In this guide, you will learn everything that interests you about product standards.
We will cover what a product standard is, what content is included, what regulations require and makeup product standards, product standards differences among countries, necessary certifications, how to choose a product standard, how to establish one, and what testing options are there.
Here, we have compiled all this information for an ultimate guide.
- Definition of Product Standards
- Advantages of Understanding Product Standards for Importers
- Choosing the Right Product Standard for You
- Country-Specific Product Standards
- Contents of Product Standards
- Types of Product Standards
- Developing Product Standards
- Product Standard Labels
- Examples of Product Standards
- Product Standards Testing and Conformance Assessment
Definition of Product Standards
The meaning of a product standard refers to quality, safety, and other standards for any product.
A product standard is a technical guide of how to make a product safe, efficient, and compatible with others.
Product standards establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies for diverse industries.
Because they are easy to recognize and reference, standards enable companies to manufacture and sell their products safely.
Product Standards Compliance
Advantages of Understanding Product Standards for Importers
If you know product standards, you can be sure that your manufacturer is supplying the best quality products to your market.
Products that follow standards are suitable for import into many countries, which allows you to expand your target audience and grow your business.
This is your competitive advantage.
Also, if you are developing your own product with a new product standard, you can create a unique set of qualifying conditions that set your products apart from the products of your competitors.
For some products, standards and certifications are compulsory, for some they are optional.
Although, products must still comply with the country’s official legislation, if relevant.
Compulsory standards mean that only by fulfilling them, you can legally import your goods into a given region.
Understanding them allows you to freely import your goods.
As for voluntary or optional standards, most of the EU standards are like that.
Complying with these gives you a competitive advantage and an indication of quality for your customers.
Choosing the Right Product Standard for You
Here, we will answer how to choose a product standard to follow.
To start importing goods from China, you need to choose the right product standards that would allow you to legally import quality products.
1. Define your product category.
Sometimes, similar product categories may have different regulations.
This is why it is important to be sure that you can place your product into a category.
2. Check for any country-specific compulsory standards
You can consult a list of harmonised standards to find the suitable standard for your product.
Further in the guide, we include resources to help you with that.
If you are looking to import into the EU, then you can:
- Check the official journal of EN
- Check IEC standards in CE directives
- Check EU national standards
- Use codes of practice within the European zone
Some of the most significant directives are REACH and CPSIA.
If you need product standards for the US, you can:
- Check CPSC standards for children’s products and household items
- Check FCC standards for electronics
- Check FDA standards for food-contact and medical products
- Check ASTM standards for general guidance
3. Check relevant voluntary standards
You also have to determine which voluntary requirements may apply to your product.
Once this has been determined, you can use the standards to cover these requirements.
You can check the same resources as above, as well as ISO standards.
Choose Product Standards
4. Check labelling requirements
Proper labelling is an important part of importing your goods.
You should have quality marks, safety labels, warnings, and so on.
You can check CE or FTC guidelines for labelling.
5. Check for facility requirements
This includes GMP and ISO standards. GMP stands for Good Manufacturing Practice, and it requires manufacturers to minimize the chance of contamination, error, and other risk factors.
This ensures that the products are high-quality and that the manufacturer conducts the process accordingly.
Also, you may need the product standard GHG protocol.
This protocol covers greenhouse gases—so whether the manufacturing process of a given product emits GHGs.
This protocol would allow you to establish your products as eco-friendly, which is an important competitive advantage.
Country-Specific Product Standards
Many countries have their own standards institutes, regulations, and legislation.
Thus, if you have a specific country in mind where you want to import, you should check the official websites of those countries.
These standards are what would allow you to import your goods there.
You can find country-specific commercial guides and standards of import for any country.
You can also follow international standards to ensure compliance.
The ISO has about 24 000 international standards that you can find the right one from.
Most standards you have to purchase, and one product standard costs around 40 USD.
Product standards will often include necessary certifications, either of the product or of the manufacturer.
Some examples of required certifications include:
- in the European Union (EU), your product may need a CE marking and certification.
- in China, you may need the China Compulsory Certification (CCC).
- in the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO), you may need to report all proposed technical regulations.
- worldwide, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and CB set up international standards.
- in Canada, the CSA standard may be required.
- in the US, UL certifications are important, as well as any industry-specific certifications like IP ratings
- in Russia, you may need the EAC standard.
Product Standards Certifications
Contents of Product Standards
Each product standard includes several parts: description of its purpose, detailed technical conformance requirements, and specific testing requirements.
- Formal name of the product standard
- Description of the product standard
- Conformance requirements
- Operational environment
- Overriding standards
- Indicators of compliance
Now, let’s take a look at each of these parts of a product standard in more detail, starting from the description.
A product standard description is a short summary of the purpose and nature of the product standard.
Conformance requirements make up the most important part of any product standard.
Conformance requirements define conditions of quality using the concepts specific to your standard type.
