UL tells CSAA, 'We're sorry'

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

KONA, Hawaii--Underwriters Laboratories' senior vice president and chief operations officer Charlie Abounader used his time here on day two of the CSAA annual meeting to effectively say, "We're sorry." While also announcing a number of new initiatives, Abounader went out of his way to acknowledge UL's slow response times and complete mishandling of UL 864's 9th edition roll-out.
"Our managing of the process was poor," said Abounader, who joined UL from GE less than one year ago. "We had no plan, and we failed. It's hard to fail if you don't have a plan, but we accomplished it ... We'll make a commitment that it will never happen again." He even said things might get worse before they get better, as more new products continue to come in for listing. However, "we'll finally be through the muck by year-end," he predicted. "You'll start seeing reductions in service time."
He vowed: "We'll never let the group deteriorate again." He referred to the group of engineers assigned to the security and fire industries, but he could have been talking about UL's employee base as a whole. Since bottoming out in July of 2005, by his description, UL has hired 1,100 engineers and lab technicians, including 570 in 2007 alone, bringing the company to more than 6,000 employees total. The investment in security-relevant areas has been significant, with a staffing increase of 43 percent in those dedicated to fire alarm panels, 31 percent for smoke and CO detectors, 27 percent for access control, and 15 percent for central station certificate services by the end of the year.
Also of interest for those looking for a better way to work with UL, the third-party certification house is adding functionality to its Web portal, http://my.home.ul.com, said UL vice president for fire, signaling and security Chris Hasbrook. You'll soon be able to check the status of applications and be able to apply for certificates online, have it validated online, and be able to print certificates out in real time to show to AHJs.
"We're looking for a more efficient way to do this," Hasbrook said, to much head-nodding.
Finishing on a contrite note, Abounader asked attendees not to judge UL yet. "It's a new UL," he said, with a number of new people on board who will take time to get up to speed, but will get there soon.
"We acknowledge that people did things to you," he said, "but I can't change the past. I can only show you how we're investing in the future."