Quality Control

June 29, 2006

About the author: Allison Corwin, CWS-VI, is quality manager for the Water Quality Association. She can be reached at 630.505.0160, ext. 530, or by e-mail at [email protected].

Recently, quality control has emerged as a trend in the manufacturing industry. Within the past 10 years, an increasing number of companies have become certified to ISO 9000, which ensures that manufacturers are maintaining effective operations and meeting customer demands.

Although seemingly time-consuming and costly, many organizations find that the strenuous efforts to maintain certification outweigh the disadvantages.

Much like a manufacturer obtaining an ISO 9000 certification, the WQA Gold Seal Product Certification Program has obtained accreditations from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Standards Council of Canada (SCC), which accredit organizations in accordance to ISO/IEC Guide 65. This standard establishes requirements for bodies operating product certification systems. The WQA Quality Department is responsible for monitoring the activities of the Gold Seal program on a daily basis. ANSI and SCC audit WQA annually, as unbiased third-party observers, in order to observe and validate the efficiency and effectiveness of the Gold Seal program’s quality control activities.

The WQA laboratory also undergoes annual audits to ensure compliance to ISO 17025, which includes strict quality control requirements. ISO 17025 was recently revised and includes changes that reflect ISO 9001’s quality control, service to customers and focus on improvement.

Internal Procedures

In addition to enduring various annual audits conducted by organizations such as ANSI, SCC, IAPMO, Underwriters Laboratories and California ELAP, there are various activities that the WQA Quality Department must perform internally, each day, in order for the Gold Seal program to demonstrate good quality control. In conjunction with the WQA Quality Department, the Gold Seal program promotes quality of service and unbiased certification decisions through the following activities:

  • Conducting internal audits of certification files and laboratory processes to ensure tests, data and certification reviews are thorough and accurate.
  • Completing and monitoring employee training on quality control procedures and other internal activities. (Having better-trained employees ensures that fewer errors and setbacks occur in the certification process.)
  • Maintaining strict internal document control to ensure the proper and most updated procedures are being used.
  • Conducting thorough certification reviews, which include reviewing test data results, product literature to enforce proper usage of the Gold Seal and adherence to the code of ethics.
  • Performing external audits of manufacturing facilities to ensure products that are tested and certified are consistently and accurately produced.
  • Following up with investigating complaints, most commonly those involving the improper use of the Gold Seal on both certified and non- certified products in the market.
  • Participating in annual management reviews to assess and improve the efficiency of the Gold Seal program.

These quality control activities ensure that the Gold Seal program produces certifications that are reliable, data that is accurate and personnel who are properly trained, as well as promotes consumer confidence in Gold Seal certifications.

Indirect Effects

Because the Quality Department is a separate entity from the Gold Seal program, companies with certified products often indirectly feel the effects of quality control.

Before applying for product certification, potential customers are informed of the requirements—such as preparing documents including an application or data sheet, submitting an approval form to agree to the costs and parameters of procedures and providing literature that is compliant with certification requirements. In order for a company to gain and maintain product certifications, the Quality Department regularly monitors them to make sure these requirements are met for each certification.

Strict document control and thorough internal reviews mean certifications do not happen overnight; however, because the Gold Seal program has efficient quality control activities, turnaround time is minimized when combined with manufacturer cooperation.

Another reason quality control affects customers is because product certifications are valid for up to five years from the testing completion date. Because the Gold Seal staff is dedicated to customer service and the Quality Department has put programs in place to ensure that manufacturers are notified well in advance of the expiration, the recertification process is completed in a timely manner, so no lapses in certification occur.

Choosing Quality

Besides ISO 9000 certification, why would a company need to have a product certified by the WQA? The answer is simple. WQA maintains an extremely educated and dedicated Quality Department. This department ensures that the certifications companies receive will be accepted throughout the U.S. and Canada. The department also monitors the daily activities of the Gold Seal program staff to ensure the quality of work. While the requirements, such as strict document control, audits of manufacturing facilities and monitoring of the Gold Seal usage, may seem extreme, especially if a manufacturer already has ISO 9000 certification, certified companies still find many benefits in having the Gold Seal program:

  • Products listed in the Gold Seal program meet or exceed industry standards. As a result, certified products are more easily accepted by all states, especially Massachusetts, Iowa, Wisconsin and California, than non-certified products.
  • Products bearing the Gold Seal are quickly identified, assuring consumers’ and regulators’ confidence in the product’s performance. The Gold Seal Mark also guarantees consumers and regulators that a product has been certified by an independent third-party organization.
  • WQA strives to meet customer needs. The Gold Seal program prides itself on personal service and quick turn-around time because it is confident in the internal procedures that make them possible. The dedicated WQA staff communicates promptly with manufacturers to meet their certification needs.
About the Author

Allison Corwin

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