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How are non OEM parts certified for use 01

How are non-OEM parts ‘certified’ for use?

By Andrew Marsh, 01.12.15
Posted in: Business News | In-depth | Public

There are a number of companies operating in the collision repair market who offer a ‘certification’ process which implies a quality check. Those companies include MIRRC Thatcham, TuV (Nord, Sud, Rheinland – three independent organisations), and Capa.

The common approach by all of these companies is to offer an independent audit of the component in return for payment of expenses. Payment of those expenses does not guarantee an automatic ‘pass’, and indeed the unique selling point of all such organisations is their reputation as perceived by the main target audience, which in the UK and Germany is motor insurance companies. MIRRC Thatcham  (www.thatcham.org/parts) tied up with TuV Rheinland (www.tuv.com) a few years ago, since both companies offered similar services and now offer parts either certified by TuV Rheinland or MIRRC Thatcham.

The MIRRC Thatcham certification process is to:

  • Verify the non OEM part fits the intended vehicle by doing a physical check with an example of the vehicle. This is flawed in the sense that the model is frequently out of serial production and so may have been damaged during its career.
  • Inspect the production plant to check everything from tooling to materials complies with the declared specification of the non OEM part. This is a conventional quality audit. Once a company achieves this, it can mark the certified part with a tamper proof label. The company is not free to label any other part with such labels – each certified part has it’s own label.

Once the part has been imported for some time (usually 6 months, but depends on the volume of components) the process is repeated. This is designed to ensure:

  • Production processes have not been altered.
  • The component tooling / function has not been altered. This is only checked if there are sufficient grounds to warrant a re-test, such as non declared tooling renewal.

If the non OEM part manufacturer changes ownership or decides to sub-contract manufacture, the certificate is void until is has been put through the entire process all over again.

CAPA (www.capacertified.org) offer a similar service but with one difference – they measure parts, with the frequency of measurement tied to the volume of manufacture. The checks are performed against the part design data from the non OEM component manufacturer, but not the target vehicle. Otherwise the quality audit is very similar, as is the certificate award / renewal process.

The parts ‘certified’ to date include bumper skins, front wings, bonnets bumper skins (but not the bumper beam/crush can), and lights. The latter is subject to component level type approval which covers off the component function (if there is no type approval, no marking on the component is possible, so it’s illegal). CAPA go further by certifying the bumper beams / crush cans and the front panel. MIRRC Thatcham refused to do this on the grounds that verifying key structural parts would require a crash test, and the cost of that would put the overall component certification cost beyond the reach of the non OEM component market.

© Auto Industry Consulting / Volkswagen AG

The issue? Type approval is law, and the ‘certification’ process is voluntary. If we consider glass existing ‘certification’ processes could cover off how it’s made, but not necessarily transmission of light through the glass. Ordinarily this might not be an issue, except that non OEM glass manufacturer is big, big business and safety systems such as CMOS cameras and LIDAR sensors attached to the screen have to ‘see’ through an inclined screen, which is effectively much thicker than just the depth of the glass.

Another example of the certification process ‘gap’ is material testing which in the case of suspension / brake / steering system components (if they were offered under such schemes) should include accelerated durability testing – just like the OEM part.

Thus we can see the present limits of the certification process need to be addressed to keep up with rapidly changing automotive technology. Such debates extend to most non OEM parts one way or another, but the positive thing is that such certification processes do exist and although not perfect, are established. Something to build on, and soon.

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