Conformity assessment and accreditation create trust
The Cycle of Workshops: A Systemic Approach to Quality Infrastructure continued with the celebration of the third workshop on 04 June 2021. It dealt with conformity assessment and accreditation in the Mexican, German and European context. Both elements are key for an articulated Quality Infrastructure system. More than 250 people attended the workshop and listened to high-ranking representatives from the private and public sectors of both countries.
Conformity assessment plays a vital role in achieving public interests such as the protection of consumers and the environment. It also builds trust between market participants. Accreditation in turn ensures that conformity assessment bodies (CABs) act independently and competently. Both are crucial for an efficient and functioning quality infrastructure. This way, they boost the economy and innovation.
Conformity assessment and accreditation also help to build trust at the international level and ease trade. This is especially true in times of increasingly digitalised value chains and international online trade. Internationally recognised accreditation increases confidence in conformity assessment. It also eliminates the need to repeat tests - creating efficiency and avoiding unnecessary costs. The workshop reflected all of these considerations.
Mr Alfonso Guati Rojo Sánchez, Director General of the General Bureau of Technical Regulation and Standardisation from the Mexican Ministry of Economy (Secretaría de Economía - SE), and Mr Boris Böhme, Head of Division ICT Technical Regulation and Standardisation, Product Safety, Market Surveillance from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), inaugurated the workshop. They also introduced the role of conformity assessment and accreditation in the quality infrastructure system of their respective countries.
Representatives from governmental authorities, relevant QI institutions and the private sector completed the panel. Mr Wolfram Hartmann, Head of Business Development / Committee Policy, and Mr Alexander Perdoni, Advisor International Accreditation Policy, spoke on behalf of the German National Accreditation Body (DAkkS). The Mexican side was represented by Ms Maribel López, Executive Director, Mexican Accreditation Body (ema) and Mr Martín Flores, Director General, Mexicana de Acreditación (MAAC). They explained how accreditation bodies are organised in Mexico and Germany.
They were accompanied by Mr Juan Manuel Rosales, President, Mexican Council for Standardisation and Conformity Assessment (COMENOR) and Ms Pia Kathöfer, Corporate Regulatory Affairs Coordinator, TÜV Rheinland, from the conformity assessment sector. Both panellists addressed the meaning of conformity assessment in the two countries.
Dr Sarah Brückner, Head of Department Technical, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) and Dr José Zozaya, President, Mexican Association of the Automotive Industry (AMIA), shared their insights on behalf of the industry. They described the role and scope of the private sector in conformity assessment in Mexico and Germany, and they stressed the benefits it brings to companies.
Mr Raúl Romero Anaya, Quality Infrastructure Coordinator of SE, completed the governmental perspective of the topics. He explained in detail the regulatory framework of accreditation in Mexico as well as its importance for global trade.
An overview of conformity assessment and accreditation in Germany and Mexico
According to Mr Boris Böhme, conformity assessment and accreditation were strengthened in the EU since the New Approach from the 1980s. In 2008, the European Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008 created a uniform legal framework for accreditation. This consolidated accreditation as a procedure for demonstrating the technical competence of conformity assessment bodies in both regulated and non-regulated areas.
While in the case of accreditation there is only one accreditation body per country, the situation is different in conformity assessment. There are three relevant actors: manufacturers, legislators and CABs. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that his product is subject to conformity assessment at both the design and production stages. All this must be done before the product is placed on the market.
As Mr Alfonso Guati Rojo reported, under the framework of the Quality Infrastructure Law, the conformity assessment model in Mexico ensures compliance with technical regulations (NOM), standards (NMX) and other legal provisions. This is accomplished through sampling, tests, calibration, certification and inspection. Conformity assessment in Mexico is mostly private sector oriented. Most of the Mexican CABs are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). They are organised in certification bodies, inspection units, calibration and testing laboratories.
The accreditation model in Mexico is subordinate to Mexican law and is also recognised at the international level. It promotes the development of better products and services through both local and international regulatory compliance. The authorisation to accreditation entities is issued by the Ministry of Economy. Only in exceptional cases, technical regulation authorities are empowered to accredit the CABs.
In Germany and the European Union (EU) there is only one accreditation body per country. This is due to the principle of non-competition to ensure the quality of accreditation. In Mexico, after 22 years, there are now two accreditation bodies (ema and MAAC). And there are more waiting to be approved. From the Mexican perspective, competition is desirable as it could lead accreditation bodies to strengthen innovation and the quality of their services. Notwithstanding, the quality of accreditation is ensured by the strict supervision of the authorities and thorough peer to peer evaluation. At the international level, this is done by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC).
Juan Manuel Rosales emphasized that conformity assessment provides confidence for both consumers and stakeholders. In a broader sense, it enables companies and markets to have a competitive edge. Moreover, Mexico has become one of the top countries in manufacturing and CABs should work as a facilitator to promote markets. Pia Kathöfer explained the conformity assessment processes in the EU and Germany. She underlined that the legislator selects the appropriate modules to address the specific needs of the concerned sector. Various aspects must therefore be considered: the type of products and hazards involved; the impact on the protection of public interest, and the methods of production.
From the industry’s perspective, Dr Zozaya mentioned that at the national level conformity assessment benefits the improvement of product quality. It promotes sustainability and increases productivity. Internationally, conformity assessment facilitates access to globalised markets for exporters and improves the ability of companies to participate in global value chains. Dr Brückner highlighted the importance for companies to have a uniform QI system that allows an innovation-friendly environment and is verifiable at the same time.