Success with services standards

On the 25th and 26th of January 2011 the "Global success with services standards" conference was held at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) in Berlin. The conference was attended by high-ranking participants from German politics and i

More than 200 participants from various economic sectors attended the conference jointly organized by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and DIN, the German Institute for Standardization.

Federal Commissioner for SMEs and Tourism and Parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry of Economics, Ernst Burgbacher, greeted participants and invited them to engage in constructive discussions on services standardization. "Services are becoming increasingly important for business success. Standards can help companies achieve greater profits especially in extremely competitive areas and international markets. They guarantee high quality. This is for many businesses an important selling point", said Burgbacher.

DIN President Prof. Dr. Klaus Homann presented an overview of DIN's activities in services standardization for which DIN is well-equipped with its Coordination Office for Services Standardization (KDL) and the recently-founded Services Standards Committee (NADL). The aim is for the German services industry to play a leading role in European and international services standardization.

Dr. Rainer Vanck, Spokesman for the Board of Directors of the German Customer Service Association (KVD) described "Perspectives and trends in services". Differences among technical products are disappearing in the wake of globalization, and German companies can best distinguish themselves from their competitors through the services they offer. Standards could make a major contribution to this.

The Vice President of the German Federal Association of Liberal Professions (BFB) and of the German Bar Association, Ulrich Schellenberg, described the general mission of the liberal professions: This includes the duty to personally perform, to maintain a high level of qualification, and to provide services in obligation to the general public. "The knowledge behind the liberal professions cannot be described and, as we understand it, cannot be set down by means of standardization," said Schellenberg. "To ensure quality, inspections are carried out voluntarily." It could be useful, however, to define standards in the field of office organization, for example.

In his speech Jürgen Meyer, Head of Directorate-General VII "Technology Policy" of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi), emphasized the fact that standardization helps promote innovation and pointed to the study on current facts and trends in services carried out by the German Customer Service Association (KVD), according to which innovative ability and creativity is a key for success for services as well. "The significance of services for technological development is continuously growing because in modern value chains production and services are increasingly interwoven", said Meyer. Standardization in this area thus strengthens Germany's role as a leader in future technologies.

"Services are a mainspring of economic development in Europe as well", said Renate A. Weissenhorn Head of the Unit Standardisation of the European Commission's Directorate-General Enterprise. The Commission's "Europe 2020" paper presents a vision of the European market economy in the 21st century, in which a functioning Internal Market is of special relevance. Standardization is an important instrument for removing trade barriers between Member States. There are already several "success stories" in the services sector, such as EN 15038 for translation services, which has helped define "good practice".

In his speech titled "Standardization as a quality mark for services" Dr. Hans-Juergen Loss of Lufthansa Technik AG described the quality management system introduced by his company. With 27,000 employees worldwide and over 1,700 inspections per day it is essential that staff members at all levels and in all product areas are able to inform themselves simply and effectively about their role and the processes involved in QM.

Christoph Weyrather of the German Association of Management and Personnel Consultants (BDU) reported on his experiences in developing the European Standard on consultancy services which is due to come out in summer 2011. The standard will bring more transparency and understanding in dealings between customers and consultants.

In machinery and plant engineering 20 % of all sales are made through product-related services, and in the case of lifts this proportion is even 50 %, said Peter Günther of the VDMA Lifts and Escalators Specialist Association in his presentation. DIN EN 13015 on the maintenance of lifts and escalators has already established itself in the sector. Günther stressed the fact that expectations regarding the quality and obligatory nature of service standards is as high as those for product standards.

Dr.-Ing. Gerhard Gudergan of the Research Institute for Operations Management (FIR) at the RWTH Aachen University presented the point of view of researchers, who believe there is a need for services standardization because it creates transparency. This requires an investment, because only then can providers of high-quality products keep up with the market and prevent a decline in quality and prices, according to Gudergan.

These speeches were followed by a series of workshops in which conference participants had the opportunity to formulate their requirements for services standardization. For instance, during the workshop "Service excellence" it was generally agreed that standardization in the services sector is necessary. There was a lively discussion of the specification DIN SPEC 77224 on service excellence, which will be published in April 2011, which was seen as a practical instrument to which participants added their own ideas. "Future visions and strategies for the standardization of technical services" was the subject of the second workshop. Workshop 3 dealt with another increasingly important topic for the services sector, "Sustainability and services". The workshop resulted in the formation of a Working Group on the subject which will be part of DIN's Coordination Office for Services Standardization (KDL). In Workshop 4 "Standardization and the liberal professions" included a more critical view of the topic. Participants found that it should always be borne in mind that, unlike product standardization, services standardization almost always involves legal aspects that have to be dealt with. For this reason, it is essential that legal experts be included in the standardization process to a greater extent.

At the end of the conference participants unanimously agreed that the topic of services standardization needs to be further pursued and a follow-up event should take place.