Courtesy Michael Slowinske
667dbbce8505d812b77700d4 Qa Michael Slowinske

Q&A: Essential Insights on the UL Mark for Instrument and Control Component Manufacturers

June 27, 2024
UL Solutions’ Michael Slowinske demystifies the ubiquitous UL certification mark and provides the latest updates on harmonizing standards across different regions.

The UL certification mark hardly needs an introduction, given that it appears on more than 22 billion products each year. Those familiar with the sign will have the general sense of its meaning: A product has been certified to meet scientific safety, quality or security standards.

Even though the UL labels we associate with industrial equipment and home appliances have broad name recognition, the significance and reach of the ubiquitous certification stamp can be underappreciated.

To clear up a common misunderstanding, there’s no such thing as a general seal of approval. The UL certification mark can be added to products or design assets, comes in variations and can vary by geography. The full scope of certification can be delineated across a range of attributes, such as safety, performance, functional safety, health effects, energy, sanitation and signaling.

Broad Name Recognition

Underwriter Laboratories, a third-party certification company, was founded in Chicago in 1894. In June 2022, the enterprise rebranded to reflect the essence and role of the three organizations under its banner—UL Research Institutes, UL Standards & Engagement and UL Solutions.

READ MORE: CSA or UL: Which Listing is Right for Electrical Products?

UL Research Institutes is a nonprofit safety science organization that advances public safety through scientific discovery. UL Standards & Engagement translates safety science into action through partnerships and advocacy and publishes standards and guidance documents for products ranging from fire doors to autonomous vehicles. UL Solutions supports innovation and business growth by delivering testing, inspection and certification services, along with software products and advisory services.

How to Take Advantage of UL Solutions

End-users in the realm of industrial control panels and enclosure components may look to UL Solutions if they need to know whether they are receiving products that comply with applicable safety and regulatory requirements. In the Q&A that follows below, Michael Slowinske, director, Principal Engineering, Energy & Industrial Automation, UL Solutions, addresses this question directly. He also provides insights into the approach the organization takes in helping instrument and control manufacturers demonstrate compliance through product testing and certification and guidance on local regulatory requirements.

Machine Design: How does UL Solutions serve the industrial control components and instrumentation segments?

Michael Slowinske: UL Solutions helps manufacturers of industrial control components demonstrate compliance through testing and evaluation so that their products can be certified. We also help manufacturers understand the requirements for selling their products in other countries. UL Solutions also has a deep understanding of the end products that industrial control components will be used in, and we can certify those end products as well. This gives us a deep understanding of the component manufacturer’s customer and the end-use installation rules. 

READ MORE: What is Your Supply Chain’s Security Posture? 

MD: What role does UL Solutions play in helping instrument and control manufacturers bring their products and solutions to market locally and globally?

MS: We help instrument and control manufacturers bring their products to market not only by helping them demonstrate compliance with their products and services through testing and certification, but also by providing guidance on local regulatory requirements.

For example, UL Solutions tests all different kinds of switches. If a manufacturer invented a new type of switch, we would work with the manufacturer to develop the necessary testing and evaluation procedures. This ensures that these innovative products can be evaluated for safety and compliance before entering the market.

UL Solutions also plays a critical role in supporting instrument and control manufacturers by helping them navigate the complexities of market access, both locally and internationally.

We possess deep knowledge of safety, energy efficiency and performance regulations globally. We can help guide manufacturers through the purpose and intent of the applicable standards, directives and schemes necessary for market entry. This may save manufacturers time and resources by directing their focus on the applicable certifications for their target markets.

MD: How does UL Solutions provide guidance on regulatory requirements and tests for local standards?

MS: UL Solutions offers a multifaceted approach to guiding manufacturers on local regulations and testing. Our teams possess in-depth knowledge of existing standards for instrument and control components. This includes established standards, such as those covering simple on/off switches, and standards for more complex components, like transfer switches, used in critical applications.

UL Solutions actively participates in standards committees, working alongside manufacturers and other stakeholders to develop new standards for existing and emerging technologies. This collaborative approach helps ensure that new instruments and control components are evaluated against appropriate safety and performance criteria.

By combining our expertise in standards, certification, testing and global market access, we help enable instrument and control manufacturers to confidently bring their products to market, both locally and internationally.

READ MORE: Understanding the Increased Demand for Industrial Switches in Food and Beverage Plants

MD: How can end users confirm that they are receiving products from OEMs and distributors that are built to comply with applicable safety and regulatory requirements?

MS: UL 508A is the Standard for Industrial Control Panels applicable to the U.S. This standard outlines safety requirements for the construction of industrial control panels, including the enclosure. We test enclosures to demonstrate that they meet specific safety criteria, such as having a proper gasket to keep out dust and moisture.

Inside the enclosure, you’ll find various electrical components, such as terminal blocks providing connection points for wires, circuit breakers, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), switches, lights and indicators. We evaluate the safety standard of both individual components and the overall panel through a two-pronged approach, which includes component listing and a panel shop program.

For the component listing, individual components used within the panel undergo testing by UL Solutions to verify that they comply with safety standards. This helps demonstrate compliance with the safety requirements in the standard.

The UL 508A Panel Shop Program audits the practices of companies that assemble control panels (panel shops). The audit confirms that the panel shop employs personnel who have demonstrated competency with the applicable safety concepts and the UL 508A standard and that the assembled panels comply with the safety standard/requirements.

A key benefit of the UL 508A program is that UL Solutions does not need to evaluate every single custom control panel configuration. Manufacturers have the flexibility to configure panels in any way they see fit provided they adhere to the safety requirements outlined in UL 508A. This allows them to fulfill custom orders without needing UL Solutions’ evaluation for each specific configuration.

MD: Are there any new updates audiences should be aware of and that you would like to draw attention to?

MS: Yes! UL Solutions is constantly working to update and expand our testing portfolio to address emerging technologies and industry trends. Key areas I’d like to highlight are:

  • We are actively involved in harmonizing standards to support harmonization across countries and regions, particularly in Europe. This helps to streamline the process for manufacturers seeking global market access for their products.
  • Recognizing the growing importance of renewable energy and energy storage, UL Solutions is addressing the unique safety considerations of these technologies. For instance, we have recently created an outline of investigation, UL 1008B, the Outline of Investigation for Source Interconnection Switches, for certifying source interconnection switches used in microgrids. These switches are critical in managing power flow between utility grids, solar panels and energy storage systems.
  • UL Solutions is also updating its fuse requirements to reflect advancements in fuse technology and meet the evolving needs of fuse manufacturers seeking certification at higher DC voltages.

These are just a few examples. We continuously work on new standards and updates to make sure our offerings address the latest safety requirements across various industries.

About the Author

Rehana Begg | Editor-in-Chief, Machine Design

As Machine Design’s content lead, Rehana Begg is tasked with elevating the voice of the design and multi-disciplinary engineer in the face of digital transformation and engineering innovation. Begg has more than 24 years of editorial experience and has spent the past decade in the trenches of industrial manufacturing, focusing on new technologies, manufacturing innovation and business. Her B2B career has taken her from corporate boardrooms to plant floors and underground mining stopes, covering everything from automation & IIoT, robotics, mechanical design and additive manufacturing to plant operations, maintenance, reliability and continuous improvement. Begg holds an MBA, a Master of Journalism degree, and a BA (Hons.) in Political Science. She is committed to lifelong learning and feeds her passion for innovation in publishing, transparent science and clear communication by attending relevant conferences and seminars/workshops. 

Follow Rehana Begg via the following social media handles:

X: @rehanabegg

LinkedIn: @rehanabegg and @MachineDesign

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