You’ve probably seen the little “UL” inside a circle on a host of products you use on a daily basis but might never have given it much thought. UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories. They are one of only a handful of companies that have been certified by the U.S. Government to conduct quality and consistency testing for products, personnel, facilities, and systems/processes. So why does any of that matter in HooHA’s world of cable assemblies and custom cables? Well, it’s literally at the core of everything we do.
History of UL Certification
William Henry Merril, Jr. founded the Underwriters Electrical Bureau in 1894. This was one of the first organizations whose mission was to promote safe living and working conditions by performing testing services for various building components. Their early tests focused on fire prevention within electrical wiring and insulation.
In 1901, this mission would expand as UL was officially incorporated and their first testing lab was set-up in Chicago for testing all manner of products for safety, but with the main focus still being electrical.
1903 saw the nation’s first-ever publication on a standard for safety – “Tin Clad Fire Doors” for establishments to safely implement this simple, but effective, method for fire control in public buildings.
Three years later, in 1906, UL began labeling products it had inspected for safety, which included ensuring uniformity to new safety standards.
In the following years, UL’s testing services and capabilities increased as they tested and literally wrote the book for safety standards within a wide range of products – everything from wall materials, to electric ranges, to fire sprinkler systems.
In 1912, a component of UL published what would become the gold standard for the electrical industry’s uniformity with the “National Electric Code”. The standards they developed helped shape safer buildings and products in just about every facet of American life.
By the 1950’s UL had expanded internationally with a focus on testing and certifying products from Europe and Japan that were bound for the U.S.
1966 saw a revolution in manufacturing with UL’s release of the “Recognized Component Index”, which for the first-time allowed manufacturers to speed up their manufacturing process by using pre-certified materials and components in their products. This simple idea radicalized how manufacturers source materials and design their products, as product engineers now had a way to ensure a much better degree of product consistency.
Today, UL stands as a global leader in product testing, safety certification, and standards-writing. In fact, many federal, state, and local safety and environmental regulations were shaped using the data and standards UL developed.
Benefits of UL Certification
Over a more than 120 year history, UL has helped shape how products are manufactured in a safe and uniform manner for the ultimate benefit of all parties along the product’s value chain including the manufacturer, handlers/shippers, insurers, and especially end-users.
Product Testing: both within specialized labs and in the field, UL’s engineers employ testing equipment that’s engineered for a specific component of a system. For everything from lithium ion batteries to life vests, UL develops a specific battery of tests to ensure compliance with design, safety, structural integrity, and overall functionality. Rather than trying to invent a new and untested component from scratch, manufacturers who use UL approved products start the design process knowing the exact specifications of a given component and engineer their product around those known limits.
Risk Management: UL-certified products are tested and retested with the greatest objective being the safety of all those who will come into contact with the end-product. As we’ve stated, this includes far more than just the consumer, with many stakeholders helping participate in the process of making a component into a system. At HooHA, our custom cable and wire assemblies are used in some of the most challenging environments on planet earth. Therefore, it is imperative to start the manufacturing process knowing that each and every component that goes into our product lines has been tested and certified for the capacity to which it will serve. Ensuring we have a consistently reliable product means testing and retesting before, during, and after manufacturing so that our clients know the product they receive will work within its set specifications established for that specific component.
Process Improvement: from their earliest days as an evaluator of electrical and fire systems, UL certification’s standards have led to a paradigm shift in the way goods are produced and services are provided in this country, and arguably, worldwide. Manufacturers were forced to adopt better processes that protected both workers and consumers so that their products could meet the uniform standards UL was developing. UL safety and product certification themselves can even extend to the manufacturing process as different elements such as supply chain management can also be certified. HooHA is both a UL approved wire and cable extruder as well as a UL approved manufacturing facility.
UL certification shows consumers that a manufacturer has dedicated the necessary resources to ensure their products meet a uniform standard of safety and design integrity. At HooHA, we make this commitment to quality because our components are used in absolutely vital systems – everything from automobiles’ electrical systems, to advanced medical devices, and many applications in the US military. All of these systems are simply too vital to produce anything less than perfectly suitable solutions that conform to the requirements of the project.