“When technology was making huge progress back in the 1800s – a time of significant new inventions – people were also learning that new technologies could have risks, if things were not under control or up to standard,” said Andreas Loof, Director of Sales (Greater China) of VDE Global Services.
In response to this need, the Verband der Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechni (VDE) was launched in Germany in 1893, to standardize product testing and certification. Then in 1920, the VDE Testing and Certification Institute was established to certify electrical products and components to German, European and international standards.
“Ensuring the safety and quality of products in a sustainable way continues to be at the core of the VDE Testing and Certification Institute,” said Loof.
Today, the VDE mark is known around the world as a symbol of quality and safety in consumer products, electronics and power tools, and helps brands by giving them a competitive edge.
VDE Global Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the VDE Testing and Certification Institute, provides a full range of testing and certification procedures to its customers in Asia from its Hong Kong base.
VDE has three core functions: testing, inspection and certification. “Testing is typically done in laboratories, with one laboratory as the heart in Germany and the rest mostly in Mainland China,” Loof explained.
Testing has two key areas: chemical and physical elements. “We need to check if there are any harmful substances in the product or if you will feel itchy after you touch it,” he said. “Then the physical element is to check if the product works the way people want, like if it will easily bend or break when you use it.”
Inspection involves going to the factories to pick samples and to assess the production process, and also visiting transport hubs such as harbours to check the shipping. Once the testers are satisfied that products have fulfilled all the criteria, the products are certified with the valuable VDE mark.
It is not just the finished products that are tested. “We can start as early as the product design check,” Loof said. “We examine the design to see if there are risks with the new technologies, or start with pre-production and give feedback. This means we can help to redesign it at an early stage.”
There are a range of different standards used around the world, but VDE can also go beyond these requirements according to clients’ needs.
“Complying with the international or national standards is always the minimum for the VDE mark,” Loof said. “But some customers may have extra requirements that are above the legal standards. Therefore, it is not only about safety, but also about customer experience.”
In fact, VDE, as a neutral authority, can also check the claims made by its clients’ rivals, to ensure these competitors are not exaggerating the capabilities or quality of their products.
Besides its core roles in testing and certification, VDE is also active in sharing knowledge and encouraging young talent. To foster cooperation, VDE is part of an association of more than 100,000 honorary experts and members, and 1,500 member companies, from SMEs to global names like Bosch and Siemens.
“These companies offer profound knowledge and the discussions with experts bring huge influence,” Loof said. “Sometimes these companies also seek advice from us. It is not one-way, but constant dialogue.”
Besides its own 1,500 member companies, VDE also offers membership to students. This enables them to connect with businesses and go behind the scenes at big enterprises, and learn more about the career paths available.
“Not only do we share our knowledge with the young people, but we also learn from them how they see the world now and what it will be like in 10 years,” Loof added. “They have grown up with these new technologies and use them in a different way, which is also interesting for us.”
The industry also offers careers outside the technical and engineering side, such as in marketing and business development. Young people also have new ideas about Smart Homes, mobility and the Internet of Things. “It’s good to bring all those people together and build a community to exchange ideas,” he said.
To help in information sharing, VDE – with the support of its members – also organizes seminars, participates in trade fairs, and publishes books and online information.
The constant evolution of technology means the testing industry is also changing all the time. Loof gave the example of making coffee, which was once a simple process but can now be done with machines and apps to deliver a variety of different brews. This makes testing for safety all the more complex. He also noted how technology is becoming more embedded into our daily lives.
“When you look at the products in a Smart Home nowadays, it is no longer as simple as just having a bulb, putting it on the wall and switching it on,” he said. Now, there are apps and devices involved in the process – all of which require testing for safety and quality.
To stay up-to-date with the developing technology, VDE’s experts are involved in life-long learning. “We train our people internally and externally to stay relevant, and work with our members to gain insights,” Loof said. “We also encourage staff to go directly to the production line so that they can learn first-hand by seeing the real thing, and touch and smell the products.”
The Covid-19 outbreak caused some interruptions for the company as it became more complicated to get samples from factories. But it has also seen a boom in business as people under lockdown or working from home have been investing in new technology and lifestyle products.
In Europe, for example, there has been a spike in enthusiasm for outdoor activities, Loof said. “Because people are not able to travel the way they did in the past, many of them have bought new bikes for the whole family.”
Here in Asia, the rapid development of the Greater Bay Area is presenting “tremendous future opportunities” for VDE to expand further, with Hong Kong acting as the customer service hub. And with the rapid advance of technology showing no signs of slowdown, VDE will ensure that the devices that we use continue to be safe and high quality.
“Living in a fast-changing world, we see our role in developing ideals for the electrical and digital future happening here and now,” Loof concluded. “At the end of the day, we are ensuring a future worth living.”
Company: VDE Global Services
Membership No. : HKV0179
Established : 1893
Website : http://www.vde.com
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