Cooperation, the key to the future -- Interview with Christoph Winterhalter, DIN’s Executive Board Chairman

Time:2018/8/20 15:24:43 From:

DIN, the German standards organization, celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2017. It was not only an ideal time to reflect on 100 years of history but also to evaluate how DIN is positioning itself in order to best meet its customers’ future needs. “Shaping the future together” was the motto of this special anniversary year. Christoph Winterhalter, DIN’s Executive Board Chairman, explains how his organization is planning to capitalize on the momentum generated by the occasion.


Mr. Winterhalter, DIN’s anniversary year was marked by various top-class events. What was the highlight for you?

In addition to the ceremony with our German stakeholders, the ISO General Assembly really stands out for me as the highlight. For the first time in ISO’s history, the General Assembly took place in Germany. Right from the start, we were aware that the quality and magnitude of arrangements put forward by our Chinese colleagues the year before in Beijing had set a very high standard at which we would be measured. And I would like to once again congratulate SAC on the great and impressive performance of ISO General Assembly 2016 in Beijing.

Together we set the course for the future. The motto of ISO week in Germany was “Open-minded. Open for change.” We had the honour of welcoming over 500 guests from all over the world, including leaders from industry and society as well as from the public and private sectors. The motto of the event reflected the need to be open to new ideas in an ever- changing world, and in standardization. The aim was to have the ISO Community jointly discuss new customer requirements emerging as a result of innovative technologies and the digital transformation, and to exchange ideas and collaborate to develop common solutions. I believe it is of the utmost importance that all ISO members have a common understanding and commitment towards International Standardization and work together to fine-tune the established processes in international standardization with the goal of making them sustainable – for the benefit of our stakeholders in business and in the greater society.
Next year DIN and SAC will see an anniversary of their collaborative efforts.

DIN has a long tradition of working together with China. The first cooperation agreement with China was signed back in 1979. As part of this strategic partnership, the entire body of German Standards was made available in China, which provided the essential foundation for developing a trade relationship between the two nations. In addition, it was agreed that there would be meetings on a regular basis to share ideas and exchange information. Discussions on various topics took place (and still do today) in both China and Germany. In these meetings, Chinese and German experts avidly discussed procedural matters on different topics such as quality assurance, occupational health & safety, environmental protection, consumer protection, and the relationship between standards and the law. This process set the foundation for a working relationship based on trust.

Since this was introduced, our cooperation with China has developed continuously and become even stronger. In 2006 DIN and SAC signed a Joint Cooperation Agreement with the general aim to achieve global market acceptance for innovative technologies and products by means of a strategic partnership that enables the development of international standards, i.e. by supporting mutually the international standardization activities in ISO and IEC.

An important milestone in the facilitation of trade negotiations was when the GermanyChina Standards Information Portal went live in October 2009. The portal is a source of information for the standards and standards systems of both countries. Companies wishing to know which standards are needed for their products can quickly find them thanks to a powerful search function using German, English or Chinese search terms. The portal contains selected bibliographic data on some 60,000 standards, all of which can be searched for. They are also updated every month.
The regular communication of information is also generated through the Sino-German Standardization Cooperation Commission. What were the topics under discussion at the latest gathering in May 2018?

DIN is actively involved in the Sino-German Standardization Cooperation Commission, which is jointly led by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the government-run Chinese standards organization (SAC).

In this year’s meeting, that took place in late May in Heidelberg, Germany, approximately 110 participants from China and Germany representing the two governments, national standardization organizations, research institutes, associations and industry participated. The objective was to discuss standardization aspects, such as Industry 4.0/Intelligent manufacturing, E-mobility, biotechnology, intelligent connected vehicles, civil aviation, remanufacturing, Active Assisted Living and Smart home, just to name a few. The Parties agreed to further intensify their communication on these topics and deepen the Sino-German cooperation.

In your opinion, what are the obvious challenges facing standards organizations right now?

Digitalization. That is the issue that organizations and companies are having to deal with most. Cities, factories and the supply of energy – they are all digitally connected. Digitalization is causing people with different backgrounds and expertise to have to work together, whereas before it was never necessary. That’s why they need internationally harmonized standards and technical rules to provide them with a common language. Thus, standards are taking on a plethora of new tasks.

Another challenge that standardization is facing is that standardization has to adopt itself and its processes to digitalization. Moreover, it has to adopt its system to the changing environment in which standardization is operating.
That is among others on national but also especially on international level the growing influence of other rule setting bodies, forums and consortia that work alongside the “traditional” standardization bodies, such as ISO and IEC. We have to make sure that the international standardization system is fit and agile enough to face new structures and demands that are evolving.
In this context, what is the role of standardization?

Standardization shapes the future. It describes not only the state of current technology but also increasingly how (digital eco-) systems will work in future. If we are to be a part of shaping the future we need to recognize trends in a quick, agile and sensitive manner, and adopt innovative areas of research. At the same time, we want the changes we make to be sustainable and to appreciate what came before. It is not our intention to simply break away from tradition–we want to proceed in a measured and holistic manner.

Over the last years, we have followed with utmost interest the reforms in standardization that are taking place in China, starting with “Made in China 2025”, the revision of the Chinese Standardization Law as well as “China Standards 2035”. I would like to congratulate my Chinese colleagues for their success in having made standardization well known and seen as a strategic tool for economic and social growth by its government.   
We also welcome the active incorporation of industry in standardization and do hope that the evolving new standardization system in China will support and foster good mutual trade relations between China and Germany. In this respect we look forward to further working together and discussing our national standardization strategies with our Chinese colleagues in the high-level Sino-German Standardization Strategy Dialogue Group that will have its kick-off meeting in the margin of the next SinoGerman Standardization Cooperation Commission 2019 in China.
What challenges is DIN setting itself for the next few months?

There are many. In the first instance, the entire DIN Group should communicate in harmony and with a clear focus. Then it is important that we continue to stress – openly, transparently and clearly – the importance of standardization. And all the while we must ensure that we listen well and learn from our stakeholders and international colleagues. Finally, it is essential that we scrutinize our own processes. Which services are missing from our portfolio; which service benefits our customers most? How can we make access to standards quicker and easier? How can we achieve the best possible efficiency? And we must collaborate more to live up to our own understanding of ourselves as a service provider. 

Why is collaboration becoming so important? 

Collaboration and active networking are the key to solving increasingly interdisciplinary tasks. For example, by working together with the IT consortia we can jointly work out how industry standards and technical standards can be harmonized. This includes topics such as IT security, Blockchain, Industrie 4.0 and online trade. Digitalization is taking a giant leap forwards in all areas. That’s why it is important that the standards committees become more interdisciplinary, involving more IT specialists. And it is particularly important that we take on more digital natives to work as experts within standardization. Making that happen will ensure that we are able to keep our finger on the pulse of innovation. With a sensitive radar for trends we will shape the future.

At last I would like to thank China Standardization for having given me the opportunity to share my visions on DIN ́s future, the trustworthy and fruitful cooperation with SAC and the importance of shaping the future of our international standardization system together with my Chinese colleagues in ISO and IEC. 

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