The way ahead

Interview with IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk

By Claire Marchand

Frans Vreeswijk became IEC General Secretary and CEO on 1 October 2012. He shared his views on key issues and challenges the IEC is facing now and in the future.

Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary and CEO

The first 100 days

Q: You joined the IEC last March. What have been your impressions?

A: It has been a good experience. In the first months, as Deputy General Secretary, I had the opportunity to observe and learn much more about the IEC and its CO (Central Office). Those months were extremely informative. I realized that the IEC CO is full of dedicated and loyal staff. I also got to know the Regional Offices and appreciate their contribution to the IEC.

I have been able to meet with several National Committees and discuss our common issues and our approach to the Masterplan.  Building the relationship with our NCs (National Committees) is an important personal objective for me.

As my management style is one of openness and teambuilding, I would like to encourage a strong team spirit and proactive cooperation. To that end, I organized a first teambuilding workshop with key staff at IEC CO last November. It was a great opportunity for CO management to get to know me better, and for me to get better acquainted with them. These workshops will take place on a regular basis – the next one is planned for early February – and I would also like to have one during the next GM (General Meeting), when all regional managers can attend.

Comprehensive representation

Q: In your presentation to Council in Oslo, you mentioned the need to ensure that all interested parties in each member country are represented and the need to develop closer relations with the IEC market. How do you plan to go about that?

A: The Masterplan calls for the IEC to position itself as the home of industry. To do this, we need all NCs to fully represent the interests of all stakeholders in their country, both at the technical and management levels. This is a guiding principle that I always emphasize in my presentations to NCs. As part of this I generally suggest that they consider reviewing their structure.

I have already met with several NCs in 2012. In May, I visited Brazil and Argentina and met many more Latin American NCs at the COPANT (Pan American Standards Commission) annual meeting. I also went to the USA and several European countries. In the first semester of 2013 I will travel to Japan, India and China.

One way of developing close relations with the market is to visit companies. Another is to organize and/or participate in major international conferences and events. For example, in the Smart Grid arena we are planning the World Smart Grid Forum in Berlin next September. Through this event we are hoping to bring together high-level executive decision makers to discuss policies and actions. We will look at what has been done in the past, what worked and what didn’t. This will allow us to identify some of the next steps that need to be undertaken to progress in the implementation of Smart Grids.

Emerging economies

Q: How will the IEC increase its visibility among countries that are emerging as new players in electrotechnology?

A: Well, if I focus on the BRIC (Brazil, Russian Federation, India and China) countries, I am pleased to report some important developments:

China recently became a Group A member and the election of Dr Shu, of State Grid Corporation of China, as the 3rd Vice-President of the IEC gives us the opportunity to enhance the visibility of the IEC in China.

This year, the GM will take place in New Delhi, India. This occasion will allow the Indian NC to present the IEC and its activities to its local stakeholders. It will also permit the IEC to meet with key players in the Indian electrotechnical sector.

There are many opportunities for us to raise the level of awareness about IEC work in these countries and we are actively taking advantage of them.

Taking the systems approach

Q: What developments would you like to see in IEC standardization work?

A: My main priority is ensuring that the IEC continues to develop standards that respond to market needs. More specifically, we need to give significant attention to the development of systems standards, which are often complex. To this end, the SMB decided at the Oslo GM to create Systems Strategic  Groups, (SSGs) and Systems Technical Committees ( STCs). Their success will be measured by how well they are able to develop the systems standards industry needs.

SSGs may well go beyond traditional IEC membership. The keywords here are system and strategic and SSGs need to take care of those IEC-relevant interfaces that are outside the pure electrotechnical field.

STCs will have the same structure as IEC TCs (Technical Committees) and they will have to liaise with product TCs. Coherent interaction and communication will be essential.

We must develop the processes for and the awareness about complex systems standards and evaluate how the first results are accepted by the market. This is the challenge we are facing in the coming years.

The systems approach is not limited to standardization but also reaches our conformity assessment activities. Many different approaches from top-down to risk management are currently being explored.

A wind of change

Q: The Masterplan makes it clear that conformity assessment is complementary to standardization and is an equally important activity within the IEC. For many years the IEC has managed three Systems. With the rapid development of new technologies, there seems to be a need for more specific CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems. Now CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) Working Groups are developing schemes for wind and marine energy. Do you see this as a trend that could be extended to other technology sectors?

A: Yes, I do see that the market needs new CA schemes and that the IEC can create them. I also think that we need to review the governance of the IEC CA activities, as already called for in the Masterplan. We must look into ways of adding new activities efficiently, so we use existing processes and procedures. I expect that we will see quite a lot of growth and changes in this area.

Involving the younger generation

Q: Why is it important to get professionals involved in standardization earlier in their career? What do you hope for the YP (Young Professionals) programme to achieve?

A: The world demographics demonstrate that the relative working population is going to decline so we will need to work harder to get people involved in our work. This means that we develop special actions for YPs. We need to incorporate them in our work early on so they are enthusiastic about the IEC and aware of the role that standards and conformity assessment play in the marketplace.

We can also learn a lot from the IEC YPs as they will be the future leaders of the IEC. They can help rejuvenate and speed up our processes and methods, they can help us be more flexible in, for example, the way we approach meetings: giving priority to virtual meetings whenever possible to save time and costs.

The YP programme is very successful. Several NCs – Denmark, Mexico, and the UK– already have very good programmes in place that were built on what the IEC does. Several others, including Brazil, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea and the USA are in the process of developing a national programme, with many more NCs looking into it.

My dream is that every NC has a successful programme at the national level, based on the template that CO is currently developing.

I therefore encourage every NC to follow suit by developing special actions for their YPs.

Approaching academia may be another way of attracting younger experts and future managers. But there I think our approach needs to focus on raising awareness so we need a special programme for that purpose. Plans have not yet been developed in that respect. At the same time, we continue to work together and reach out to academia together with ISO and ITU under the auspices of the WSC (World Standards Cooperation).

Supporting developing countries

Q: How do you see the future of the Affiliate Country Programme?

A: The Affiliate Country Programme has become very successful and important for the IEC since it was founded 10 years ago. The main goal of programme was to support developing countries by encouraging them to adopt IEC International Standards at the national level, so they can better access equipment for national electrification and improve their participation in the global market.

We shouldn’t forget that electrification is at different stages of development in developing countries. There is a UN (United Nations) initiative, the Sustainable Energy for All programme, that aims to increase rural electrification. We are in discussion with them on how to promote IEC International Standards in developing countries and on how we can support each other to reach these goals.

We also have the Affiliate Plus status, which aims to support the countries that are further ahead in adoption and offer them, among other benefits, up to 400 IEC International Standards free of charge for adoption.

Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary and CEO Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary and CEO
The Masterplan calls for the IEC to position itself as the home of industry The Masterplan calls for the IEC to position itself as the home of industry
IEC CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) Working Groups are developing schemes for wind and marine energy IEC CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) Working Groups are developing schemes for wind and marine energy