If your company doesn’t have someone who represents the “standards police,” maybe you should, as I recently learned from someone who happens to hold that position. Learning and implementing things before you go to production with a component can save a ton of resources, headaches, and likely revenue down the road.
Saad Lambaz, the global standards manager at Littelfuse, explained the two roles he plays within his company.
“First, I make sure that the products we manufacture obtain the appropriate certification from third-party agencies, like UL (Underwriters Laboratories), the CSA Group, TUV, Korea Testing Laboratory (KTL), and so on,” Lambaz says. “Second, I represent Littelfuse in the various technical committees and groups that are responsible for standard creation.”
Lambaz adds, somewhat tongue in cheek, “Our internal folks aren’t always happy to see me. I represent the necessary evil within the company.”
The “compliance” portion of a design is a very necessary one. You can have the greatest product in the world, but if it’s outside the limits of an industry standard, chances are your customers are going to look elsewhere.
The standards cop has a job that’s not always an easy one. First, standards are always changing. Second, the standards themselves aren’t always the most riveting reading. In fact, they can be long and boring, and sometimes vague. But as well all know, the devil is in the details. Understanding where the standard came from, and the intent behind it, often helps in its interpretation.
Another tricky aspect has to do with producing components for a global market. Different countries often have similar – but not exactly the same – standards.
There are some international standards, but not always. For example, Littelfuse sells fuses that comply with the North American UL 248 standard. The equivalent European standard has different requirements. So as a manufacturer, you have to meet both sets of requirements.
Some organizations, like the IEC, or International Electrotechnical Commission, came up with international schemes and programs to simplify this process. This includes the IECEE, which is a system of conformity for electrical equipment and components. With it, you go to a notified body, such as UL, and they do an evaluation on your product. Upon completion, they issue you a CB certificate. There’s an understanding that the other agencies that are part of this program in Europe or Asia, for example, they would take that certificate and issue you their local mark or certificate. This reduces the time and effort of having you go to different agencies.
Your standards cop is also likely to be involved in the creation of standards that affect your company and/or its products. Usually, this involves being in technical groups or committees. Having that advanced preview of a spec can often be a great competitive advantage.
It also helps to be involved with specs that may not necessarily directly impact your products, but do impact your customers’ products. Anything you can do to help them comply with standards is a big plus. And anything that delays their product is a big minus. It’s pretty clear which side of the equation you want to be on.