FA 07 Europeans are harmonising their standards.

Yet a global consensus is still way off – China is striving to develop standards of its own.

Standards create order where otherwise chaos would rule. They simplify distribution and give the end user security when purchasing. They are of great value for both makers und users of industrial valves. Emerging economies such as China are however giving cause for concern in the worldwide market. They are working on standards of their own, “that could make things harder in the future for global manufacturers”, admonishes Christoph Pauly, spokesperson of valve and pump manufacturer KSB AG.

“International and European standards function as a common technical language”, the German Institute for Standardisation, DIN, underlines. “For our products”, they are “a passport for the global market”, explains Karl Dungs, CEO of Dungs, a maker of magnetic valves and ball valves.

Significant economic benefits
Various standards, i.e. an absent common language, would see internationally engaged companies stutter. This would be fatal, as standards create significant economic benefits, which for Germany alone are estimated to be 17 billion euros annually, according to a German report published in 2011 titled „The Economic Benefit of Standardisation: an Actualisation of the 2000 DIN-Report“ („Der gesamtwirtschaftliche Nutzen der Normung: Eine Aktualisierung der DIN-Studie aus dem Jahr 2000“).

In addition, 84 per cent of manufacturing companies receive access to the global market by utilising European and international standards.

In the last years, associations have been striving to harmonise standards. All parties involved were on a good track. Today, nearly 90 per cent of DIN's standardisation work takes place on the European or international level, DIN's Valves Standards Committee emphasises.

A trend towards harmonising standards once specific to individual countries however is only the case for Germany, KSB spokesperson Pauly regrets. Here, things “are in a very advanced state, details merely need to be adapted.” Harmonisation, as currently under way in Europe, “can be seen as a step in the right direction.”


A long road to global harmonisation
Here, Germany is in a good position. “The DIN area greatly influences the European market, as many countries do not have such a comprehensive scope of standardisation”, explains Lars Hennemann, an engineer in Mankenberg’s technical department.

However, there still is a long road to travel towards worldwide common standards. In addition to European standards, the ANSI standards (American National Standards Institute) are also in use around the world. Whereas European standards are more of “a technically demanding and comparatively modern creation”, ANSI rather more defines “minimal standards”, explains KSB spokesperson Pauly.

For a lot of manufacturers, there is no way around the US market. Mankenberg, as well as many other valve makers, have to “intensively deal with implementing American standards.” LESER also follows this strategy. After all, the company's safety valves are used in major scale energy, oil and gas projects. “For that purpose, they have to meet additional standards, such as those of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or the American Petroleum Institute (API)“, explains Bernd Jörgensen, head of LESER's technical department.

Valves attached to pumps or compressors need to fulfil both the PED (Pressure Equipment Directive) and the ASME codes.


Standards for those without
Seen from the global perspective, further disharmony is blooming on the horizon. Emerging economies such as China are creating their own standards or are increasingly influencing international standards. A lot of companies are aware of this. Siemens has placed an emphasis on standardisation in its strategy. “If we ourselves don't set standards, then others will standardise us”, says Werner Fischer, head of Siemens' standardisation regulation management department.

Siemens AG Austrian office therefore shares its “tested experience” with standardisation committees, in order to help shape market rules.

Companies that don't want to land on the side lines need to proactively help shape standards. LESER, for instance, participates in national and international standardisation committees, as well as working groups within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA).

Implementation of standards is also of great importance for LESER: “A rule-consistent function of safety relevant components is decisive for plant operators and boilers in order to control risks for man and nature”, Jörgensen, head of the technical department, underscores. Documented fulfilment of legal requirements, internationally recognised standards, sector-specific regimes or also own quality requirements create safety and dependability for operators.

In addition, safety valves often are implemented in areas or plant components that are very hard to reach, or only can be reached with a lot of effort. “Here, a component needs to be dependable, purely out of economic reasons.”


Fighting against immissions
Standards alone are only one half of the story. Adherence to standards requires control. Through an integrated quality management ranging from choice of supplier to valve testing, “we can ensure that our own demands and those defined by regimes are fulfilled in every step of the process”, Jörgensen adds.

Customers regularly look over LESER's shoulder and examine the production and verification process in the company's plant located in Hohenwestedt, Germany. “We can verify and document a valve's function in our test bay in Hamburg. TÜV Nord also checks on LESER's work.”

