The current uncertainty surrounding Brexit and what it will mean for British businesses has forced many companies to begin targeting markets outside of the European Union (EU). Here, Steve Hughes, managing director of power quality specialist REO UK, explains what businesses need to consider when planning to export to its second largest export market, the US.
As the largest economy in the world, it should be no surprise that the US is also the largest market for automation and a major global producer of industrial automation equipment. Exporting $10.5 billion worth of products to foreign markets in 2015, the US is seen to have a higher standard of certification for its products compared to many other parts of the world.
In the medical sector, for example, any device used in the US must be tested, certified and labelled by an accredited body. Traditionally, European certified marks such as TUV and ETL were not recognised by the Occupational Safety and Health administration (OSHA) and typically companies had to obtain certification from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) before selling their products to the North American market.
The UL is renowned for promoting safe working environments by safeguarding a business’s employees and products, as well as working to facilitate international trade. This level of certification is the minimum standard for any equipment used across the North American continent, but achieving such certification means companies can meet a customer’s export requirements without delay.
However, pressure from other certified bodies not recognised in the US led to OSHA extending the number of bodies listed as Nationally Recognised Testing Laboratories (NRTL).
Also referred to as the certified body (CB) scheme, the programme aims to bridge the gap between many businesses looking to gain access to the US market and those already competing. The scheme has introduced 18 NRTL’s with nearly 500 test houses operating within those 18 entities globally.
The UL certification has always been upheld as the forefront process for validating the performance and safety of industrial equipment, systems and services. By opening up alternative options to ensure product compliance, OSHA has provided British companies with other methods of competing and securing their place in the US market.
The process for obtaining a CB passport for a product is like submitting any product to a test laboratory. For this specific certification and to ensure compliance in the US, the body employed must be listed as a part of one of the 18 NRTLs.
As part of the test, a production site audit is also undertaken by the certified body and regular inspections are conducted to ensure ongoing compliance. The product itself is tested against the electrical and mechanical standards relevant to that device’s sector. For example, all medical equipment would be tested against the ISO60601 standard.
With years of experience in the design and manufacturing of electronic and inductive components for the US market, at REO UK we believe this scheme to be a business opportunity for those that are looking to retain a competitive edge. Having some of the most respected testing bodies in the UK means that businesses can gain compliance locally and at a reduced cost.
At REO UK, we manufacture products using UL listed components, making it easier for our products to be incorporated into an original equipment manufacturer’s (OEMs) device. Additionally, for bespoke products we can also manufacture products using an approved isolation scheme, which is typically used when producing chokes, resistors and transformers.
With the US totalling 19 per cent of the UK’s exports in 2016, more businesses can contribute to the increase of this figure by opening up their chances to compete directly in this market. Working with companies like REO UK can make the process of meeting compliance simple and less of a burden.
Demonstrating that your products are safe and fit for purpose is important to new and existing customers, whether you are looking to increase your exporting turnover now or in the upcoming years.