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 the technical regulations are managed by various public bodies. They are tasked with reviewing the technical regulations every five years to ensure that they still apply to current conditions and take into account the evolution of the technology. From a trade point of view, about 80 technical regulations have to be observed when importing. Quality infrastructure thus combines the free exchange of goods with product safety.
In the field of standardisation, Florian Spiteller explained that there is a standardisation strategy in Germany that was developed together with the BMWi and other stakeholders. It includes five objectives, including, for example, trade facilitation at the international and European level, supporting government regulation through public-private partnerships and developing a network that can identify new issues.
Juan Manuel Rosales explained that Mexico strives to involve all stakeholders in standardisation – for example, by participating in the national technical committees. One challenge, however, is to involve more experts and to promote the professionalisation of a standardisation career. Cooperation between standardisation organisations, authorities, industry and consumers is essential for successful standardisation work.
From the point of view of the private sector, Hans-Peter Bursig (ZVEI) and Hugo Gómez (CANAME) agreed that compliance with standards enables the industry to offer better services. In addition, the safety and quality of processes and products can be guaranteed. At the same time, it promotes technical development and innovation. Companies participate in standardisation organisations because they can recognise future technological trends and eventually integrate them into products. Standardisation enables companies to remain competitive.
Other topics discussed in the workshop concerned the importance of standardisation for trade facilitation and the use of digital tools in standardisation work. A final thought focused on the challenge of responding quickly to new goods and services. In this context, Dr Thomas Zielke pointed out that the government must create the framework conditions to promote digital standardisation. The development of standards must be consensus-based, transparent and oriented towards technological product innovation.
The next and final workshop in the series will take place on 17 November 2021. Challenges and opportunities of metrology in a digital economy will be discussed.