Adding agility – Reducing complexity
Wolfhart Hauser, Chief Executive Officer, Intertek Group
Chief Executive Officer,
Why is conformity assessment becoming more important in your opinion?
Wolfhart Hauser: The world is getting more and more complex for our customers. If you look at the supply chains as an example, our customer may design in one location, assemble components in a number of different places and build the final product still somewhere else. In the end they need to make certain that they get the right quality, safety, performance and interoperability into their product. Regulations change from one market to the next and it is not easy for a manufacturer to have all the necessary knowledge of these under one roof. That’s where Intertek comes in.
Our customers often involve us in the design phase so that the design takes into account all of the standards they will have to comply with anywhere in the world.
Their needs don’t involve only electrical safety; there are many other aspects that have to be taken into consideration. Our client’s end users are very demanding nowadays, pressuring them to respect environmental aspects in their production process and the end-product. They need to reflect corporate social responsibility: for example, avoiding child labour in the production of products including in the factories of suppliers. Because our services are addressing all of these factors together, we are helping our customers to be faster in the market place with their products.
Is it fair to say that assessing conformity has become more complex today?
Wolfhart Hauser: Overall yes, but for our customers things have also become simpler. Thirty years ago, if you wanted to sell a product say in Germany with the GS mark, you had to bring your product to a German testing organization to get the testing and the certification done, and you had to repeat that process for every new country you wanted to sell in.
Today, the IECEE CB 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 and to make the process simpler for our clients. For us to support customers that trade globally, it is very important that our labs can operate to these standards. Most client-industries don’t only want to sell in one country, they want to sell in many countries, and time-to-market is important.
Does this mean that the actual time it takes to test a product is now shortened?
Wolfhart Hauser: Yes. Today, rather than run testing in a sequential way which was done historically and took two months or more to finish, if you know all the product specifications, you can bring that down to two or three weeks if you do it in parallel.
Thirty years ago this was not possible; something like the CB scheme didn’t exist. That’s also the reason why we developed the concept we called “worldwide approval”. The principle is to be able to offer testing for our clients’ products in any country for compliance to standards in every country.
Today all the large testing organizations follow that principal. The ones, which did not adopt this approach stayed national and are only niche players today. This idea led to the CB scheme. It was a great experience for me to be part of this history in leading the testing industry forward into a truly global and customer-focussed approach.
Do you think your idea to test in one market for all markets helped to develop global trade?
Wolfhart Hauser: Global trade has developed for many different reasons, but this approach has certainly helped to speed it up and to enable our client to sell their products into multiple markets more efficiently.
Why are global standards important for Intertek?
Wolfhart Hauser: Our mission is to support our customers in their global trade; to help them get the right quality, safety, environmental aspects, and corporate social responsibility into their products, processes and commodities. For many of these requirements we work with international standards and participate in their development.
International standards help a lot to make sure that products work across borders. We support our customers from the design phase onwards so that their products comply with the different requirements in all the markets they want to sell in.
Intertek is using IEC International Standards but why are you also actively participating in IEC standard setting?
Wolfhart Hauser: We participate in the standard setting process because we need to be able to test according to those standards. We participate in 50 different committees in the IEC standardization process and it is very important for our customers. With our help the standards can be developed in a way that later on it is possible to test according to these standards. Standards can be quite theoretical and it wouldn’t be very useful if we couldn’t use them later. We want the standards to be ‘workable’ from a testing and data/measurement perspective for our customers. We know how to test and what is important to make tests reliable. It is this experience that we can bring into the whole standardization process.
It is also important for us to know in advance which standards are in development in different areas and for different industries, so that we can invest in time in the right equipment and where possible to help clients to anticipate changes and to avoid business interruption.
What makes for a good standard in your opinion?
Wolfhart Hauser: It is important that standards don’t inhibit the progress of technological development. When technologies are very new, we want the standards to allow companies to reach a good safety and quality level but it also must give them the flexibility to design and improve their products. A good standard will ensure that devices from different manufacturers can communicate. Without standardization protocols markets remain much smaller.
Are there industries that rely more on standards than others?
Wolfhart Hauser: Industries that produce more complex products and those that need to comply with stricter regulations have a tendency to rely more on standards. But overall, standards in a broad sense are present in all industries. You can also analyse this in terms of price: if you buy a low-cost product, you expect a different quality than for a highly priced product. There tends to be more evaluation and ‘standards setting’ by the producer of higher quality products and materials whatever the industry.
There is a lot of talk about energy efficiency, what role do standards play there?
Wolfhart Hauser: Energy efficiency savings need to be measurable, and to make it measurable you need standards. The industry has to look at how do you want to compare products, and how do you want to make sure that you’re really energy efficient? This is an important topic currently for standardization organizations in many industries.