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UL Standards: The business considerations and the importance of getting it right

Introducing the business considerations in relation to UL compliance

We trust you have tuned in to our series around UL and are looking forward to the various blogs and videos presented by PPC&A and our supporting partners, it’s certainly a topic of interest and in many instances, one of confusion across a number of sectors and applications for machine builders.

In this blog I would like to get the cogs turning around what could happen if you don’t comply to the standard and the importance of getting it right.

As a machine builder, looking to explore new markets in North America, you may be asking ‘do I need to meet any local legislation?’ If you’ve done your due diligence you will know the answer, but what does that really mean?

Is it a badge, a change of components, is it the design itself or can you use an existing European design? Let’s take a closer look.

Getting it Right

  • The UL 508A certification provides the inspection authority and your customer with the necessary evidence that the control panel complies with nationally recognised safety standards, which ensure public safety and compliance with national and local electrical codes.
  • Manufacturers that carry the UL 508A certification are subject to periodic unannounced inspections of their facilities by UL personnel. Through periodic audits, UL makes sure the manufacturer continues to meet the UL requirements for 508A certification.
  • The UL Mark on a component means that UL has evaluated and tested samples of this component and has concluded that they meet the necessary requirements, thus protecting the quality and integrity of the control panel.

To summarise: The panel design and its contents must all adhere to UL.

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Getting it wrong and the business risk

There will be European OEMs/Machine Builders that are experts in their given sectors, looking to export and increase market share. They have an excellent design with amazing features, not just in process automation but data capture too. They’ll see North America as the next natural step in its plans for growth. But the result of jumping in with both feet without understanding the US market can be devastating. Let’s illustrate that with an example:

The Sales Team are hungry and have sold 15 new machines into a new customer. The business is delighted, the salesperson got their commission pencilled in and the orders processed and dispatched. On arrival into the US, the local customs officers have looked at the shipment and identified a number of concerning factors:

  • Paperwork is incorrect, the shipping documentation and manifest doesn’t contain the correct information and import duties/HT code (Harmonised Tariff Schedule). This will be a different code and percentage based on the end market and application.
  • The machine is UL certified but on closer inspection of the Control Panel, recognise that there is non-UL components such as cable looms.

So, what happens next?

US Customs immediately quarantine the shipment and notify the freight forwarder who then advises the customer. The impact is a “RED TAG” situation whereby the shipment cannot move until resolution. The customer is disgruntled and loses an onward sell and or loss of production output.

The seller faces costly expense in rectifying the machine to make it UL compliant and doing so under duress. The return of the machine alone is an inconvenience but also consider the impact of a possible re-design, re-qualification of the panel and the loss of revenue to the customer!

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What’s the impact of UL non-compliance to the Machine Builder?

  • They’ll face consequential loss and penalty in terms of lost revenue.
  • A costly expense in rectifying the machine to make it UL compliant.
  • The possible loss of the customer for failing to meet the requirements and/or legal compliance.
  • The salesperson loses commission and damages the confidence they require to be effective customer-facing employees with the right product and service knowledge.

Here’s another consideration: What if a North American OEM has taken delivery of a machine completely unaware that it is non-UL compliant and UL make an unannounced visit?

They’ll undertake an audit and very quickly identify a risk to safety and processes. The impacts here are huge and could in effect cause major disruption to manufacturing, in addition to business closure and fines.

Simply put, it’s just not worth the risk. Costs vary but our experience shows that the cost increase between a ‘European design only panel’ and that of a UL compliant version is typically no more than 10% and often less.

So, is UL508A required on all control panels sold into North America?

Believe it or not, the actual answer is No! The US have adopted a legislation depending on the application and state. You should always check the local ruling, however, why design a non-compliant machine for only one state? Designing a standardised platform that will sell throughout the US and beyond would be a far more efficient directive.

Stay in the loop

Come back next week whereby we will be sharing with you the key aspects of design to meet this all-important compliance.

If you have a specific question about UL then the form below will be the most useful tool for you. With these questions, we can respond to your specific needs directly and also build on the communications planned throughout the campaign.

To be notified of any updates in the campaign, navigate to the sign-up form below.

If you’re interested in attending our UL seminar which is planned for Spring 2020 and gaining access to the expertise PP Control & Automation along with its partners harness on the subject of UL standards, design and compliance, use this form and register your interest.

 

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Author

Garry Myatt, Sales Director, PP C&A

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