Recent CPCA Corners

Factory Audit Options

Paul Bastel
Author: Paul Bastel
Published: August 2015

One priority for the CPCA Industrial Relations Committee (IRC) is to understand, educate and resolve frustrations around the topic of product certification. To this end the committee has undertaken several surveys among members, market and certification bodies.

This is the first of a series of articles that will highlight and inform readers on several aspects of product certification. Today’s article focuses on Factory Audits.

As part of product certification for electrical or plumbing products, a Standards Council of Canada (SCC) accredited Certification Body (CB) such as CPCA members CSA, Intertek, QPS or UL, must be used to test and certify the safety of a product for sale into the Canadian market. As part of this process, the manufacturer needs to allow the certification body to audit their factory on a regular basis to verify the manufacturer’s processes and products continue to meet the safety requirements.

Our members are concerned that these factory audits are for each CB, each product category and each factory applying a Product Safety mark on the product, so member companies are subjected to 4 audits per year.

  • For example, one member company, with manufacturing in Canada, is required to work with three certification bodies in order to ensure global marketability of their product. This Canadian manufacturer, as a result, is subjected to 12 factory audits per year. If even two product classifications are being audited, this manufacturer is then billed for 24 factory audits.
  • In another example, a global manufacturer, selling their product into the North American market, has 8 factories producing products with 4 product classes for two CB marks. In this example, the global manufacturer is now being billed 8 factories x 4 audits x 4 product classes x 2 CBs = 256 audits per year.

In both examples, the Canadian and global manufacturer have a long, clean safety record for passing audits. The concern of the member companies isn’t the audits themselves as the safety of the market is of high concern. The members do question the need for 4 audits per year, especially if a history of compliant audits among several CBs has been established.

The time taken to administer these audits cuts our members’ productivity, and results in either reducing investments or passing costs on to the Canadian customers, making their finished product more expensive than global competitors. During the course of discussions with the certification bodies, it was discovered, but not widely known, that in Canada, 4 audits are not always absolutely required. A minimum of 2 audits per year are required, but the number of audits in the end are at the discretion of the CB and dependant on the type of product being certified.

The CPCA recommends that the manufacturer discuss their options with their Certification Body as all have stated they are willing to review a manufacturer’s history of compliance, type of product and volume of production to possibly reduce the number of factory audits required.

Anyone interested in getting more involved to help address this issue is invited to participate on the Industrial Relations Committee.