KANBrief 1/12

NORMAPME: the European voice of SMEs in standardization

An interview with Klaus Yongden Tillmann. In January 2011, the former Managing Director of the Dortmund chamber of crafts assumed the function of Secretary General at the European Office of Crafts, Trades and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for Standardisation (NORMAPME) in Brussels.

Mr Tillmann, in your view, what is the role of standardization in Europe?

One that is becoming increasingly important! This can be seen from the recent initiatives by the European Commission (under the heading "standardisation package") and from the fact that standardization is increasingly a topic of discussion.

Standardization offers considerable benefits for all, and in particular for small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs). It must however be ensured that SMEs are not excluded from the process, but have opportunity for active involvement in it. This is where NORMAPME comes in.

What strategy do you wish NORMAPME to follow in the coming years?

We are preparing for competition from 2013 onwards, since under the new standardisation package, funding agreements will be concluded with the European Commission in future only following a public invitation to tender. I am however confident that we will be the provider able to represent SMEs most effectively in standardization.

In the meantime, we aim to send even more expert delegates – currently 52 from the most diverse of disciplines and countries – from SMEs to the relevant technical committees of CEN, CENELEC, ETSI and ISO and to extend our network. In 2012, we shall conduct a "mapping" exercise, i.e. we shall analyse the bodies representing SMEs in all European countries, and also visit some of them. Only by doing this can we know with certainty who is representing whom at national level. Also, personal discussions are still the best way of establishing the right contacts.

How can NORMAPME support the involvement of SMEs in standardization in Europe?

The main area of our work is the sending of SME experts as delegates to relevant standards committees. This increases the influence exerted by SMEs in European standardization activity. A great deal still remains to be done of course, as there are far more standards committees relevant to SMEs than there are NORMAPME experts. For this reason, we are seeking to increase the number of our experts.

The second main area of our activity is that of raising awareness for standardization in companies and in associations of SMEs, and of motivating the SMEs to become involved in the standardization process. A specific example is that we seek to attend as many events of relevance to SMEs as possible, and to use the press, our website, and our newsletter in order to make standards and standardization more widely known among small and medium-sized enterprises. We recently published a user guide to ISO 26000 (Guidance on social responsibility) which explains the standard to European SMEs and presents it in abbreviated form.

What is NORMAPME's assessment of the EU standardisation package and its proposals for the involvement of SMEs?

Overall, our impression is very good, since the involvement of SMEs is one of the main concerns of the reform. We would nevertheless like to see more, such as a symbolic vote for SME representatives in the voting procedures. We consider it important that the votes of the SMEs be at least documented. NORMAPME also calls for the establishment of a special appeals procedure to which stakeholders have recourse in the event of unbalanced representation.

And its proposed reduction of the time allocated for standards development?

In some sectors, for example information and communications technology, this is both advantageous and welcome. In other sectors, a risk exists that the involvement of SMEs will be sacrificed in the quest for faster development. This approach should therefore be considered with caution.

NORMAPME, the European Office of Crafts, Trades and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for Standardisation, was founded in 1996 with the support of the European Commission and the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME). Through its European member and partner associations, currently numbering 29, NORMAPME represents over 12 million European companies in standardization.