Reaching its full potential

IEC General Secretary addresses Council

By Antoinette Price

The IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk addressed Council at the 2014 IEC GM (General Meeting) in Tokyo, Japan, and presented highlights of the Commission’s work and accomplishments in the year since the Dehli GM.

Frans at council
IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk during his address to Council

Remaining market relevant

The IEC finished the year on a positive note in a financially strong and stable position. However, Vreeswijk emphasized the point that there is more work to be done to strengthen the IEC globally.

Strenghtening the IEC

IEC NCs (National Committees) are the backbone of the IEC, providing experts and leaders who participate in technical and management work. They also ensure that all interested national stakeholders are fully represented in the IEC. Broad stakeholder representation is of key importance for the IEC as it ensures that we remain market relevant. How well each individual NC achieves this, determines the strength of the IEC as a whole.

But it is difficult for an NC to sell a brand that many stakeholders have not heard of. While the IEC has invested greatly over the past years in the logo and its registration in many countries and is communicating extensively at a global level, this alone is not enough to increase awareness nationally. NCs are the key to making the IEC better known in their country. To do so they need to use the IEC brand more consistently in all communication materials, online and in media efforts.

Supporting NCs

Vreeswijk added that as a way to strengthen the IEC and make it more globally pertinent, the Council has decided to establish a mechanism to gather important information about individual NC structure, representation and operations. This will allow him to determine where the IEC Central Office can provide concrete help, such as training sessions, workshops, visits to specific stakeholder representatives, and to share best practices between NCs.

Protecting IP and stopping losses

The business model of the IEC and its National Committees is under attack from several sides. Many national regulators require the incorporation of IS (International Standards) by reference, which represents about 4% of the IEC IS collection, including some best sellers.

In today’s digital age, it is more than ever vital to protect intellectual property rights. Illegal activities, such as illicit copies of International Standards lead to revenue losses for both the IEC and its Members.

The IEC works with a company which tracks and removes such copies, but Vreeswijk again underlined the importance of the role NCs can play in educating final users about the drawbacks of using pirated materials.

Boosting value-added services

In view of sustained attacks on the IEC business model and increasing levels of online piracy, the IEC is also exploring new ways in which to generate revenue. As part of this effort, the IEC is putting in place new approaches to Standards development. Rather than building isolated Standards in PDF format the IEC is now looking at a modular content system where information is integrated into a database. Information can be extracted, sliced and diced as needed to build any new product customers want in any desired format: XML, ePub, PDF and more.

In parallel, the IEC has developed a tool to extract structured information from existing Standards and legacy documents. A pilot with five series, containing 120 Standards is planned. The aim is for NCs to test the market with these structured content Standards. As always, the IEC is looking for solutions that offer a high level of efficiency while remaining free of charge for IEC Members.

Additionally, the IEC is looking to increase the number of value-added publications such as Redline (a version provides you with a quick and easy way to compare all the changes between the Standard and its previous edition) and Commented versions of International Standards, which already represent close to 20% of IEC sales.

Benefits of monitoring national adoption of IS

In the broader picture, all 160 WTO (World Trade Organization) signatory states are obliged to ensure that technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. In this context, they commit to giving preference to IEC International Standards for national regulations in electrotechnology and as a basis for national standards.

In order to monitor progress in this area, it is vital to know which IEC International Standards have been adopted and where.

The IEC set up a database in 2009 to gather this information, however it remains incomplete. Vreeswijk underscored the additional benefits of this tool for IEC stakeholders, which increases their awareness of national variations that impact design and manufacturing processes. It also broadens the Standards’ visibility and helps identify where extra work is needed to stimulate further use.

Only the IEC Members are able to make the link between International Standards and national adoptions and were urged to help complete this database by sharing and maintaining the relevant information.

New processes and structures update

The IEC continues to grow with almost 15 000 experts, mostly from industry. 2014 saw the creation and restructuring of TCs, SGs (Strategic Groups) and the further development of the systems approach.

TC 122: UHV AC Transmission Systems, whose scope is standardization in the field of AC transmission technology at 1 000kV and above will consult with product TCs in all systems-related aspects of equipment Standards, as well as with ACTAD (Advisory Committee on Electricity Transmission and Distribution). The Secretariat was allocated to the Japanese NC.

