Certification Helps Manufacturers Prove and Improve the Quality of their Products
In my former position as a sales representative at the Water Quality Association (WQA), I sometimes heard my clients refer to certification for water treatment products as a “necessary evil.” How unfortunate it is, I thought, that some clients think of product certification in the same vein as filing taxes, registering a vehicle or making a rent payment—things we endure because we have no other option. Each of us must pay taxes in order to avoid the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service, register our vehicles in order to legally drive them on public roads, and make our monthly rent or mortgage payment in order to keep a roof over our head. At WQA, we work hard to show our clients that product certification is not a “necessary evil,” but rather an opportunity for the company to simultaneously prove and improve the quality of its products.
Let us begin with the proof aspect. Product certification attests that a product meets specific standards, often related to quality, safety or health. Typically, manufacturers of water treatment equipment pursue product certification for two main reasons: to demonstrate compliance with a legislative or regulatory requirement; or to assure customers that the company’s products are safe to use and will perform as advertised. These core reasons rely heavily on proving that the product has undergone extensive testing, making the website listing and trademark usage privileges key benefits of certification.
The trademark of a certification body—in WQA’s case, the Gold Seal and Sustainability Mark—can only be used by companies that have undergone product testing and certification and met the strict requirements outlined therein. These trademarks are known throughout the water treatment industry by manufacturers, dealers, retailers and regulators as representations of product quality. Such trademarks convey that the product meets the requirements of a specific standard which often includes confirming that the product is constructed or formulated from safe materials and will hold up under normal usage conditions, and that the claims listed on its packaging are confirmed by test data.
Similarly, only products that have passed testing and certification to a specific standard can be listed on a certification body’s website. Online listings prove to customers, competitors, regulators and anyone else researching a product, that it is certified with a third-party certification body. All of WQA’s certified products can be found at www.wqa.org/find-products. Only products that (1) have passed the industry’s rigorous testing requirements, (2) are manufactured in facilities that have undergone annual audits, and (3) comply with WQA's Certification Schemes can be found in these listings.
So, how can product certification actually lead to product improvement? In some cases, the high standards required to pass the testing and certification process forces manufacturers to make improvements to their products. Such improvements may include ensuring that the product is comprised of materials that meet higher benchmarks for health and environmental safety, and that the product remains structurally sound under higher-than-normal water pressures. If the product fails testing, the manufacturer is forced to correct the failing aspect and undergo testing once again. This means a manufacturer may have to replace a particular material or reengineer the product so that it holds fast under pressure.
Product certification may also force improvements in the processes associated with manufacturing a product. Earning a trademark on a product means a company has gone through extensive audits and that their quality processes are approved. This assures consumers that each product has been manufactured the same way every time and that they are buying a replica of the product that was tested. Passing audits demonstrates that the certified products coming out of that manufacturing facility have been put together with the same quality process and the same safe parts. In the end, these improvements result in products that are well constructed, of higher quality, and safer for consumers.
WQA’s Sustainability Certification Program takes this idea several steps further by conducting a lifecycle analysis of a product’s environmental impact while helping the manufacturer improve process efficiency and reduce waste. The program also helps manufacturers minimize regulatory and liability risk by eliminating hazards in the workplace and reducing the environmental footprint of their products.
In conclusion, the mindset that product testing and certification are “necessary evils” is, at best, shortsighted. Product testing and certification offers companies a chance to improve their product, to prove that the products they manufacture are top of the line, high quality items. While the process may, at times, feel like a hassle to representatives of the manufacturing company, our clients find that the pros vastly outweigh the cons.
Amy Reichel is a marketing and communications specialist with the Water Quality Association, a not-for-profit association serving companies that specialize in residential commercial, and industrial water treatment. WQA proudly serves as an educator of water treatment professionals, certifier of water treatment products, public information resource and voice of the water quality improvement industry.