What Is a Certificate of Conformance?
When I was just getting started things could seem overwhelming. There were always new questions, terms, or paperwork coming my way and one of the big ones was the Certificate of Conformance.
So what is a Certificate of Conformance?
A Certificate of Conformance (CoC) is a specific document/certificate that states the product meets the given standards or specifications that were provided by the buyer. This is provided by an authorized party that is involved in the deal. This might be a direct manufacturer or it might be an independent quality assurance specialist or the manufacturer themselves.
The Certificate of Conformance serves as protection for the client, giving a legal promise that their order is properly met and, in theory, giving some degree of legal recourse in the event an order proves not up to standard.
While I hope you never need it for that reason, my hope is that this article will take away any confusion and help you fully understand, and not be intimidated by, the Certificate of Conformance.
In this article I’ll cover:
- What a CoC is, what it entails, and the important details should be included
- When a Certificate of Conformance needs to be given/received
- Answers to the most common questions about Certificate of Conformances
Let’s dive in!
Purpose of Certificate of Conformance
A Certificate of Conformance can serve many different purposes depending on the specific need.
However, the main purpose of these certificates is to show a clear pledge from the manufacturer or supplier that all provided manufactured parts or supplies are up to international standards.
Since different nations have different standards, the Certificate of Conformance is assurance that the materials are up to proper specs for the market that they are being sent to.
Something that qualifies as fine in Thailand might not meet specifications in the United States, while certain U.S. based products might not pass European Union standards.
The CoC on an order is an assurance that the order coming into port is up to the necessary legal and regulatory standards of the final destination.
A legal Conformance Certificate also can act as a major piece of evidence if civil or legal actions are necessary by the client because the products aren’t up to snuff. While you should always consult with an attorney, essentially it protects you from some of the liability.
What Is Required?
Requirements can vary based on the destination, however there are certain things that need to be included with these certificates.
The certificate needs to include full identification including a description of the products being shipped, a purchase order number, and any other pertinent information needed to fully identify what is being shipped.
Listed Safety Guidelines
A list of all safety guidelines, rules, regulations, or laws that relate to the products being shipped. This should include any passed inspections that are mandatory for the products in question that are being shipped or sourced out.
This should include the name of the manufacturing company as well as full contact information. Business address, mail, phone number, email, all of it. The identification should be the business’s full legal name, not a shortened or common visit of it.
The date of manufacture and exact location of manufacture needs to appear as a time stamp in the paperwork. This includes additional dates and locations for any off-site or 3rd party testing that the products needed to go through in order
3rd Party Identifications
If shipping goes through an intermediary or testing must be done at a 3rd-party site for regulatory purposes, the full information of those 3rd party locations must be included in the Certificate of Conformance, as well.
All of these details are required with any basic Certificate of Conformance document, though depending on the specific industry, business partners, and countries involved in the deal, more information might be needed.
However, this outlines the minimum amount of information that is going to be expected and required out of every accepted Certificate of Conformance.
What Details Are Included?
All the details in each Certificate of Conformance are going to be related to the requirements above, just in more detail. The most important thing to remember for these is that it should be obvious to see what is being manufactured, where it was manufactured, when, and then where and when all examinations took place.
The quick 7-part cheat sheet for necessary details are:
- Product Identification
- List of all passed safety regulations including list of certificates awarded to manufacturer that the product was both tested and compliant
- Full identification of the manufacturer or importer including contact information
- Contact information and identification for test labs or 3rd-party testers
- Date and location of where the products being shipped were manufactured
- List of all locations where product was tested for compliance along with the dates of those dates
- Identification of any 3rd-party laboratory or independent testers whose work was required for legal certification
If a shipment is going to the European Union, additional requirements and documentation are going to be necessary as an EU Declaration of Conformity (DoC) is needed in addition to a CoC.
Certificate of Conformance Template
Finding a good Certificate of Conformance template is not a difficult task. In fact, I’ve found there’s no shortage of these available online with a simple Google search. If you want to save yourself some time, look at the 40 free Conformance Form Templates at Template Lab that you can download.
There are plenty of options here that cover all the major data points that are expected from one of these sheets. Generally speaking I recommend starting with a handful that seem to suit your needs and then customize as needed.
This might not be necessary, but it’s never a bad idea to customize to your own specific needs.
What Is the Difference Between a COA and COC?
Some will want a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) in addition to a CoC. These are similar in some ways, but the CoA will be much more stringent with more in-depth detail. A Certificate of Analysis records:
- test measurements
- design specs
- lot or batch number
- testing parameters
This includes every bit of detail on testing that took place. While the CoC simply registers the fact that testing was done, who did the testing, and that the items passed inspection.
That’s the primary difference between the two. The Certificate of Conformance is taken care of by the manufacturer while the Certificate of Analysis is issued by the lab or testing agency that is responsible for Quality Assurance or Quality Control.
Frequently Asked Questions about Certificate of Conformances
There are some commonly asked questions about Certificate of Conformances that I hear a lot and want to cover really quickly.
When should I ask about a certificate of conformance?
You should always ask for a Certificate of Conformance when sourcing from overseas or with certain products that have specific regulations or special manufacturing needs or specs that must be met.
During the actual process of sourcing products or materials that are needed, the certificate should be created when the manufacturing process itself is complete, and then sent via appropriate medium once the products are ready to be shipped to the client.
Why do some countries request a certificate of conformance?
Different countries have regulations on materials, items, and shipping from certain destinations. A Certificate of Conformance can help assure that all products being shipped out or brought in meet the international standards.
What are the requirements for a certificate in the United States?
There are multiple requirements for a Certificate of Conformance in the United States. These can vary as some clients or manufacturers will want more information than others, but at a bare minimum any appropriate Conformance Certification in the U.S. should include product identification, a list of all passed safety regulations, contact information for the manufacturer/importers, and a list of all locations where the product was tested for compliance.