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Attracting new stakeholders to IECEx

Author : Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, IECEx Chairman and VP Technology, R.STAHL

18 July 2019

One of my roles as chairman of the IECEx system is to participate in the work of the conformity assessment board (CAB) of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The CAB, which consists of the delegates of 15 countries as well as the relevant IEC officers, governs all activities of the four existing IEC conformity assessment systems.

Besides IECEx, they are IECEE (general safety and functionality of electrical products), IECQ (quality and other issues in the supply chain of electronic elements and assemblies) and IECRE (quality and safety of renewable energy equipment).

One of the most important topics we are currently working on during the CAB working sessions is the implementation of the IEC strategic master plan in the conformity assessment process.

According to the master plan, the mission of IEC is to achieve worldwide use of IEC International Standards and Conformity Assessment Services that ensure the safety, efficiency, reliability and interoperability of electrical, electronic and information technologies, to enhance international trade, facilitate broad electricity access and enable a more sustainable world. The whole text of the document can be downloaded from the IEC homepage.

This time I want to focus on Article 1.2, which aims to bring all relevant stakeholders together. 

This states that the IEC will continue to: …proactively strengthen its relationship with industry (including manufacturers, SMEs, operators, installers, utilities, as well as IT and other service providers), as the main core contributor and user of its work. (…) Furthermore, end users of conformity assessment services should be given a forum to provide direct input on related IEC activities.

Stakeholder identification and engagement should be the responsibility of the entire IEC community; in particular National Committees and Technical Committees, and the sharing of best practices should be encouraged. 

What does this mean for the IECEx system? And what is the current status of stakeholder involvement in the conformity assessment activities for the hazardous area business?

A comprehensive analysis shows that we are already close to manufacturers, who are a very active part of the IECEx community. Furthermore, many training organisations could become involved in our work via the Recognized Training Provider program, which was introduced three years ago.
The certification bodies and test labs are both active members of our network and customers of our organisation. So far so good.

But if we look at our biggest potential industry partner, the process sector, the picture is less rosy. With a few exceptions, chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical companies have a very low level of involvement in the IECEx process.

This is caused by the classic conflict of interest between commercial pressure (competition, costs, outsourcing, globalisation) and pressure from regulators (workplace and safety standards, etc.)

To solve this, IECEx can offer a worldwide neutral, competent and consistent evaluation of appropriate products, service providers and of potential employees. All relevant information is accessible via the IECEx online database. A perfect match you may say.

A similar situation exists between IECEx and another big industry group, the Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) sector.

These companies are interested in a wide range of global products with a certified level of quality and security. They need experts for their global projects who can manage the local workforce. They also need qualified local service providers for planning and installation activities. All these needs are supported by IECEx services.

Companies that offer activities such as planning and selection of equipment, and installation, inspection and repair are other potential partners for closer relations with IECEx in the future.

So we have to find new ways to establish closer relationships with these industry groups. Other than the support we can provide, it will help us further develop our system.

One sector where we are seeing increasingly close relations is OEM machine and apparatus builders. They are different from pure manufacturers insofar as they are also involved in some system integration.

This group has come on board as a result of the implementation of standards for non-electrical explosion protection and the technical specification for assemblies, which IECEx certification activities are well-placed to meet. Up to July 2019, more than 160 IECEx certificates have been published on the basis of these documents.

This is encouraging and shows the way to achieve our goals with all the customer groups mentioned above - by creating attractive offers and making them public through appropriate marketing activities. I hope this article is another step in this direction!


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