Exchange on conformity assessment and accreditation: Securing public trust is key
Conformity assessment and accreditation ensure trust and transparency in the quality and safety of products and services. They are a cornerstone of international trade and essential pillars of a quality infrastructure. Conformity assessment demonstrates if products or services fulfil applicable requirements, defined for example in standards or through legislation. With that conformity assessment increases reliability in the safety and quality of products and services. Accreditation on the other hand ensures that we can have confidence in the results of conformity assessment. It independently attests the competence and objectivity of conformity assessment bodies.
On 2nd November 2022, GPQI held one online exchange about conformity assessment and accreditation focusing on Germany and Indonesia. This exchange was crucial for strengthening the bilateral cooperation and improving mutual understanding in order to minimise barriers to trade.
Mr Volkmar Stein from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz – BMWK) opened the exchange. He underlined the importance of an embedded and internationally linked accreditation system. Mutually recognised accreditation means that consumers can trust the quality of the products without having to worry about their origin. In addition, Mr Enuh Rosdeni from the Indonesian Ministry of Industry (Kementerian Peridustrian - MoI) highlighted the competitiveness and increased confidence companies gain from the conformity assessment process, as it opens new markets and opportunities. He also expressed his delight on the continued cooperation between Germany and Indonesia after the signing of the Joint Declaration of Intent last year.
Conformity assessment bodies in Germany and Indonesia
Ms Konny Sagala from the Indonesian National Standardization Agency (Badan Standardisasi Nasional - BSN) presented background information about conformity assessment in Indonesia. Ms Sagala elaborated that there are two different procedures in Indonesia when it comes to the implementation of the national standards (SNI) through conformity assessment bodies. First, there is a procedure for mandatory standards. Here, the technical regulations are not stipulated by BSN, but by the individual ministries or institutions that have the authority to make the regulation. Second, there is a procedure for voluntary standards. BSN is responsible for the voluntary SNI. Then they produce standards for products, services, and persons. However, BSN cannot certify companies, institutions, or bodies.
Procedures of the implementation of voluntary and mandatory SNIs in Indonesia
In Indonesia, the law for voluntary SNI implementation states that business actors who comply with the standards can apply for certification from an accredited conformity assessment body (CAB). After obtaining a certificate, the business actors can use the SNI mark. The SNI mark may be applied by anyone but only BSN awards it.
For mandatory implementation, the SNI is required through a ministerial regulation. It is seen as an important objective to provide safety, security, health, environmental protection, and national security, and technical regulations and prevent deceptive practices. Business actors are obliged to apply SNI and use SNI marks in accordance with the technical regulations. If producers cannot ensure the conformity of their product, it will have legal consequences for them. The approval for the use of SNI marks is given by authorised regulators, not by BSN.
The regulated and unregulated area of conformity assessment in Germany
Ms Pia Kathöfer from TÜV Rheinland presented conformity assessment from the perspective of a CAB in Germany. She explained that CABs in Germany provide conformity assessment services in the regulated and unregulated area.
In the regulated area, the system of product legislation in the European Union (EU) and the conformity assessment procedures under EU harmonisation legislation provide the relevant framework. With conformity assessment, the manufacturer demonstrates that a product conforms to the applicable essential requirements.
In the unregulated area, conformity assessment is voluntary. Management systems, services, processes, and products are usually assessed. Companies for example use certifications to signal to consumers that they comply with certain voluntary requirements. The requirements to be met are determined by private schemes and further standards are used.
Ms Kathöfer highlighted that accreditation plays a crucial role in the regulated and unregulated area, with regular assessments by accreditation bodies. Re-accreditation, re-notification and regular surveillance activities guarantee a consistent level of competence and quality among CABs and notified bodies. This ensures trust and confidence in the system.
Accreditation in Germany and Indonesia
CABs ensure quality and safety of products in the interest of governments, the marketplace, consumers, and the environment. Accreditation is crucial to provide the necessary confidence in their work.
To attest technical competence for conformity assessment in both regulated and non-regulated sectors in Germany falls under the responsibility of the German Accreditation Body (Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle GmbH - DAkkS), as Ms Sabine Reinkober (DAkkS) presented. DAkkS is appointed by the German Government to carry out the sovereign task of accreditation in Germany since 2010.
In Indonesia, accreditation and conformity assessment are carried out by several institutions. BSN is the standardisation body as well as the metrology institution. The National Accreditation Committee (Komite Akreditasi Nasional - KAN) is responsible for accreditation while conformity assessment is carried out by certification bodies. Mr Sugeng Raharjo from BSN elaborated that KAN is a government regulated non-structural body established in 2001. Non-structural bodies are institutions regulated and established by the government which have specific tasks. KAN is responsible for the accreditation of CABs, verification bodies, testing and calibration laboratories, inspection bodies, reference material producer. And it is providing proficiency testing.
All of them are tested by KAN for compliance with international standards such as IEC and ISO and national SNI standards. KAN is member and signatory of the Asia Pacific Accreditation Cooperation, the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation, and the International Accreditation Forum mutual recognition agreement. The accreditation decisions are made by the KAN Council. However, it is not a single party decision of KAN as the KAN Council consists of 70 % private and 30 % governmental participants.
New developments in accreditation and conformity assessment
Ms Reinkober and Ms Kathöfer explained that the pandemic posed new challenges in the field of conformity assessment and accreditation, as core activities of CABs such as on-site audits and inspections were affected. Both CABs and DAkkS started to conduct remote activities where possible. DAkkS developed guidelines on remote assessment and remote inspection. TÜV Rheinland also elaborated on the developed paper on remote inspection by the TIC council. Both stressed that remote assessment brings benefits and has accelerated the digitalisation in the field. Nevertheless, it also has certain limitations and requires clear guidelines.
The exchange was concluded with a Q&A-session to further understand the topics discussed. Overall, this exchange was an important step to improve the mutual understanding of the conformity assessment and accreditation systems in Germany and Indonesia.