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  • Case Study

Understanding the Value and Expertise Behind the UL Mark

Engineers at enclosure manufacturer nVent HOFFMAN know that UL offers more than meets the eye.

nVent HOFFMAN Switch-o-lite with UL certification label.

To survive and grow, most businesses will need to discover new uses or markets for their existing products or uncover opportunities for new product innovations that meet the demands of a dynamic marketplace. This basic business philosophy has been the same since the beginning of time. However, what has changed is the complexity of bringing a product to a global marketplace and the speed at which this needs to happen.

In order to thrive in business and meet the needs of a dynamic marketplace, rapidly shifting from the development of one product type to another may be necessary. So, when it comes to competing in today’s modern world of rapid product innovation, having a trusted safety partner with the expertise to help you accelerate your business is critical for innovating safely and mitigating risk. In today’s changing business environment, strategic partnerships with key experts are critical to helping solve challenges and achieve success.  

nVent HOFFMAN, headquartered in Anoka, Minnesota, manufactures products that help keep systems running smoothly. Through its 75 years in business, nVent HOFFMAN has become best known for its extensive enclosure product line. But that has not always been the case.  nVent HOFFMAN’s story began in the 1940s with one of the first successful products introduced, the Switch-O-Lite, a product that allowed farmers to turn on barn lights from inside their homes before heading out in the early morning. This was one of nVent HOFFMAN’s first UL certified products. From there, nVent HOFFMAN invented the nVent HOFFMAN Blender, also a UL certified product, among other innovations, including a light curtain to safeguard workers in the vicinity of moving machinery. It wasn’t until an automobile manufacturer requested an oil-resistant enclosure that nVent HOFFMAN’s enclosure business took off.

nVent HOFFMAN has a history of manufacturing a wide variety of products for unique applications. These unique applications challenge nVent HOFFMAN to continually evolve its enclosures to meet the shifting demands of the market. nVent HOFFMAN offers enclosure solutions for multiple applications, and while their enclosure solutions vary from application to application, UL helps test and certify their safety. UL has been a resourceful partner of nVent HOFFMAN for the past 75 years, testing and certifying products like the Switch-O-Lite to the very first enclosure used by an automobile manufacturer, along with thousands of enclosures produced by nVent HOFFMAN today. UL not only helps provide testing and certification services to nVent HOFFMAN, but our expertise and knowledge helps address their safety challenges, which in turn helps accelerate their business demands. nVent HOFFMAN’s engineers recognize that there is more behind the UL Mark.     

Full range of enclosure applications

nVent HOFFMAN enclosures mainly fall into three market categories with thermal management solutions for all:

  • Data and networking — consisting of networking, server, communication equipment and outside plant cabinets and accessories
  • Commercial and contractor — building electrical infrastructure, metering and utility industries
  • Industrial — its more primary market, consisting of automotive, machine tool, petrochemical, wastewater, food processing and pharmaceutical industries

nVent HOFFMAN enclosures differ depending on the application. For example, certain industries, like petrochemical or wastewater, have very corrosive environments and require stainless steel enclosures. For the telecom and utility industries where enclosures are found outdoors on street corners, environments can also be harsh and corrosive. Those applications need enclosures that are rainproof and can last upward of 30 years. Even more, some applications where environments are in high heat areas, such as around ovens in a paint system, require enclosures with cooling solutions to protect the components inside.

Some of nVent HOFFMAN’s most common enclosure applications are in the automotive and machine tool industries, where fluids such as oil or coolant, can splash on gaskets or sealing components. Other typical industrial applications include enclosures in factories where numerous machines require a disconnect, operator interface or e-stop. nVent HOFFMAN has a variety of disconnect enclosures of different sizes with multiple doors. It has become common to divide compartments by voltage levels. Yet another common accessory of nVent HOFFMAN industrial enclosures is to add a window kit on the box to see indicator lights or displays inside. 

While these applications and enclosure types are the most common, nVent HOFFMAN regularly receives unique requests. For example, nVent HOFFMAN developed an enclosure used in food processing that had to withstand high temperatures and high-pressure washdowns (176 degrees Fahrenheit/80 degrees Celsius at 1200 pound per square inch (psi)) as well as have antimicrobial properties. Another example includes an enclosure used for military applications that could be installed under large off-road trucks and be completely submerged in water. And yet another unique example from the aerospace and defense industry is an enclosure that could withstand 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Celsius) and significant G-forces for a sustained period. New and unusual opportunities like these are common for nVent HOFFMAN, but with unique requests comes product innovation and the challenge of constant and varied testing requirements.

