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Conformity assessment enables buyers, sellers, consumers, and regulators to have confidence that products sourced in global market meet specific requirements. It is the demonstration that specified requirements relating to a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled.
Conformity assessment procedures provide a means of ensuring that the products, services, systems, persons, or bodies have certain required characteristics, and that these characteristics are consistent from product to product, service to service, system to system, etc. Conformity assessment can include: supplier's declaration of conformity, sampling and testing, inspection, certification, management system assessment and registration, the accreditation of the competence of those activities, and recognition of an accreditation program's capability.
Standards are interwoven into all aspects of these activities and can have a major impact on the outcome of a conformity assessment scheme or program. Conformity assessment activities form a vital link between standards (which define necessary characteristics or requirements) and the products themselves. Together standards and conformity assessment activities impact almost every aspect of life in the United States.
A specific conformity assessment scheme or program may include one or more conformity assessment activities. While each of these activities is a distinct operation, they are closely interrelated.
Conformity assessment activities can be performed by many types of organizations or individuals. Conformity assessment can be conducted by: (1) a first party, which is generally the supplier or manufacturer; (2) a second party, which is generally the purchaser or user of the product; (3) a third party, which is an independent entity that is generally distinct from the first or second party and has no interest in transactions between the two parties; and (4) the government, which has a unique role in conformity assessment activities related to regulatory requirements.
Terminology for conformity assessment is found in standard ISO/IEC 17000. The documents and website links listed below are designed to provide an easy way to access some of the basic information on conformity assessment procedures and issues.
+ ABC's of the U.S. Conformity Assessment System a NIST Publication
+ National Conformity Assessment Principles for the United States an ANSI publication
+ Conformity Assessment System Design - ASTM Feature December 2004