Type Testing and Product Approval
The cable manufacturing industry has a growing necessity to have in place measures to standardise, control and safeguard the safety and quality of the cable. There are different levels of assessments that can be requested to your cable provider - from type testing to the most rigorous product approval schemes.
In today's globalised markets, the increase in cables traded between countries is a clear sign of a mutually growing economy. Nevertheless, it represents a significant source of concern as the safety and quality of cable can be overlooked without a proper system in place.
Cables constitute the skeleton of the electrical infrastructure. The high quality of these products is fundamental, not only for safety reasons but also so that all of the electrical systems, machinery and appliances can function efficiently.
Recognising in advance whether a product will perform as intended and complies with the relevant or required industry standards and specifications is vital. A good quality cable enables high performance in line with the standard's expectations, reduces downtime and rework in projects which results in saving time and money.
To ensure the highest levels of quality, cables should be subjected to rigorous approval schemes and assessments. The purpose is always to identify the factors which may compromise the quality, structure, performance, durability and safety. When cables are found not to comply to industry standards, this exposes them to increased risk of faults that may result in premature failure in service.
Cables Quality Assessment
There are two levels of cable quality assessment:
- Type Test
- Product Approval
Through both levels of quality assessment above, testing is performed on the cables across the following areas:
Testing can be standalone such as the case of Type Testing or can be part of a bigger scheme such as Product Approval.
Type Tests are snapshots in time of the cable's compliance to the standard. Their purpose is to verify if the materials and construction of the tested cable sample are compliant with a certain standard or specification.
The manufacturer is the one selecting and supplying the sample for testing. The lack of random and impartial sample selection opens the door to the practice of the golden sample. A golden sample is a sample manufactured for the sole purpose to pass testing and meet specifications and is not representative of the actual range of production.
Based on the test results, third parties issue an official Type Test report or a Type Test certificate. The Type Test report will include the testing details for all tests which had been performed in compliance with a specific standard and whether it passed or failed.
Type Test is performed only once, and there is no validity period for the Type Test report or Type Test certificate; this means that it does not reflect a continuous assessment of the cable quality and does not reflect changes in manufacturing processes or raw materials used.
Product Approvals are certificates given by third parties testing and certification bodies that state if a cable range conforms to the necessary international standards.
Product Approvals schemes are usually designed with a combination of:
- Factory audits: qualified personnel make regular, independent and documented physical visits to the manufacturer's factories. In most accredited bodies schemes, the audit is conducted once per year.
- Cable testing: the technical determination of the specifications and characteristics of the cable, according to a standard or specific requirement.
Complying to the on-going certification drives manufacturers to be consistently compliant to high levels of quality across their systems and production methods.
If the product is compliant with the factory audits and cable testing, the accredited body can issue a license or a certificate that allows the manufacturer to display the mark of conformity on the cable.
This assures to the specifier or end-user that the product and the manufacturing processes have been assessed, and they demonstrated having an adequate control structure to maintain the quality and standards consistently.
BASEC Product Approval
The BASEC Product Approval scheme is instituted to improve the quality and safety of wires and cables within the local and global markets through in-depth, rigorous testing and on-going surveillance throughout the year over a three-year validity period. It promotes the conformity with local, national and international standards and helps differentiate product quality, compliance and reliability through its endorsement.
Figure 1 - Steps to gain and maintain the BASEC Mark
BASEC assesses the management systems and thoroughly tests the manufactured cables to make sure they conform to BASEC's requirements, national and international standards.
In order to obtain the BASEC Product Approval, the manufacturer must consistently demonstrate that:
- the manufacturing facilities comply to the BASEC's Product Certification Requirements (PCR), which set out a series of procedures and processes intended to ensure consistent product quality. BASEC assess this during regular Factory Audits.
- the cables manufactured comply with cable standards. BASEC assess with comprehensive cable testing at BASEC's testing laboratory in Milton Keynes, UK.
Factory Audits - The auditors conduct independent factory audits three times per year. The BASEC auditors are technical experts highly specialised in cables. BASEC is, in fact, the only testing and certification body who specialises in cables only. The visits are three per year, two scheduled and one unannounced.
The number of audits is higher than most other third parties, as BASEC aim is to comprehensively assess and monitor the quality of all the manufacturing processes and cables.
The scope of the audits is to verify that the manufacturer’s production processes, controls, production equipment, staff, raw materials, test equipment, procedures. test results, and handling and packaging of cable products comply with BASEC’s requirements.