SG 7: Electrotechnical Applications of robot technologies and SG 8: Industry 4.0 – Smart Manufacturing were also established, as was the ACSEC (Advisory Committee on Security).

The new structures and processes for developing International Systems Standards continue to evolve. The first two of the three SEG (Systems Evaluation Groups) for Smart Grid, Ambient Assisted Living and Smart Cities set up two years ago have become SyCs (Systems Committees), which build on the Standards framework developed by their SEGs. Several new SEGs were created (see SMB article in this e-tech).

Conformity Assessment Systems

In the area of CA (conformity assessment), it was a good year, with financially sound and rapidly growing IECEE, IECEx and IECQ Systems.

IECRE, the new IEC CA System for renewable energy technologies in wind, marine and solar PV, will adopt a systems approach to ensure the quality of the whole value chain. The General Secretary reported that the System will include risk management. Building a good wind turbine is only the first part; how the turbine is transported from the factory to the site and how it is installed is equally important. All of these aspects require special attention to ensure the ultimate performance of the whole system. One challenge also noted, and which will be monitored for the time being by the CAB (Conformity Assessment Board), was how to integrate new industry sectors, like cyber security, industrial automation, Smart Grids and data privacy into the IEC CA structure, since these could span several CA Systems.

Raising awareness through regional centres

The regional centres continue to do an excellent job of promoting and raising awareness of the IEC and its work, through a variety of international and regional events and by supporting National Committees in their local time zones.

Following those in the US, Latin America and Asia, Vreeswijk announced that the IEC will officially open a regional centre, IEC-AFRC, in Kenya to serve the vast African continent in Q4 of 2015.

Vibrant Affiliate Country Programme

The IEC Affiliate Country Programme continues to provide key advantages to many developing countries. The Affiliate Secretary runs workshops building awareness of the need to participate in standardization and conformity assessment, as well as adopting IEC International Standards. These have resulted in 42 countries making national adoptions of IEC International Standards and more countries have established their National Electrotechnical Committees as a first step towards Affiliate Plus status within the IEC.

IEC ambassadors

Now in its fifth year, the IEC Young Professionals programme is bringing concrete benefits to NCs and industries who send participants. Vreeswijk reported that 63% of past participants surveyed had increased their involvement in national work and 90% shared their newly gained know-how in their workplace, promoting the benefits of participating in and using IEC work.

In another area, IEC Officers and CO staff have visited 21 Member countries and participated in roundtables with local and regional industries, to promote stakeholder involvement in line with the IEC Masterplan. These activities benefit the NCs with their awareness-building efforts with executive level leaders. At the same time IEC leadership is also able to gain valuable market feedback.

Working with international organizations

The IEC cooperates with many international and regional organizations whenever it is in the interest of the marketplace. This strategy allows the IEC to increase awareness and better coordinate work. This year, the IEC entered two cooperation agreements. With UIC (International Union of Railways), the IEC will be able to better develop standards for safety, efficiency and cost-effective railways. The cooperation agreement with EASC (Euro-Asian Interstate Council for Standardization, Metrology and Certification) aims to avoid duplication of efforts, by ensuring that technical reviews of standard content occur on an international level.

Market Strategy Board

The MSB is constantly on the watch for new and future technologies which could be of interest to the IEC. It also publishes White Papers and Reports with the goal of providing the IEC and other interested parties with strategic guidance for future work. Vreeswijk mentioned the publication of the Smart Cities and Internet of Things White Papers during the Tokyo General Meeting.

Final thoughts

IEC work is increasingly important for global trade. Society is facing challenges on a scale never seen before in areas such as energy, the Internet of Things, Smart Cities and integration for a Smarter World.

In summing up, Vreeswijk reiterated that the National Committees were the true actors in all that was achieved over the last year. He stated that the IEC only has a true global voice when each Member is engaged, invests and contributes actively. When each Member country, no matter how small or big actively promotes the work of the IEC, then all Members benefit. It is this joint energy that allows the IEC to be strong and efficient.

Frans at council IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk during his address to Council
wind and solar energy at the Jura IECRE, the new IEC CA System for renewable energy technologies in wind, marine and solar PV, will adopt a systems approach to ensure the quality of the whole value chain
train explosion Thanks to its cooperation agreement with UIC, the IEC will be able to better develop standards for safety, efficiency and cost-effective railways