Although industrial control panels (ICPs) must be certified to enter the U.S. and Canadian markets, the traditional certification process may not be the most efficient option in terms of time and cost. Becoming a certified panel shop, which allows you to apply the certification mark to all panels produced within the scope of the program, may be a better option for you. In this article, we break down the process of how you can become a certified panel shop.

Need a quick summary of the process?

1) Decide if the panel shop program is right for you

You have multiple options for ICP evaluations to choose from. If you mass-produce fixed-design ICPs, then regular model certification will usually meet your needs. But if you’re producing moderate quantities of individual or custom design ICPs, then model certification may not necessarily be the best option in terms of time and cost. Another option to consider is a panel shop program, which offers more flexibility and control over how and when your products enter the market. It involves a third party testing & certification provider like CSA Group assessing and certifying your general panel design principles, production facilities, and quality systems, as well as training and assessing your personnel. The steps in a panel shop program for hazardous locations are similar, except personnel assessments and training are excluded as eligible manufacturers would already need to qualify under the regular program to participate. Once a certificate has been issued, you can apply the certification mark to all panels produced within the negotiated scope of the program.

2) Request a quote

Once you’ve decided to pursue a panel shop program, contact an accredited third-party testing & certification provider for a quote. As part of the process, you’ll need to provide the third party with important documentation such as a bill-of-materials, mechanical drawings, and electrical schematics of typical designs. Depending on the provider you contact, you may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire that is aimed at determining the kind of panel shop program your company desires and preparing you for the on-site visit or inspection by the third party.

3) Prepare for your inspection or on-site visit

In preparing for your inspection or on-site visit, you will need to do a few things. First, you’ll need to decide on the number of vetted personnel who will be part of the program. Second, you’ll need to confirm sample requirements, including the panel types and the associated protection methods. This process will include a review of the documentation and questionnaire and identifying the sample(s) to be tested that would be considered representative of what the panel shop location will typically build. Where possible, the ‘worst case’ panel (the panel with the highest electrical power ratings, the smallest panel with the most components, or the panel with the highest ambient temperatures) would be chosen for testing, from which one could then allow any panel from best case to worst case in the program. Components that were not part of the original evaluated unit that could potentially produce excessive heat or draw high current can be added to the scope of the program at a later date through a scope update.

Once the sample(s) have been identified, you will need to define and prepare for the appropriate tests, which could include dielectric testing, temperature testing, and explosion-proof testing (if you’re producing control panels for hazardous locations). You would then need to complete the required program checklists which help you in properly documenting compliance and allow you to demonstrate knowledge of the requirements as well as the application of the requirements in the panel build. The final step in this process is to verify that you have all the equipment, tools, and processes needed to manufacture the panels. All of these activities will help you prepare for the third-party inspection or on-site visit

4) Third party conducts an inspection or on-site visit

Once all preparatory steps have been completed, your third-party testing & certification provider will inspect your samples for compliance with the applicable standards. Some third parties may require your personnel to undergo training as part of the program, while others, like CSA Group, will visit your site to:

  • Vet and interview the chosen personnel
  • Inspect and conduct testing on the samples you identified
  • Review the completed checklists with you
  • Conduct the factory evaluation (in some cases, this activity may be performed earlier)
  • Determine the markings

5) Implement the panel shop program

If you have been approved as a ‘panel shop’, you can begin implementing the program. To continue operating as a panel shop, you will be subject to annual fees and inspections. Scope updates will need to be completed and submitted to your third-party testing & certification provider if there are any changes in your panel designs, additional components, new specified panel ranges, or other equivalent changes out of scope of the original program. Updates will also need to be provided if you have any changes in vetted personnel. You can also request scope updates, and your third party will review the request and help you determine the path forward.

Why work with CSA Group?

In contrast to some other testing organizations, CSA Group accepts components evaluated and certified by other NRTLs when we evaluate your ICP or your eligibility for the panel shop program. This can expand your selection of qualified components, increasing design and supply chain flexibility.

We also have a panel shop program for ICPs intended for use in hazardous locations. Available to manufacturers who already qualify under the panel shop program for ordinary locations, it provides additional safety evaluations to confirm your compliance with requirements for specified hazardous locations. The program also enables you to access global markets, giving you the flexibility you need to compete internationally.

Explore all your options for North American ICP evaluations in our latest white paper, or contact CSA Group today to ask about our panel shop program.