MCAA: How to smooth product certification
Plans for streamlining product certification at six certification labs were among discussions at a Measurement, Control & Automation Association meeting. Topics included certification interchangeability, harmonized submission criteria, common processes for issue escalation, and one more you may not have considered....
By Control Engineering Staff
Williamsburg, VA – Plans for streamline product certification at six certification labs were among discussions at the Measurement, Control & Automation Association May annual meeting in Tempe, AZ. The two-day meeting of 120 senior executives included discussion about certification interchangeability, harmonized submission criteria, common processes for issue escalation, and a national mark, among other points discussed. For more help on certification, with photos, read:
At the MCAA meeting, more than 70 association members talked with representatives of six nationally recognized testing laboratories that test and certify products. The Product Approval Process Summit was held immediately following the annual meeting. Members reported that time delays and price increases resulting from certifications have placed them at a competitive disadvantage around the world. The goal of the summit was to bring parties to the table to air issues and move forward.
The moderator, former industry executive Edward J. Curry of the consulting firm of Curry & Hurd, solicited information about projects and processes. The group looked at issues of timeliness and cost, and both sides agreed to continue the dialog through further meetings. Labs represented were CSA, FM, Intertek, MET Labs, TUV Rheinland, and UL. The NRTL program is monitored by the Department of Commerce whose representative, Indrek Grabbi, attended as an observer.
The first task will be to provide facts to put specifics on the issues. Discussions are likely to take place with insurance underwriters and customers to educate both groups on the interchangeability of NRTL certifications. Members talked about moving toward a harmonized set of submission criteria, common process for issue escalation, and a common set of languages/terminology. A National Mark and a matrix timetable for certification were discussed.
A committee will be established to begin the process of addressing issues and pulling together a program to involve members and executives from the labs.
Other topics at the meeting included:
Keynoter Dick Morley, inventor of the programmable logic controller and founder of Modicon and Andover Controls, addressed, among other topics, surface-to-volume ratio and its impact on innovation.
Dr. Michael Workman followed up on his presentation last year on changes in channel relationships, suggesting that sales people must become primarily information managers, not information providers to remain essential to their customers.
Other segments included a review of the 2008 Operating Benchmarks Report , an economic forecast based upon the business cycles of user industries, new insights into selling products, and a discussion of innovation and product development. Expanded networking opportunities allowed attendees to share ideas and issues with each other.
Each year MMCA collects information on the operating performance of member companies — North American manufacturers and distributors of instrumentation, systems, and software used in industrial process control and factory automation. Members contribute financial information and the Association produces a report. Data is categorized by sales volume. The 2008 Operating Benchmarks Report covers 2003-2007 for companies in the industry. Forty-eight companies provided data, this year including 10 public companies. For the fourth year, the report includes a section on 15 industry companies from public data. An overview was presented at the Industry Forum. Full reports are available to participating member companies; non-members can contribute data and receive the aggregation for a fee.
Revenues for 2007 rose above 2006 from 4.2% to 16.3% (average) for members and over 20% for public companies in the industry. Revenue growth was substantial as was resulting income from operations. A factor in improved operating income is across-the-board management of selling and general and administrative expenses. This year larger companies increased R&D spending 30% in absolute dollars, while showing a decline as a percent of sales, likely attributable to a program of acquiring R&D by the larger companies. Smaller firms continued their investment at typically about 5% of sales. Global factors affected members– moving operations offshore, foreign exchange changes, energy and conservation initiatives by end-users, and R&D by acquisition.
In other news, MCAA elected David A. Wolfe, president of Acromag, Inc. as chairman for the next year. Wolfe holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Oakland University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and has served on the Board since 2004. Also elected was Charlotte Hill, president/CEO of GF Signet LLC in El Monte, CA, to serve as vice chairman and treasurer. Michael Gerster, president of WIKA Instrument Corporation in Lawrenceville, GA, and Jeffrey Peters, president of Precision Digital Corporation of Natick, MA, were elected directors-at-large.
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