Founded in 1872 to inspect pressure vessels in the districts of Elberfeld and Barmen, Germany, TÜV Rheinland AG has expanded into a worldwide organization that employs 18,000 people in 500 locations in 65 countries and generates annual revenues of €1.53 billion, according to CEO Dr. Manfred Bayerlein. In the United States alone, TÜV Rheinland employs 500 people, and “we are active in product testing and certification, especially in the electronics area,” he said.
Dr. Manfred Bayerlein
TÜV Rheinland’s portfolio, Dr. Bayerlein noted, has broadened greatly from the original focus on pressure vessels, for which the organization set standards for materials and welding to prevent explosions. Today, he said, the portfolio embraces the gamut of advanced technical products and industries, including consumer electronics and wireless communications facilities as well as rail transportation and photovoltaic industries. Despite this drastically expanded portfolio, however, Dr. Bayerlein said the organization’s goal remains the same: “to protect people and the environment from the negative impact of technology, and this mission has not changed in over 140 years.”
Dr. Bayerlein studied materials science and IT at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. After completing his doctorate in 1991, he started working for the ABB Group. He subsequently served as managing director for Germany and France for MESSER Cutting & Welding. His experience as an industrial operational manager, he said, helps him better understand customer needs.
In 2003, he moved to TÜV Süd, and in September 2011, he joined TÜV Rheinland, which he described as “one of the world’s leading test and inspection companies.” He said 60% of its employees are located outside Germany, with 3,000 in China and 2,700 in Brazil.
A key focus for TÜV Rheinland is helping companies compete globally, Dr. Bayerlein said, adding that the organization has a significant worldwide presence, including in the BRICS countries. “It would be very difficult for manufacturers to talk to 20 different test and inspection companies in 20 different regions,” he said. But working with TÜV Rheinland, “they can get, from one hand, market access to 200 countries, letting them focus on their core business.”
TÜV Rheinland’s International Approval division, he said, can help with issues ranging from safety to electromagnetic compatibility. If you want access to global markets, he said, it’s important that you design your products from the very beginning with compliance in mind.
Of particular importance now, he added, is the pending free trade agreement between the EU and the United States, which could help manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean become more competitive. A completed agreement would cut tariffs, he said, although harmonization of the regulatory environment would be even more beneficial.
“If a car manufacturer wants to sell his product in the United States, he must pass a crash test,” Dr. Bayerlein said. “But even if that test is positive, it would not be sufficient for him to also sell the car in Europe. So he would have to crash the same car once more.” A trade agreement, he said, could eliminate the need for the second test as well as the associated costs and time-to-market delays. He estimated that a completed agreement could be worth up to $700 per year per U.S. household, with European households also benefiting.
Dr. Bayerlein noted that although exports account for more than 50% of Germany’s GDP, they account for only 12% of the U.S. GDP. Therefore, he sees significant opportunity for U.S. manufacturers to compete by producing quality products that they can sell globally.
With regard to quality, he noted that at one time a manufacturer could bring a product to market and there would be a delay before an independent test organization published a review of it. Today, however, when a new product comes to market, consumers rapidly render a verdict on social media platforms. “It takes only a few days to read on Facebook whether the product is good or not,” he said. “Consumers quickly observe what’s going on, and they vote with their feet. So having good products will be more and more important for manufacturers.” TÜV Rheinland, he said, through consulting and training, “can help American manufacturers improve the performance and quality of their products.”
With respect to the U.S.-EU free trade agreement, he said, “We are optimistic, and we hope very much that we will see progress by the end of 2015. On the other hand, we can assume negotiations will be very tough because lots of stakeholders are trying to exert influence.” He noted that big companies can get directly involved, and smaller ones can work with independent associations to lobby for their interests. In conclusion, Dr. Bayerlein said, “We are prepared to support manufacturers in the United States and also in Europe to achieve what’s best for their industries.”