Testing, inspection and certification (TIC) services play a crucial role in facilitating international trade by ensuring products and services meet certain standards before they enter global markets. The importance of this rapidly growing industry can be understood from the fact that it is estimated to be worth over $200 billion globally. In this article, we will explore various aspects of the TIC industry and its significance for international trade.
Growth of Globalization fueling TIC demand
As worldwide integration of trade continues to accelerate, the need for TIC services has increased manifold. With globalization, manufacturing and sourcing of components has expanded to new geographical locations. This has made ensuring quality, safety and adherence to technical regulations more complex. Cross-border movement of a vast array of goods requires independent verification that products meet the relevant standards of the importing countries. The TIC industry helps address this need by providing conformity assessment services.
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted global supply chains further, highlighting the importance of quality checks and testing. Demand for laboratory testing, inspection, certification and auditing rose sharply during the crisis. Even as trade recovers, testing, inspection, and certification (TIC) will remain indispensable given the risks associated with fragmented global production networks and heightened regulatory focus on safety, sustainability and resilience of supply chains. No surprises then that most forecasts project continued double-digit growth for the TIC industry in the coming years.
Key services areas in TIC
While TIC involves a wide range of services, some of the major areas include:
– Laboratory Testing: Physical, chemical and microbiological analysis of products and materials in ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories to verify technical specifications and compliance with regulations. This constitutes a major component of the industry.
– Inspection: Visual inspection and functional testing of products during and after manufacturing at supplier facilities. Pre-shipment inspection ensures correct quantity and quality before exports.
– Certification: Issuance of certificates and reports certifying that the product, service, system or person fulfills specified requirements. Management system certification to standards like ISO 9001, ISO 14001, etc. is a large niche.
– Social & Sustainability Auditing: On-site audits of factories and suppliers against social compliance standards covering labor practices, health and safety, environment etc. This is gaining importance due to regulations and ethical sourcing needs.
– Quality Management Services: Consultancy, training and related services to help organizations implement quality management systems and continue compliance.
Enabling compliant global trade flows
Through impartial conformity assessment, TIC services bridge the information asymmetry that exist between importing and exporting countries. By verifying that shipments meet mandatory or voluntary standards, the industry reduces technical barriers to trade. It gives importing authorities the much needed assurance in the safety and performance of imported products. This instills confidence in global trade which would otherwise be prone to higher rejections and border detention of cargoes.
TIC tests and certifications thus enable compliant international commerce to take place smoothly. They ensure exporters satisfy regulatory and customer requirements, avoiding costly delays or recalls down the line. With ‘inspect-before-ship’ becoming the norm, pre-shipment inspection in particular is instrumental in expediting customs clearances. All in all, TIC facilitates seamless global commerce while mitigating risks to public health, safety and environment.
Maintaining integrity through accreditation
Accuracy and reliability of TIC results are critical for the industry to fulfill its quality control function effectively. Laboratories, auditors and certifiers are therefore accredited by national and international accreditation bodies to demonstrate technical competence and impartiality.
Accreditation provides independent third-party validation of a conformity assessment body’s qualifications, resources and management systems according to internationally agreed standards. It is done based on ongoing assessment and surveillance audits against ISO/IEC 17011 for accreditation bodies themselves. Major accreditation programs include those by IOC, IAAC, A2LA, ANAB and EA member bodies.
Ensuring credibility of thousands of TIC service providers globally through accreditation is a monumental task. But it remains key to establishing the industry’s authority and maintaining integrity of the certification process. It underpins confidence in test reports and certificates relied upon worldwide for international certification of products, services, personnel and management systems.