By Rick Andrew
Thoughts of classic literature often take us back to memories of complex characters, intricately woven plots, hidden metaphors and, of course, term papers. We recall trying to analyze (guess?) the author’s intent in crafting all the rich details in these masterworks. We remember wondering if anyone ever really spoke as the characters in these books do.
As we wander down memory lane pondering our studies of the classics, we usually don’t think of performance data sheets, user manuals, product data plates and replacement element packaging. In some sense, though, we should. Product literature that conforms to the NSF/ANSI DWTU Standard requirements can be quite intricate and might be considered by some to be a work of art (well, at least those who had to work all the requirements of the standards into it).
Multiple pieces of literature
The NSF/ANSI DWTU standards actually specify requirements for three or even four separate pieces of product literature. See Figure 1 for a breakdown of product literature requirements by NSF/ANSI DWTU Standard.
Note that three of the standards – NSF/ANSI 44, 58 and 62 do not specify requirements for replacement element packaging. Water softeners (NSF/ANSI 44) and distillers (NSF/ANSI 62) do not have replacement elements that are integral to their functioning, as do carbon filters (NSF/ANSI 42 and 53), ultraviolet (UV) systems and shower filters (NSF/ANSI 177). Although reverse osmosis (RO) systems do have replacement elements that are integral to their functioning, there are currently no requirements for them specified in NSF/ANSI 58. The NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Treatment Units has discussed this subject several times in recent years, but as yet has not developed these requirements for RO systems.
A role for each piece of literature
Each piece of product literature serves a very specific function. The installation and operation instructions, more commonly termed the manual, provide detailed product information critical for consumers who need to know how to prepare and use their new system. All of the critical product information is included, so that this document can serve as a reference tool. The name and address of the manufacturer, a diagram of any required connections to the plumbing system, identification and sources of supply of any replacement elements and any system usage limitations are just some of the required information for the manual.
The data plate is intended to convey important information about the system right there on it. The data plate must be permanent, meaning that it is not intended to be removed. Required information includes the manufacturer system model number, model number of any replacement elements, a list of certified claims and important use limitations; all are included on the data plate. The idea here is that even if the manual is misplaced, consumers will still have the critical information such as replacement element specifications.
Replacement element packaging must include certain information, too. The concept is similar to that of the data plate – all of the basics are included in case the manual is not available. The model number of the replacement element, the model number of the system(s) that it fits into and the steps to replacing the element all must be included on the packaging. This can help consumers locate the correct replacement element for products that are purchased through retail channels. As with the data plate, important use limitations are also included on the replacement element packaging.
The Performance Data Sheet – a source of technical information
The Standards require that the performance data sheet be made available to potential buyers of the system. This allows those informed consumers who are comparing and contrasting products to have a ready source for that information available to them. With this usage in mind, the performance data sheet provides all of the information related to contaminant reduction performance, flow rates, capacities and other product specifications. Contaminant reduction performance information included tables that specify influent challenge concentrations and maximum permissible product water concentrations for each claim, as well as a disclaimer indicating that the claims were verified under laboratory conditions and that actual performance may vary.
Warranty information must be provided. Very detailed descriptions of any usage limitations must also be included. Examples include warnings not to use certain products with microbiologically unsafe water and clarifications regarding pentavalent and trivalent arsenic occurrence, toxicity and contaminant reduction claims.
Because many of the requirements for the performance data sheet must also be included in the manual, some manufacturers choose to combine the two. The result of this approach is that the performance data sheet is one page of the manual. This combination strategy is perfectly acceptable, as long as the manufacturer makes the manual available to any potential system buyers who want the performance data sheet to allow them to comparison shop.
Classic literature- great books and great manuals
Classic works of literature are usually written and rewritten many times as the author strives to use just the right words to convey the true meanings and emotions of the story and characters. It is rare that the words just magically flow from the pen (or computer) to produce a great work of literature with no further editing.
The same is the case with great product literature. One of the key focuses of certification to the NSF/ANSI DWTU Standards is the preparation, review, revision and approval of product literature. The process can often be an iterative one, with several editions or revisions being produced and reviewed until the manufacturer is satisfied from a marketing standpoint and the certifier can confirm conformance to the applicable standards. For manufacturers new to product certification, this process can be quite difficult due to a lack of familiarity and experience. Manufacturers who have certified products in the past often use a template to help them include all required information in their literature and reduce rework due to unintentional omissions.
The end result is a work of art – from multiple points of view. Consumers can appreciate these works because all of the information they need or want is included. Manufacturers understand the effort and attention to detail required to develop literature that meets marketing goals yet includes all of the information necessary to conform to the Standards. Finally, the certifiers are the critics who in the end can give a ‘two thumbs up’ rating to product literature that meets their requirements.
About the author
Rick Andrew is the Operations Manager of the NSF Drinking Water Treatment Units Program. Prior to joining NSF, his previous experience was in the area of analytical and environmental chemistry consulting. Andrew has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and an MBA from the University of Michigan. He can be reached at 1-800-NSF-MARK or email: [email protected].