It’s Called Certification, It Means Guarantee

Certifications ensure that professionals, companies and public and private organizations respect all requisites laid down by international norms and standards concerning the conformity to these rules of persons, products, services, processes and systems. In this respect, TÜV Italia, a branch of TÜV SÜD, is an independent certification, inspection, testing, examination and training organization, a reference point for certification services in the quality, energy, environment, safety and product domains. At times fraught with important changes such as the ones we are living in, we met Alberto Macchi, Business Line Manager, Machine directive at TÜV Italia to summarise the Italian situation considering the new production paradigms made necessary by Industry 4.0.

by Cesare Pizzorno e Lorenzo Benarrivato

How important is reputation today for a certification organization? What can be done to keep up a good reputation and what are the main dangers to avoid in this respect?
“Add value, inspire trust” is the motto by the side of TÜV Italia’s logo, much more than a slogan, because it represents the commitment which we undertake to be transparent, objective and professional with our clients and the market when carrying out our activity. The same commitment is undertaken by our parent company, TÜV SÜD, which has provided solutions to improve the quality and safety of processes, products and plants for the past 150 years and with a widely acknowledged very high technical know-how. We are committed to defend the reputation which the organization accrued over the years, without any exception to the principles I listed before. If we were to renounce them, we would betray the blue octagon, our logo, which would lose its reputation, reliability and respect, the values which the market acknowledges, and the relationship based on trust which we built during more than one and a half century and which it would takes us years to rebuild would be lost.
Apart from contingent situations such as, for instance tax benefits, why is it important for machine and production system manufacturers to turn to organizations capable of certifying their products?
Manufacturers of partly completed machinery, machines or production lines which fall within the application field of the Machine Directive, excluding the types of machines described in attachment IV of the Machine Directive itself, can place a CE mark and sell (or use within their plant) machines or production lines without any need of verification by a third-party organization by following the provisions of the procedure described in attachment VIII “Evaluation of conformity using internal control of machine production”.
However we believe it is very important for manufacturers to always ask a third-party organization for a voluntary certification of the partly completed machinery, machine or production line for several reasons. From a technical standpoint, there is certainly the advantage of discussing with an independent organization the technical solution used, verifying any shortage (or oversizing) which might need to be corrected or made more efficient; sometimes, the risk for many manufacturers is sticking to familiar solutions even though they are obsolete.
From a legal standpoint, the company’s representative signing the CE declaration of conformity certainly has a guarantee of having respected the state of the art for the sale or commissioning of the machine.
From a sales standpoint, on the other hand, the certification allows to obtain more credibility on the market and increase sales; besides, some multinationals have started including the request of certification by a third-party organization as a contractual provision in calls for tender for the purchase of machines/production lines.

Incentives defined by the Industry 4.0 Plan yielded important results in terms of investments in interconnected production machinery. Is it however correct to say that awareness regarding the potential of digitization is still generally scarce among Italian manufacturing entrepreneurs?
The introduction of incentives defined by the Industry 4.0 Plan definitely brought about a substantial increase in the expenses for machinery, electrical and electronic appliances; but from what we have been able to see during the past two years, the best part of Italian entrepreneurs only invested in digitization in order to obtain fiscal rebates. This has also been confirmed by the trend of requests for I4.0 appraisals, the peak of requests (70%) occurred between the end of November and the beginning of December, thereby leaving us with very tight deadlines to carry out our activity (our appraisals were requested by December 31st, 2018). This shows that entrepreneurs in the Italian manufacturing industry, especially in small-medium enterprises, are only marginally aware of the legislative requirements in the Industry 4.0 domain and there is especially no awareness of the impact which an interconnection and digitization process may have on the company’s activity.

According to many, the text of the 2017 Budget Law laying down the requests to access benefits foreseen by the Industry 4.0 Plan is not detailed enough and leaves some grey areas, especially regarding production systems other than machine tools. Do you agree with this opinion?
By all means, there are several points within the 2017 Budget Law which are subject to interpretation and this may bring about several issues. For instance, we found ourselves tackling a case where a manufacturer managed to obtain a trade advantage by exploiting these grey areas accepting a business risk. When a machine manufacturer asks us to submit an opinion, we always suggest to submit the request to the only organization which can clarify such solutions, the Ministry for Economic Development. Indeed, only with a response from this Ministry may we decide whether to carry on with the appraisal or not. Unfortunately sometimes this process can require as much as several months and there is the concrete risk that a competitor may take advantage of this time lapse to offer solutions based only on their interpretation of the law, therefore accepting a considerable risk.

