UL tells CSAA, 'We're sorry'

Saturday, December 1, 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, Sept. 23, 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 the UL 864 9th Edition roll-out.
"Our managing of the process was poor," he said. "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.
Pam Petrow, executive vice president at Vector Security, said she has seen evidence of UL's new efforts in their work with the CSAA, where she serves as assistant secretary an on a number committees. "Their willingness to work with us on some new technology issues has been very positive," she said. For example, "we've been talking about the new concept of the receiverless central station and they've been very open in participating in that conversation. I don't know if five years ago they would have been open to a discussion like that."
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, www.my.home.ul.com, said UL vice president and general manager of the global fire and security sector 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.