What is UL Certification and Why is it Important?

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 Meridian’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 Meridian, 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. Meridian 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 Meridian, 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.

UL’s Certification Process

UL is the approved certification body for a wide variety of industry and governmental regulation authorities. UL breaks up its certification capacity into three different areas: UL listing service, UL recognition service, and UL classification service. 

A UL listing service is a manufacturer that has been verified as having met all of the requirements UL has developed for a particular product, service, or capability. UL does not typically test each product from a UL listing service, but instead relies on the manufacturer to provide their own testing, per UL’s requirements. In this case, UL will perform quality checks on the manufacturer to ensure continued adherence to these requirements is met.

A UL recognition service is for manufacturers that don’t develop the actual end product, but rather a component of the system. A custom wire and cable manufacturer is a good example of a UL recognition service. Like Meridian, these companies manufacture the cables, wires, harnesses, and other components that are then used by other manufacturers to complete the product. A UL recognition service will also generally provide their own testing services per UL’s strict requirements, with regular quality checks to ensure compliance.

UL’s classification service is the actual deployment of UL’s engineers and testing professionals to certify specific risks or performance standards, adherence to regulatory requirements, or other specified conditions. For instance, UL is an approved certification body for the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which among other safety measures, required third-party verification for the safety standards of children’s furniture. Manufacturers needing to meet this requirement can have UL verify that their products adhere to these standards. 

How do you know if your cable manufacturer uses UL-Certified components?

As a UL approved cable and wire extruder and being a UL approved manufacturing facility, Meridian is certified by UL to produce a wide variety of wires and cables that all meet or exceed industry standards for those components. UL’s new Product iQ tool allows anyone to access certification information for the myriad of products or components UL certifies.

Buying a cheaper product from a company that doesn’t adhere to the same quality standards that UL has helped institute can be incredibly costly. Production delays or a drop in consumer confidence can spell a company’s ruin. Worse, a failure of a critical component in a military or medical setting can prove dire when human life is at stake. UL certification gives consumers the confidence to buy and use a product as it was intended, without reservation. Before UL, manufacturers could (and did) cut corners just to make a buck and both workers and consumers were negatively affected. UL’s certification process helped make manufactured goods and services accountable by creating a unified standard. At Meridian, we proudly maintain our UL certification and continue to add UL wire and cable certifications to our growing list because this commitment to quality lays at the center of every cable assembly, corded cable, molded component, and wire harness that rolls of our production lines.

Ready to start your project knowing UL-certified components are being used?

Have confidence with your project knowing that the components our design staff are putting in your system have been tested and retested to ensure they will perform in whatever environment you need them to. Each and every product off our assembly lines goes through our own strict QA/QC process to make sure the client gets exactly what they need with each and every component of the order. Our design team loves taking our client’s hard problems and producing solutions that deliver. With UL approved production facilities around the globe, Meridian can deliver your critical components anywhere you need them. Contact our knowledgeable sales team to start the design process today.