Universal Conformity Assessment--a concept whereby plumbing products would be tested once and recognized worldwide--is one of the chief focus issues on the radar screen of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute (PMI). Meetings hosted by PMI to bring certifiers together on the issue have been well attended, but progress has been slow.
In response to the slow progress, PMI has announced the formation of an ad hoc task group to study the feasibility of becoming a third party certifier. The ad hoc task group was formed at PMI's 2001 Spring Meeting in March and is charged with investigating the pros and cons of establishing an alternative, new organization with the potential to be a significant competitor in the third party certifier market. The investigation will include such issues as organizational and Board of Directors structure, certification program costs to clients, and a pro forma business plan.
While the feasibility study is underway, PMI will continue to work with current third party certifiers to eliminate redundancies. PMI, through its Universal Conformity Assessment Issue Committee, has created a Plumbing Products Approval Process model which has been approved by the National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards, Inc. (NCSBCS), and is now used by the State of Oregon. The Approval Process model has been structured to achieve the PMI objective of a conformity assessment infrastructure that allows plumbing products to be tested and certified once, but recognized throughout the United States and Canada.
"Manufacturers are continuously pressured by wholesale and retail customers to reduce supply chain costs which do not add value. The duplicative costs and time delays caused by an inefficient product certification system need to be eliminated," according to Craig Selover, vice president of engineering at Delta Faucet Company. He adds, "It is also important that certification programs are rigorously enforced. Those that invest in developing good manufacturing process control are not rewarded for producing consistent quality under current certification programs. We would like to see the follow-up audit/inspection programs improved."
To be effective, the new PMI-based organization would need to operate independently and bring to certification activities a new level of auditing of the laboratories which would conduct the materials and product performance testing, as well as auditing of clients' products and manufacturing processes to ensure ongoing compliance.