The certification by an accredited institution is compulsory for goods with a value of more than 500,000 euro. May it however be an advantageous option even for machines with an inferior value? Why?
Certification by an accredited institution for goods worth less than 500,000 €, more than an advantage, is essential, because the best part of companies requiring access to fiscal rebates lack the awareness and knowledge necessary to enact self-certification of the respect of the law’s provisions. Asking an accredited institution for certification is the only way in which a company may have the guarantee that it respected the legal limitations and the certainty that it will be able to cope without any problems with controls from the Revenue Agency.
Ever since the Industry 4.0 Plan has been enforced, have you been involved in the certification process of assembly machines or lines and/or testing? If so, what type of experience was it and what inspiration did it provide?
Voluntary certification of machines or product lines is an activity which we have been carrying out for several years as part of our services within the Machine Directive domain and we therefore have a very broad knowledge. The enforcement of the Industry 4.0 Plan shed light on some very worrying aspects relative to CE marking especially as concerns production lines. Many users of these lines, during the investment phase in an Industry 4.0 outlook, contacted us asking us for support for CE marking since according to them the Industry 4.0 Plan had introduced this requirement for entitlement to fiscal rebates. Of course the requirement of CE marking for production lines does not derive from the Industry 4.0 Plan but from the 2006/42/CE Machine Directive (and even earlier from Directive 98/37/CE). Our concern, confirmed by direct experiences, is that there is little knowledge of legal provisions not just regarding I4.0 but even regarding European Directives which have been in force for over twenty years.

The project of TÜV Italia’s Akademie division is aimed towards specialized training for managers and entrepreneurs. In this respect, what are your plans for 2019? And for which reasons do you consider it so important to invest on training?
We are increasingly convinced that training is the premise of any change, especially f we are talking about Industry 4.0. Organizations which make efforts to train their employees are more competitive on the market and create value for themselves and for all their stakeholders. The context where companies are called upon to operate now is increasingly broad and dynamic. In order to govern it efficiently it is necessary to line up professional profiles with knowledge, competence and skills capable of responding adequately to the demands of the markets. Professional profiles must be further enriched by the capability of using an approach based on identifying, analysing and evaluating risks as an effect of the uncertainty of objectives. This may help to protect the business and the parts concerned, preventing potential negative effects and making it easier to identify constantly new opportunities.
In 2019 Akademie, listening to clients’ demands, set up a scalable training offer which may be customized, considering the tight network of relationships which exist between industrial peculiarities and knowledge areas. In this way, professionals and organizations have the opportunity of defining precisely the desired competences and professional profiles, choosing the modules more appropriate for the attainment of their objectives. Besides, faced with the strong technological change in production systems and with the increasingly pervasive introduction of instruments and methods, typical of Industry 4.0, we envisaged specific training courses for those, for instance, who operate in the area of maintenance and of asset life cycle. These professionals, besides planning and carrying out operations, must also develop analytical and decision-making capabilities, based on the data provided by the machines and plants being managed. In general, many of the training contents of our courses have been revised according to the new context, for instance, we increased the training offer in the Machine Directive domain, envisaging an “executive” course finalized at sitting for the exam to certify the competence of the Machinery Safety Expert profile in the Industry 4.0 domain. Therefore, not just training finalized at increasing knowledge and competence, but also the possibility of certifying the experience by means of a certification exam. TÜV Italia is also a Personnel Certification Organism (accredited according to the UNI CEI EN ISO/IEC 17024:2012 norm), and by means of the TÜV Examination Institute unit, carries out certification exams since it is an evaluation centre. This represents a valid tool to enhance the knowledge and competence of professionals, by means of the assessment of an impartial judge. It should also be highlighted that companies have the opportunity to obtain specific funding even by means of the inter-professional funds. In 2019 the opportunities of obtaining support finalized to the development of specific competences in order to favour digital transformation will increase. These funding lines are not only destined to middle managers or clerical workers employed by the companies, but specific funding lines are also indicated for managers. TÜV Italia Akademie, besides providing training, also supports client companies in the presentation of requests for funds to obtain the approval of the training programs requiring funding.