Product certification or product qualification is the process of certifying that a certain product has passed performance tests and quality assurance tests, and meets qualification criteria stipulated in contracts, regulations, or specifications (typically called "certification schemes" in the product certification industry).
Product certification is a means of demonstrating that a product, process, or service satisfies specified requirements.
Most product certification bodies (or product certifiers) are accredited to ISO/IEC Guide 65:1996 an international standard for ensuring competence in those organizations performing product certifications.
Certification schemes are typically written to include both the performance test methods that the product must be tested to, as well as the criteria which the product must meet to become certified.
Certifications (and the certificates that document their existence) are often called "certs" in the everyday jargon of various industries.
A product might be verified to comply with a specification or stamped with a specification number. This does not, by itself, indicate that the item is fit for any particular use. The person or group of persons who own the certification scheme (i.e., engineers, trade unions, building code writers, government, industry, etc.) have the responsibility to consider the choice of available specifications, choose the correct ones, set qualification limits, and enforce compliance with those limits. The end users of the product have the responsibility to use the item correctly. Products must be used in accordance with their listing for certification to be effective.
Product certification is often required in sensitive industry and marketplace areas where a failure could have serious consequences, such as negatively effecting the health and welfare of the people or person using that product. For example, certification is stringent in aerospace applications, since the demands for low weight tend to lead to high stress on components, requiring appropriate metallurgy and accuracy in manufacturing. Other sensitive product area examples include food, pharmaceuticals, healthcare products, dangerous goods, and products which have RF emissions such as computers and cellular telephones.
The process for certification of a product is generally summed up in four steps:
- Application (including testing of the product)
- Evaluation (does the test data indicate that the product meets qualification criteria)
- Decision (does a second review of the product application concur with the Evaluation)
- Surveillance (does the product in the marketplace continue to meet qualification criteria)