The need for certification expertise

Enclosures built for either common or unique applications require a minimum level of testing to be UL Certified. UL 50, the Standard for Enclosures for Electrical Equipment, Non-Environmental Considerations; UL 50E, the Standard for Enclosures for Electrical Equipment, Environmental Considerations; and UL 508A, the Standard for Industrial Control Panels, are the Standards to which nVent HOFFMAN tests and certifies its enclosures. These Standards include testing for dust, water and corrosion and result in the enclosures being certified to one or more type ratings of 1 to 13. One of the harshest type ratings that can be achieved is the Type 4X rating. Almost all nVent HOFFMAN enclosures are tested and certified to UL 50, UL 50E or UL 508A, which is important because it proves to nVent HOFFMAN’s customers that its products are evaluated to the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) product safety requirements in accordance with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®). Glen Kampa, senior regulatory engineer and lab manager at nVent HOFFMAN, said, “UL is the most recognized certification body and the primary electrical product standards development organization in North America.”

nVent HOFFMAN also sees UL Follow-Up Services, in which regular audits certify a manufacturer’s production facilities and products to determine continued compliance with our requirements, as an added benefit to their business. If a vendor, such as a plastic supplier in the nVent HOFFMAN supply chain changes, a UL auditor can pinpoint the deviation during an inspection which then can help drive nVent HOFFMAN to find a solution. Kampa added, “[UL Follow-Up Services] confirms our enclosures remain compliant and can retain the UL Mark, which is important to our customers.”

The value of the UL Mark around the world

While nVent HOFFMAN sees the value in the UL Mark for North America, it also has benefited from working with UL globally. Today, nVent HOFFMAN produces products for European access and respects UL’s contributions to standards harmonization because it can help reduce testing time and cost. Additionally, ATEX certification for Europe is a growing part of nVent HOFFMAN’s business, and while it manufactures its products requiring ATEX certification in Europe, the business is also managed out of North America. So, having UL experts in both time zones helps to streamline and accelerate the certification process.

As nVent HOFFMAN globalizes, the need for additional UL expertise has become critical. For example, a nVent HOFFMAN customer insisted an enclosure meet the European Machinery Directive. nVent HOFFMAN was less familiar with this directive, so its staff reached out to UL, and we were able to guide nVent HOFFMAN to an optimal solution quickly. Kampa said, “We value UL’s diverse set of engineers with varied expertise that we can tap into quickly to solve our critical safety challenges.”

UL engineers have been available to nVent HOFFMAN even when challenges arose in the field. No matter the application, industry or region around the world, UL is there to help. For example, for a unique enclosure that was installed upside down on an amusement park ride, the code authority inspecting the ride enclosure initially questioned the installation. nVent HOFFMAN contacted UL, and our engineers were able to quickly evaluate the situation and update the UL certification to include unconventional installation methods and orientations.

Even outside of North America, UL is helping meet nVent HOFFMAN’s needs. In India, an inspector observed various noncritical items integrated on the outside of the enclosure and challenged whether it was acceptable. UL quickly reviewed the situation and was able to perform an engineering evaluation to determine if they complied with the standard. Since these construction features were in compliance, that enabled UL to revise nVent HOFFMAN’s UL certification to allow these construction features used on the outside of the enclosure.

The investment nVent HOFFMAN makes in getting its products UL certified helps them achieve success in several other ways. For example, when nVent HOFFMAN is designing a new or unique product platform that requires testing to a standard they are unfamiliar with, UL offers a preliminary review. This helps them sort through the test requirements and identify the critical components, such as special plastics, through performance testing. Kampa said, “UL has experts that can help our product engineers understand testing protocols for critical components that will help guide us to the right selection for our needs.” By getting UL involved early in the product development process, it can help nVent HOFFMAN better understand certification requirements to prepare for initial certification, and also it can help them identify the proper criteria in order to select appropriate critical components.

Conclusion

As nVent HOFFMAN constantly innovates in the enclosure product space to grow its business and achieve success, having a relationship with UL engineers has helped them solve challenges that accelerate their business forward. Our diverse expertise has helped to get questions answered quickly, interpretations of the standards clarified efficiently, and compliance challenges solved promptly. While nVent HOFFMAN manufactures enclosures for many different industries and varied applications, UL continually meets their challenges with optimal solutions. Due to their partnership with UL, nVent HOFFMAN recognizes that there is more behind the UL Mark.

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