Cycle of Workshops: Technical regulation and standardisation assure safety and innovation
The fourth session of the Cycle of Workshops: "A Systemic Approach to Quality Infrastructure" focused on technical regulation and standardisation in Mexico and Germany. More than 300 people attended the workshop, coming from different areas of expertise. High-ranking representatives from the private and public sectors of both countries shared their knowledge.
Representatives from the BMWi and SE opened the workshop
The workshop was hosted by Alfonso Guati Rojo Sánchez, General Director of the General Bureau of Technical Regulations and Standards (DGN) of the Mexican Ministry of Economy (SE) and Dr Thomas Zielke, Director of Division National and International Policy on Standardisation and Patent Policy, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Both explained the technical regulations and standardisation work in their respective countries and the challenges they are currently facing.
Representatives from governmental authorities, relevant quality infrastructure (QI) institutions and the private sector, complemented the country perspectives. On behalf of the government, Dr Julia Barde, Senior Policy Advisor, Division of National and International Policy on Standardisation and Patent Policy, BMWi; and Emeterio Mosso, Director of Standardisation for Light Manufacturing Industry from the DGN, SE, gave specific insight on how technical regulation is organised in Germany and Mexico respectively.
VDE and COMENOR represent standardisation institutes
Standardisation bodies were represented by Florian Spiteller, Head of External Relations & Support, and Executive Board Member of the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN and VDE (DKE) and Juan Manuel Rosales, President, Mexican Council for Standardisation and Conformity Assessment (COMENOR). They explained the core principles of standardisation and which are the actors involved.
Adhering to voluntary standards brings benefits
For the industry, Hans-Peter Bursig, Managing Director of the Electronic Medical Devices Association at the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI) and Hugo Gómez, President, Mexican National Chamber of Electrical Manufacturing (Cámara Nacional de Manufacturas Eléctricas - CANAME) focused on the role of the private sector in technical regulation and standardisation processes. They concluded with the benefits to the industry of complying with voluntary standards.
Differentiate Normas Oficiales Mexicanas from Normas Mexicanas
Guati Rojo Sánchez explained that there are technical regulations (Normas Oficiales Mexicanas - NOM) and standards (Normas Mexicanas - NMX) in Mexico. NOMs are of mandatory compliance and are issued by regulatory authorities. Interested parties can participate in their preparation, providing technical support. The purpose of technical regulations is to safeguard the legitimate objectives of public interest, such as: health protection, people safety, food safety, education and culture, environmental protection and public works and services, among others.
Mexican standards (NMX) are mainly prepared by national standardisation bodies and subjects entitled to standardise, for example companies, chambers, associations, or academic and research institutions, among others. Standards are analysed, reviewed and deliberated by Technical Standardisation Committees. Mexican standards establish technical specifications for specific products and services. They are driven by manufacturers and have an industrial, commercial and private approach. Regulatory authorities may carry out standardisation tasks only in exceptional cases.
Standardisation in the European Union
From the German perspective, Dr Thomas Zielke described that in the European Union (EU) technical regulations are developed by state authorities. They are usually set by the European Commission through legislation and are equally valid for all member states. Technical regulations set essential protection goals in a technology-neutral way. Within the European market, compliance with technical regulations for consumer and environmental protection is required. The business community takes care of the best possible implementation according to the current state of technology. The intention is to strike a balance between encouraging innovation and protecting consumers and the environment.
The German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN (German Institute for Standardisation) and VDE (DKE) are the recognised national standardisation bodies in Germany. The public sector can participate in the development of standards as an interested party, just like any other stakeholder.
Dr Julia Barde explained that at the European level there are different legal tools for technical regulations – these are usually regulations or directives. Regulations developed by the European Commission automatically apply for the member states. Directives set targets and can be implemented differently in each country of the EU. Each member state must report on its action plans, which must be compatible with EU legal tools. Everything is governed by transparency.
Standardisation keeps companies competitive
In the case of Mexico, Emeterio Mosso mentioned that technical regulations are administered by different public bodies. They have the responsibility to review technical regulations every five years to ensure that they still apply to present conditions and consider the evolution of technology. From a trade perspective, about 80 technical regulations must be complied with upon entry into the country. So, it is important to look at the quality infrastructure to combine free trade in goods with product safety.
Coming from the standardisation sector, Florian Spiteller explained that Germany has a standardisation strategy which was developed together with BMWi and other stakeholders. It encompasses five objectives, including for example: facilitating trade at the international and European level; supporting state regulation through public-private partnerships; and developing a network able to identify new topics.
Juan Manuel Rosales mentioned that Mexico aims for all stakeholders to take part in standardisation, for instance by participating in the national technical committees. However, one challenge is to also involve more experts and promote the professionalisation of a standardisation career. Cooperation between standardisation bodies, public authorities, industry and consumers is essential for a successful standardization work.
From a private sector perspective, Hans-Peter Bursig (ZVEI) and Hugo Gómez (CANAME) both agreed that complying with standards allows the industry to provide better services and ensure safety and quality of processes and products. At the same time, it fosters technical development and innovation. Companies participate in standardisation committees because it allows them to identify future technological trends that can eventually be integrated into products. It enables companies to always be on the same level as their competitors.
Further topics discussed during the workshop were related to the importance of standardisation in trade facilitation and the application of digital tools in the standardisation work. One of the closing ideas focused on the challenge to quickly react to new goods and services that represent new challenges. In that regard, Dr Zielke pointed out that the government has the task of establishing framework conditions and promoting digital standardisation. Standards development must be consensus-based, transparent and aligned with technological product innovation.
What is next?
The following and final workshop of the cycle will be on 19 August 2021. It addresses the challenges and opportunities for metrology in a digital economy.