Standards Issues

The late morning session was opened by Rockwell's CTO, Sujeet Chand TCO and four big guns from the World of Standards. Joe Bhatia, president of ANSI, Frank Kitzantides, VP of IEC, James Lovegrove, managing director of the American Electronics Association, Europe, and Keith Williams, president and CEO of Underwriters Laboratories, presented their views on the current state of manufacturing standards and drew a vision of the convergence of standards over time to the point where and industry-led voluntary system to achieve "one standard, one test, accepted everywhere." That such a vision is appealing there is not doubt. Too many standards across industries and across countries slows innovation, adds costs and makes global manufacturing and selling harder and more expensive.  Chand began by reminding the audience of the current Chinese toys fiasco that has cost American toy manufacturers millions of dollars and led to the closing of some factories in China and to the expense of the Wal-Mart and FDA demands of manufacturers for RFID tagging. "Standards are behind the regulations," says Chand. "What are the costs of such regulations? Are manufacturers prepared to deal with these directives? Dealing with them is extemely important to the success of manufacturers." Joe Bhatia picked up the theme, saying "Standards must be designed for the global economy, but there must be a way of making sure standards are being met." No companies are exempt, he says. "There are few companies not engaged in the supply chain in some way. This reinforces the needs for standards and procedures that are globally effective. They must be technically suitable and able to be used across the board."  But this is not simple, he says. "You have to recognize differences in infrastructure among companies.  It's up to each country to develop standards that work for it.  There are multiple paths to achieving standards, and there's a lot of competition and political manoevering going on. The EU is giving technical assistance to China in exchange for making products up to EU standards. The U.S. is falling behind in this area, and we must raise the awareness of leaders in government and industry about the importance of standards."   James Lovegrove pointed out the difference between EU and U.S. regulation and the relationship to standards. EU is becoming the "world regulator," he says because the U.S. trusts its companies and the EU trusts its regulators. One fundamental question is whether regulations and standards constituent protectionism.  He says, no, but they are major drivers in global manufacturing.  Lovegrove used the EU's RoHS directives as an example. "It's a typical European directive," he says. It sets a goal and lets 27 members to implement in individual companies.  But its scope is unclear and the benchmark standards are not written yet." The driver element is two-fold.  "There's the snowball effect," he says. "OEMs want one manufacturing line. They will take the EU product and deploy it around the world. Even companies not affected by the directive have spill over because of the supply chain. They all will manufacture to the EU standard." "The spillover is the other effect," says Lovegrove. "Other jurisdictions, such as Korea and China, come into play. Their developing their own versions of RoHS, but other jurisdictions don't just cut and paste, but have variants. That makes it hard for companies that want to design, build and sell anywhere. The other trend Lovegrove cites is that the EU has moved away from regulating soil, air, water and into processes and manufacturing. Manufacturers need to pay more attention now.  The other trend is that while EU regulation is up, technnical participation is down. standards are down. There is an unfounded perception that somebody from the companies have contributed to these. Companies need to give information to people at the right time. They are looking more to customer requirements rather than regulatory requirements. Need to address this discrepancy." Lovegrove spoke to the theme of this panel--Companies need to get active in this area. They have to become advocates for standards that will work for them. UL's Williams addressed the other piece of this puzzle. It's all well and good for companies to say they will manufacture to standards and regulations, but there has to be an outside check to make sure they do. True, says Williams, most companies are ethical, but not all are and "ethics" has different meanings in different parts of the globe.  "Standards enforcement is important," he says. "For example, with RoHS, there was no way to test whether product was compliant. Standards without enforcement are basically worthless. Do all manufacturers really want to comply.? We need conformity assessments. We can 'Trust by verify.'" At this point, Chand raised this question:   How does current government regulatory environment affect standards development? What are consequences of becoming too heavily weighted toward regulation. Not surprisingly, the panel members saw a need for their standards bodies and for manufacturers to provide a counterbalance to the regulators. The regulatory environment has changed, they say, because of the requirement for government participation and the need to also get market solutions.  All spoke of the need to enter dialog with the government for harmonized standards. Lovegrove also pointed to the need for small companies who don't have the bandwidth as either government or global players to be involved in the process.  All were worried about the effect of too much regulation on innovation. Williams pointed out,  "Standards must have the flexibility to handle innovation when it comes along. If you have a government standard and need government approval to get modified product to market, it can be stifling.  We need consensus standard product outside of government. The panelists also agreed that standards that protect businesses, people or the environment may--or may not-- increase costs. Bhatia said, "Standards should protect both people and business. If standards are properly developed will do both. But the costs can go both ways. It might cost more or cost less. Williams added that standards in the world are harmonizing, but it will take time to get everybody to buy in. You'll still have national standards organization. There will always need to be some national differences that have to be taken into account." Bhatia added, "We need to find a middle ground between too many and too few standards bodies.  We're looking to harmonize as many standards as possible, but there are some fundamental differences that will have to be recognized." The one issue the panel didn't address was how to herd the cats of existing standards bodies, the various interests of competing manufacturers each looking for a significant advantage, governments pursuing their national interests and regulatory bodies protecting their various turfs. The one one standard, one test, accepted everywhere vision would still seem to have a long way to go.   

 

What are your comments?

You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Login Here.

Comments

  • Verification is one of the biggest differences between the DNP3 protocol and most of its competitors. The DNP protocol has test procedures for the RTUs. There are test procedures under review right now for Master stations.

    You'd be amazed at the number of niggling and annoying issues that arise from crafting such testing procedures. The Technical Committee deals with each of these details. At the end of the day, we all know that the protocol standard will be much tighter and compatible across the board than if we simply wrote it without any test procedures.

    As for RoHS, I wish the European Standards body that created it would get a clue. How environmentally friendly is it when a five year old device fails due to tin wiskers shorting something out? Of course, you'd have to purchase a new device. This was done for the purpose of being green? What is the energy footprint of designing, building, marketing, and distributing more new electronics products?

    Reply

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments