Improving relevance and efficiency

CAB Chair shares key decisions and developments

By Gabriela Ehrlich

Highlights of the IEC Conformity Assessment Board (CAB) meeting, which took place during the 81th IEC General Meeting in Vladivostok, Russian Federation.

Ulrich Spindler - CAB meeting 2017 in Vladivostok IEC CAB Secretary David Hanlon (left) and Ulrich Spindler, whose term as IEC CAB Chair and Vice-President ends on 31 December 2017

A tribute to Ulrich Spindler

The Vladivostok meeting was the last one chaired by IEC Vice-President and CAB Chair Ulrich Spindler who will step down at the end of the year. To mark the occasion, CAB officers and members expressed their gratitude for his leadership and guidance (see the article Don’t be a fool, follow the rule in this issue). The newly-elected IEC Vice-President and CAB Chair, Shawn Paulsen from Canada, will begin his mandate in January 2018. 

Opening doors

This year, CAB is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It is responsible for all aspects of IEC conformity assessment (CA) activities. Spindler underlines that standards development and conformity assessment are two sides of the same coin: “When they work hand in hand they maximize value”. For this reason, the CAB chair has worked intensively to bring the two IEC pillars – standards development and CA – closer together. Increasingly CAB and the Standardization Management Board (SMB) are putting in place joint working groups to improve the effectiveness and relevance of IEC work for industry and other stakeholders. 

Standards for the real world

The IEC CA Systems are key customers and users of IEC International Standards. However, test methods in Standards were not always fully applicable in the real world. They could be, and often were, interpreted differently, producing dissimilar test results. For this reason, in order to achieve consistency, and as a quality management activity, the CA Systems had participants work in committees to develop, where necessary, so-called decision sheets that provided common interpretation and agreement on how to understand and perform test methods outlined in a Standard. Recently, a formal feedback loop with IEC technical committees (TCs) and subcommittees (SCs) allows the CA Systems to provide their input on practical testing and verification. The goal is to clarify exactly how the test methods in Standards are to be written and applied so as to achieve consistent outcomes. This approach has been widely communicated to the IEC community.

Each CA System is expected to submit their decision sheets, or other feedback, to the relevant TC/SC Secretary, who will circulate this information widely within the committees. The TC/SC Secretary will then report to the CA System how this information will be taken into account. Each IEC CA System is able to nominate observers to TC plenary meetings and relevant TC/SC working groups (WGs). TC/SCs can nominate observers to the IEC CA Management Committee meetings or their subgroups.

Demystifying conformity assessment

Not every TC and SC Chair or Secretary is fully aware of conformity assessment or of the needs of the IEC CA Systems. For this reason CAB has put in place a motion for informing and training TC/SC experts about the CA aspects in Standards. The planned IEC Academy is seen as an important tool to help clarify this topic so as to define better, more applicable test methods in Standards. 

Harmonization

A second edition of the Harmonized Basic Rules (HBR) was approved and published by CAB. The IEC operates four CA Systems which provide a global framework for the independent assessment and certification of products, processes, personnel and services. The publication governs the corporate and administrative structure of the IEC CA Systems. It is intended to reduce obstacles to international trade which arise from having to meet different national certification or approval criteria and provides a framework that sets the basic rules for the structure and operation of the CA Systems. 

Identifying future business opportunities

Market demand for conformity assessment services is growing. The challenge will be to respond in a timely, efficient and cost-effective way to new CA needs. 

The CAB has put in place a business radar that aims to identify and track incoming needs for global CA services from different market sectors. An ad hoc group, ahG BizL, was created in June 2016 and tasked with creating an initial list of potential new services and sectors, with priorities for submission to CAB in June 2017. From here onwards, its role is to propose rules, procedures and systematic methods to determine priorities in view of bringing new CA services online quickly and efficiently. This work is ongoing and expected to be completed by June 2018. 

Verifying security

CAB WG 17: Cyber security, has initiated a joint development with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE ) for a new Common Regulatory Objective (CRO) similar to the one developed with IECEx and published in 2011. The objective of this UN document will be to describe a “world best practice process for a system’s approach to conformity assessment for cyber security”, which will be a comprehensive but generic process that can be applied to any technical system. For the time being, operational CA work on cyber security will be concentrated within IECEE, which recently launched a global CA scheme for cyber security based on the IEC 62443 series of standards on network and system security of industrial communication networks, suitable for most critical infrastructure cyber security needs.

Gallery
Ulrich Spindler - CAB meeting 2017 in Vladivostok IEC CAB Secretary David Hanlon (left) and Ulrich Spindler, whose term as IEC CAB Chair and Vice-President ends on 31 December 2017
IEC CAB members in Vladivostok 2017 CAB members during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia
coin Spindler underlines that standards development and conformity assessment are two sides of the same coin