The Plumbing Manufacturers Institute has formed an ad hoc group to study the feasibility of becoming a third-party certifier. Potentially PMI could be a significant competitor in that market. PMI supports Universal Conformity Assessment, whereby plumbing products are tested once and recognized worldwide.

The task group was formed at PMI's 2001 spring meeting in March. The group will study issues such as organizational and board of directors structure, certification program costs to clients, and a pro forma business plan.

Meanwhile, PMI will continue to work with current third-party certifiers to eliminate redundancies. Lack of harmonization between ANSI-accredited organizations has resulted in unnecessary and redundant product testing, which adds costs to manufacturers and ultimately end-users, and delays the process of getting new products to market.

PMI's Universal Conformity Assessment Issue committee created a Plumbing Products Approval Process model which has been approved by the National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards and is now used by the state of Oregon. The model allows plumbing products to be tested and certified once, but recognized throughout the United States and Canada.

To be effective, the new PMI-based organization would need to operate independently and bring to certification activities a new level of auditing of laboratories which would conduct the materials and product performance testing, and auditing of clients' products and manufacturing processes to ensure ongoing compliance.

In other news, PMI met with representatives of the Chemical Specialty Products Association, the Soap and Detergent Association, and various companies that manufacture shower-cleaning products to discuss manufacturer concerns regarding the effects of those cleaners on plumbing products. The group met in February in Washington, and tentatively plans to meet again in May in Chicago.