One of the major topics for companies is emissions. Not only are they harmful for man and nature, they also influence the success of a company. Leakages are a big cost factor for plant operators. Companies that manage to minimise leakages can save a lot of cash. In turn, valve makers can score points with end users with efficient valves.

As emissions are within the domain of public interest, legislators always take a close look. In order to limit media emissions, German legislators formulated the TA-Luft, the Technical Instructions on Air Quality, which is the first part of the Federal Emission Control Act. In order to meet the demands of TA-Luft, metal bellows with a back-up gland packing or equivalent sealing systems are required.

Equivalent sealing systems need to be VDI 2440 certified. “VDI 2440 only specifies the sealing system of the shaft seal, but not the entire valve”, emphasises Markus Häffner, head of construction and development at valve manufacturer Armaturenfabrik Franz Schneider. In addition, it is not possible to directly compare various TA-Luft compliant valves.


ISO stricter than TA-Luft
The devil is in the details. What's more, the ISO 15848 standard also comes into play as soon as emissions are concerned. ISO 15848 “Industrial valves -- measurement, test and qualification procedures for fugitive emissions” as an international standard “covers the entire valve including housing seal, whereas TA-Luft, in contrast, is only concerned with the sealing system of the shaft seal”, explains Häffner, of Armaturenfabrik Franz Schneider.

The stricter ISO standard also has further advantages: valves made by different manufacturers can be compared thanks to classification in tightness and temperature classes. In addition, the entire valve can meet the requirements. Standards-based comparability helps end users determine which valve to buy, whilst also helping the environment.

In order to meet requirements such as those of the TA-Luft, valve makers have to depend on seals. Seals often are the weakest part in the chain. Unsurprisingly, there is a “trend towards higher-quality processing or combination of conventional sealing materials”, states Wilfried Ernst, CEO of Köthener Spezialdichtungen GmbH. The seals maker has done its homework in the last 20 years: “Products that meet the highest technical requirements such as TA-Luft are available from several companies”, Ernst explains.

Customers profit from a positive effect: seals makers compete to develop optimal seals in a highly competitive market.


Standards trends in materials and ecology
An important principle for developing standards is that they are created in line with market requirements, and within the proper time frame. This is why there are various trends over time. Currently, new materials and associated manufacturing processes are an important topic for the NAA. One of the main focuses at the moment is the way hose lines are connected to valves.

Ecological and hygienic trends are becoming increasingly important. So is, of course, the “Europeanisation in valve standardisation, or the harmonisation of national requirements”, states the NAA.

In the end, it is worth grappling with new developments, as the advantages for a company are numerous. “Standards maintain quality and product safety on a consistent level”, emphasises Lars Hennemann, an engineer working for Mankenberg. Products can be compared. Companies “can keep risks stemming from product liability laws manageable and controllable”, KSB spokesperson Pauly adds. According to the NAA, further advantages of standards are planning reliability and security of investments, alongside avoiding trade handicaps.

As such, the motto can only be “to support a global harmonisation of standards”, Pauly concludes. Yet naturally while maintaining a sense of proportion – over-regulation has to be avoided.


Contributing ideas
Participation in standardisation committees can be advantageous for valve makers. They can thus contribute their own ideas. “Ideas within the market are taken into account”, states the NAA.

In view of China and Russia, it will be a struggle to develop global standards. German manufacturers however have reasons to be hopeful. “Chinese standardisation for instance is strongly based on the DIN standard. This is very positive for German makers”, says Pauly.


No consensus, no standard
Standards as such are not legally binding, implementation is voluntary. They can become legally binding through legal acts of third parties, for instance if contracts, laws or regulations refer to them. Standards are continuously adapted.

One basic principle of standardisation is consensus: a standard is only agreed upon, when no party involved in its making has any objections. Furthermore, an emphasis is placed on transparency and neutrality.

Germany's Valve Standards Committee (Normenausschuss Armaturen, NAA) within the DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V.) is, amongst others, responsible for standardising industrial valves. This includes national, European and international standardisation of valves regulating, diverting, mixing and shutting off the flow of media.

According to the NAA, around ten standards are determined and published in working committees, including revisions.

The NAA is one of a total of 71 standards committees within the DIN. Standardisation takes place in committees, where approximately 28,000 experts belonging to interested parties such as business, science, public authorities, testing institutes and consumer associations share their knowledge.