In other words, what characteristics make a product good.
Operational environment explains where and under what conditions the product is designed to function.
This section can help you market and advertise your imported goods.
This section would also describe other products and softwares compatible with your product of interest.
Your manufacturer must keep this compatibility in mind.
Overriding standards are the standards that a given product standard is based on.
These are national or international guidelines and formal documents that an importer must be aware of to ensure quality compliance.
Most of the conformance requirements usually refer to other documents and are uniquely identified by the title, version number, date, and so on.
Product standard registers requirements referring to a specific version of any higher-order regulation, and the product standard is not updated when a new version of the referenced regulation comes out.
Indicators of compliance are the tests conducted during quality control.
Testing requirements can be based on UL, CE, ISO, RoHS, and other regulations.
Testing can be done to assess flammability, electrical safety, physical properties, etc.
In general, a product standard includes:
- Requirements lists
- Technical files
- Label requirements
Requirements lists may include checklists of quality, safety, factory auditing, etc.
Technical files include detailed product specifications, options, blueprints, formulas, recipes, etc.
Label requirements include safety warnings, user directions, chemicals, ingredients, country of origin, etc.
We discuss labelling standards further in this guide as well.
Some more specific contents may include manufacturing hygiene, disaster preparedness, fail-safety, error tolerance, childproofing, and more.
A product standard may also include formulas, recipes, specifications, and manufacturing procedures for suppliers to follow.
Product Standard Contents
Types of Product Standards
Product standards can be divided into standard type and product category type.
Types of standards include performance, prescriptive, design, and management system standards.
Performance standards outline how products must perform during use.
For instance, how long they should function for, what temperature they can withstand, will they work after impact, and so on.
Prescriptive standards identify product specifications.
This includes material thickness, material type, product dimensions, etc.
Design standards focus on more global product characteristics, such as the overall shape, added features, and assembly specifics.
Management system standards specify the company’s quality compliance policy, factory audits, and other organizational specifics.
As for product categories, this describes your product.
Is it a type of medical equipment?
Perhaps, it is a type of children’s toy or an electronic device.
When importing, it is important to keep in mind these standards as well .
Developing Product Standards
How are product standards developed?
International standards follow the process of identifying a new standard, approval by National Bodies, designating technical experts to carry out tests, and approving the document via many committees.
The experts conduct a study to define the best product criteria, and the public is allowed to provide feedback.
It is also possible to participate in the development of national and international product standards by participating in technical committees and providing comments on the draft document.
Most businesses opt for using a national, international, or foreign standard that fits their needs.
Alternatively, a company can develop its own product standards.
Businesses can conduct product standardization, which creates protocols to ensure that the product meets the company and the industry standards.
Developing a company standard requires technical experts, reference to international standards, and study of the market.
If your company develops a product standard, it will not be equivalent to certification, but it will be something your business set up to guide manufacturing and ensure good quality.
The products may still need official certification.
Development Process of Product Standard
Product Standard Labels
As mentioned before, product standards often include specific labelling and marking guidelines.
These may concern the country of origin, restricted substance, age group, and warnings.
Mentioning the country of origin is a legal requirement in some places (e.g. “Made in China”).
Restricted substances are crucial, also for legal reasons. Chemicals like lead, uranium, heavy metals, corrosive, flammable, and allergenic substances need to be labelled accordingly.
Product Standard Labelling
Age-group labels simply set an age limit for the product in order to protect young children (e.g. “3+”).
Warnings can include bag suffocation hazard, slipping hazard, explosive substance hazard, and any other risk factor concerning your product.
Many product standards outline such labels, and importers need to ensure that these labelling requirements are fulfilled.
Examples of Product Standards
You can find some examples of product standards on official websites, like ISO.
Often, there is a wide variety of standards, with different versions for similar products that have slightly altered features.
ISO Product Standard Example
Product Standards Testing and Conformance Assessment
To show compliance with product standards, you would have to conduct proper testing outlined in the standard.
The testing depends on the type of standard as well—different products need to be tested differently.
For that, you can contact a third-party testing facility that is knowledgeable about your requirements.
Some testing companies include UL, QIMA, SGS, and others.
You can request a quotation from them by:
- Listing your product type and category
- Attaching a photo of your product
- Declaring the target age demographic
- Identifying both the manufacturing country and the consumer country
Testing companies and labs can provide all sorts of testing that your product standard requires.
This may include testing the product for corrosion, flammability, impact, radiation aging, chemical, optical, mechanical, food contact safety, water ingress, and more.
Testing for product standards may cost around $200, depending on your needs.
Conformity assessment provides assurance to consumers that the personnel, products, systems, processes or services are evaluated against the requirements of a voluntary standard.
Product Testing and Conformance Assessment
Product standards are a crucial part of manufacturing, importing, and distribution.
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when choosing the right standard, developing one, showing compliance, and understanding the entire concept.
Hopefully, this guide served as a helpful resource for you!