Adding agility

How Conformity Assessment helps reduce complexity

By Gabriela Ehrlich

IEC Global Visions recently interviewed Wolfhart Hauser, Chief Executive Officer, Intertek Group, a world leading provider of auditing, inspection, certification and testing services. Markets are increasingly complex and companies have to comply with an increasing number of often differing regulations. Hauser explains why Intertek participates in IEC standardization work and how this is a win-win situation for standards and for Conformity Assessment. Intertek actively participates in 29 TCs/SCs (Technical Committees and Subcommittees).

Survival of companies

"Speed to market" increasingly determines profitability and, ultimately, the survival of companies competing in the global market place. As Wolfhart Hauser, CEO of Intertek Group, underlines: "The world is getting more and more complex for our customers. If you look at the supply chain for example: customers may design a product in one location, assemble components in a number of different places and then build the final product still somewhere else. In the end they need to make certain that the right quality, safety, performance and interoperability are built into their products. Regulations change from market to market, and manufacturers do not have the necessary knowledge all under one roof. That’s where Intertek can help them."

Corporate social responsibility

Hauser underlined that customers increasingly involve the company early on in the project phase to make certain that, for example, a product design takes into account all of the standards that the end-product will have to comply with. These increasingly include not only electrical safety, quality and performance, environmental considerations in the production process and the end-product, but also factors involving corporate social responsibility. 

Worldwide approval

And while markets and regulations are becoming increasingly complex, some things have become a lot simpler. Hauser remembers: "Thirty years ago, if you wanted to sell a product to Germany, you had to bring that product to a German testing organization for testing and certification, and you had to repeat that process for every new country you wanted to sell in. That was not only long but also expensive. Today, the IECEE [IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components] CB [Certification Body] Scheme allows companies to have the testing done in a lab that participates in the scheme, and all the other member labs will accept those test results. There might be additional requirements which a local lab has to look into, but the CB Scheme provides a great platform to accelerate the time it takes to get certification. Today, all large testing organizations follow the principal of ’worldwide approval’. The ones which didn’t adopt this approach stayed national and are only niche players today."

Hauser then outlined some of the reasons why Intertek participates actively in IEC standardization work: "IEC standards ensure interoperability, which in turn helps Intertek customers to develop products that work across borders. But Intertek also needs to be able to test according to IEC standards, and this is another reason why the company participates in so many different TCs. With our experience, standards can be developed in a way that later on it is possible to test according to them."

Anticipating change

Hauser also pointed out that Intertek’s participation in IEC work allows the company to know in advance which standards are in development, which in turn helps its customers to anticipate changes and avoid business interruption, but also allows Intertek to plan its investment in the right testing equipment.