfully, we want to outline a few areas that can provide further value to you as an organization before you initiate the formal evaluation.
Initial engineering evaluation
If you are new to the certification process or looking to bring a new product concept to the market that you do not have experience with, these are examples where an initial engineering evaluation may be valuable. The initial engineering evaluation could best be described as a preliminary review of your product concept for areas such as component and material selections, and any questions you may have. This proactive approach may help you understand the testing plan your product would be subjected to, understand if components you are looking to utilize present any challenges and identify major non-compliances before initiating the formal evaluation.
The UL, EN, and IEC methods will be utilized for executing your evaluation. To help with your speed to market, we recommend you discuss those requirements with your UL sales representative and take care to source materials that meet those requirements or have samples and a plan in place to have them tested for conformance.
With the release of the UL 2999, the Standard for Individual Commercial Office Furnishings, along with the existing UL 1286, the Standard for Office Furnishings, you are required to meet specific tests within the appropriate BIFMA standard. UL recommends planning to ensure you have addressed your timeline and the samples needed. Your UL sales representative can help you with your plan.