During the factory audits, as part of the routine surveillance, the BASEC auditor selects multiple samples for testing. Any non-conformity of the factory's management system or of the tested products against requirements is followed up.
Cable Testing - During the audits, BASEC’s expert auditors identify and select the cable samples to be shipped to BASEC’s laboratory in Milton Keynes, UK, for testing and assessment. This ensures that the cables are selected randomly by someone objective and neutral, and therefore prevents the malpractice of producing and testing ad hoc golden samples.
In one year the BASEC scheme includes the collection of numerous samples from each approved range, on cross-sections of all the sizes of cables. The total number of samples depends on the size, volumes and complexity of the manufacturer's production processes and the risk category.
The rigorous testing comprises all the fields that determine the cable quality and performance: chemical, electrical, fire, material, mechanical.
If the assessments are successful, BASEC issues two certificates with a three-year validity:
If the factory audit results are compliant, BASEC will issue a general PCR management system certificate granting the quality of the management systems and manufacturing processes (Figure 2).
If the samples' testing results are compliant, BASEC will issue an accredited Product Approval certificate for the range of cables tested with a specific design and materials (Figure 3).
It is not possible to obtain a Product Approval certificate without successfully passing the audits and testing verifications. If the audits or testing do not comply with requirements, then the manufacturer has a time-limited period to rectify before certification is revoked. This ongoing audit and product surveillance ensure a high-quality end product.
Figure 2 - Example of PCR Certificate (click on the image to enlarge)
Figure 3 - Example of Product Approval Certificate (click on the image to enlarge)
All cable approved by BASEC must have the registered certification trademark 'BASEC' marked on the cable. Only cable marked with the word 'BASEC' on the cable is BASEC approved.
BASEC's unique approvals scheme is structured to guarantee that the cable complies to the highest quality and safety standards and gives the end-user the peace of mind that the cable is designed and built to perform as per the highest industry standards.
Figure 4 - Example of BASEC Approved cable
The cable manufacturing industry recognises a set of standards, specifications and test procedures to benchmark, control and safeguard cable quality and safety.
Type tests inform whether the cable passed or failed the testing requirements of a specific standard at one point of time. The test is usually conducted on one sample selected by the manufacturer.
Product Approvals, on the other hand, give the end-users and specifiers a better assessment of cable quality as it includes factory audits and tests.
BASEC's main activity is product certification for cables, intending to provide specifiers, purchasers and end-users with reassurance via a readily identifiable mark of quality. BASEC Product Approval is one of the most demanding and accurate schemes in the market as it consists of ongoing surveillance and rigorous testing.
BASEC Product Approval scheme comprises three factory audits per year, one of which is unannounced; this number is one of the highest in the market. Through those continuous and regular audits, BASEC aim to continuously assess that the processes and procedures in place are compliant to ensure consistent product quality.
Figure 5 - Differences between Type Test and Product Approval
In BASEC Product Approval scheme, BASEC auditors are the ones selecting the numerous samples to be tested ensuring an objective and neutral collection and avoiding the risk of selection of ad hoc samples, unlike Type Testing in which the manufacturer is the one selecting the samples intended for Type Tests.
Furthermore, the fact that the testing under BASEC’s Product Approval covers mostly all sizes in the three-year certification period ensures that the results are representative of the cable quality. Conversely, Type Test only occurs once and does not reflect a continuous assessment of the cable quality nor its manufacturing systems.
All of BASEC's auditors and laboratory technicians are highly specialised in cables, and that's what makes BASEC one of the most trusted partners when it comes to cable certification and approvals.
BASEC Product Approval is one of the most rigorous and demanding surveillance schemes in the market. Through standardised, unbiased and continuous multi-audit and multi-testing, it identifies all those cable failures that can affect the projects' performance and even endanger public safety.
Obtaining and retaining the BASEC approval and mark requires great effort, experience, control and knowledge; thus, the successful completion of the approval offers the assurance that the product has high quality and safety standards.
The BASEC Approval brings enormous benefits:
- It ensures consistency in the quality of the cable.
- It ensures that the cable meets the highest safety standards.
- It reduces the risks of downtime, replacements and reworks due to cable failures.
- It ensures that the cable is fit for purpose.
- It proves product compliance as part of the project quality management system documentation and for other legal requirements.
When quality matters, choose BASEC as your trusted partner.