What Is a Certificate of Analysis? (With Answers to FAQs)

Updated 30 September 2022

Working in a role that involves products, manufacturing and other related areas may be rewarding and interesting, especially if you enjoy working in the production industry. To ensure the quality of products, many companies use a Certificate of Analysis (COA) to certify their products meet the required standards. Learning more about the importance and benefits of a COA can help maximise your potential as you can gain more knowledge about the fundamental concepts of your job. In this article, we explain more about the COA, including what a certificate of analysis is, why it's important and how to use it.

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What is a certificate of analysis?

A COA is an official document that a manufacturer issues to verify and certify that the product in question is satisfactory for the client's needs or requirements. This means that the client gets what they asked the manufacturer to produce. Having this COA is important to ensure manufactured products meet industry standards and criteria and are safe for use or consumption.

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What does a COA include?

The information included in a COA may vary depending on the manufacturer who creates the product. Nonetheless, many of them include similar information. These are the common aspects included in a COA:

Information about supplier

This is a basic field where the client is able to find out more about who supplied the parts and raw materials that form the final product. Some information about the supplier includes the supplier's name, location, official address and contact information.

Information about the materials

This field relates to the materials the manufacturer uses to make the product. The COA can provide details of these materials, lot numbers or codes that form part of the final product. This is particularly important if the manufacturer combines multiple materials from various sources to manufacture the final product. If there's a recall on any material, manufacturers are more easily able to distinguish the batches of affected products from those of non-affected products.

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Data about transportation

Manufacturers may make the product in a different country from the one that requested the products. After manufacturing, companies may ship the product to other countries for export. With data about transportation in the COA, it's clear where the products come from and where they're moving to. Accurate shipping data can help reduce the instances of lost shipments and speed up the customs clearance process. You may find information such as the recipient's name, official address or contact information as part of the transportation data.

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Evidence of conformance

An important part of the COA is the evidence of conformance section, as it provides proof that the product has undergone and passed industry-standard tests. Specific requirements, client requests or government regulations are some of the reasons that the manufacturer may have conducted these tests. The evidence of conformance helps ensure compliance with both regulatory and client requirements because it's based on multiple laboratory tests.

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Signature data

The inspector signs this section of the COA. It shows that an authorised inspector has examined the final products and has certified them as safe or suitable for consumption. This is important, as it lets the client know the products they ordered are in line with their requirements and don't require any further modifications.

FAQ about a COA

To help you better understand the concept of a COA and appropriately apply it in your daily work, here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the COA:

What is the importance of a COA?

A business that sells manufactured products may benefit from having a COA. Clients may feel more confident about buying products from a company that can show them the products meet stringent industry and regulatory requirements, with the appropriate verifications from the manufacturer. Also, it helps the client obtain goods more quickly since the shipping verification process is more efficient when there's a COA with complete transportation data. A reduced shipping timescale is also likely to lead to an increase in customer satisfaction.

Also, a COA helps assure the seller of the quality and completeness of the product. As it's highly unlikely for the seller to have an involvement in all aspects of the production or manufacturing process, it's good to have an independent and qualified third party certify the authenticity of the products before the seller starts selling the products. A COA may improve efficiency, as it may mean that it's not a requirement for the seller to undertake a manual check of each manufacturing step to determine the production quality.

How do I manage a COA?

Depending on individual requirements, there are many useful ways to manage the COA of a company's products. It's a good idea to find an organised way to store the certificates so that anybody who needs access to them in the future can locate them quickly. Some companies choose to use online databases to store these certificates, while others prefer to keep hard copies in a folder in the office. Many companies prefer using online databases, as they provide benefits such as remote access to the COA and a reduction in physical storage costs.

What goods require a COA?

The range of goods which require a COA varies widely. Generally, most goods a company produces or manufactures have a COA. For example, medicines tend to have one to show their country of origin to consumers and prove to them it's safe for consumption. Also, products such as toys, machines and equipment have them to show where the individual parts came from and how they meet regulatory safety requirements.

Where do I find a COA?

There may or may not be a physical COA on each item the company produces. In some instances, you may have a lot number or reference number printed on the item itself without a physical certificate of authenticity. By going to the manufacturer's website and typing in the lot number or reference number, you may be able to access a digital version of the COA, which contains all the information you may want to know.

This is typically the case for smaller and lighter goods, such as bottles of medicine or small toys. For larger equipment such as trucks, cranes and other heavy-duty machinery, the COA could come as a hard copy together with the product itself.

How do you conduct a test for a COA?

Either after or during the production process, the manufacturer may submit the final product or its components to a laboratory for testing. Companies usually select the laboratory from a list of certified laboratories that relevant authorities provide and deem suitable for conducting such tests in a controlled environment. During these tests, the laboratory staff members may check for the product's safety and functionality based on the nature of each product. For example, if the company manufactures pharmaceutical or healthcare products, the lab tests may seek to find if any controlled or toxic substances are present in the product.

Once the tests are complete and the results meet the criteria the laboratory requires, it may write a report certifying that the product is fit for use or consumption in the manner intended. Alternatively, the laboratory may ask the manufacturer further questions and request more samples to conduct further tests and to ascertain the suitability of the product. This is a key step as it helps ensure that the laboratory properly verifies the final products and that clients can trust the COA.

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