The new machinery directive
The long process needed to revise the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) came to an end on 21 April last, when the European Commission presented the proposal for a new Regulation, and this is already a great piece of news: proposing a regulation to replace an already existing one reveals the need for a more homogeneous and effective legislative device, not subject to possible differences due to its implementation by all member states, which was one of the issues raised as delays and significant differences existed between the member states of the Union. The primary purpose of the new regulation is to update the legislation and its essential requirements to fit the latest technological developments, including human-robot interaction, and to remove possible loopholes in safety requirements. Among the main innovations found in the new bill, one deserves to be mentioned: the adoption of a new legislative framework for placing a product on the market, introducing, in addition to the manufacturer, also the importer and the distributor with safety-related roles. The importer, like the manufacturer, is responsible for the conformity of the product and is personally liable for it, while the distributor has the duty to verify that the product is correctly identified and documented and to ensure that the transport and storage of the product do not compromise safety. But perhaps the most important novelty concerns new technologies and the impact these will have on human safety, including robots, autonomous vehicles, IoT (Internet on Things), artificial intelligence (AI), and self-learning machines (ML). In the case of AI and ML, the new regulation deals only with the safety aspect, however the issues related to them are so all-encompassing that the Commission has decided to devote a specific regulation designed to cover the subject in its entirety. In view of the proposals for amendments received from member states, the organization of the Annexes has been modified. In particular, the list of "high risk" machines, Annex 4 in the old Directive, has become Annex 1 and the safety requirements to which such machines must be subject are indicated in Annex 3, following the structure of other similar regulations. It should be noted that, unlike before, the new regulation provides that every machine of the type listed in Annex 1 must be checked for conformity by an approved lab, thus excluding self-certification procedures provided by Directive 2006/42/EC. And this has been immediately criticized; according to some, this obligation of third-party certification will cause higher costs and administrative burdens as well as longer marketing times. In addition to this, Orgalim, the federation representing the European hi-tech industry, voiced its concerns about the introduction of new requirements related to digital technologies that may constitute a limitation for an industry that must, by its nature, remain versatile, agile and innovative. The Commission, on the other hand, felt that the regulation was necessary to promote a sustainable post-pandemic recovery for a sector that is one of the industrial pillars of the EU economy, avoiding critical issues and regulatory gaps. The old directive does not sufficiently cover the risks arising from emerging technologies, including risks related to human-robot interaction and the problems of managing increasingly connected machines and equipment. The Commission also highlights the effort made to digitize processes and documents, emphasized in the new regulation, in an attempt to restrict the use of paper in line with European policies of sustainability. As far as garage-equipment goes, in addition to the overall structure of the regulation, which obviously concerns all the operators in the sector, there are no significant news as far as high-risk machines included in Annex 1 are concerned: it simply repeats the list found in Annex 4 in the old Directive. Garage lifts remain as the only high-risk pieces of equipment. The news, however, is that, as mentioned before, with the coming into force of the new regulation manufacturers of garage lifts will no longer be able to rely on self-certification procedures, even for a high-quality system, but will have to submit their products to conformity verification by an approved third party that will issue the appropriate certification valid for five years. It should also be noted that while the Machinery Directive applies to new machinery and has never considered modifications to older machines, the new regulation also applies to products that have undergone "substantial modifications", such as to affect their compliance with safety requirements; for these substantial changes the person or company responsible for making them will have to meet all the obligations that the regulation provides for manufacturers. The new regulation proposed by the Commission has reached the public consultation phase until July 22, after which the discussion process with the Parliament and the Council will begin. The new Machinery Regulation will come into force on the twentieth day after its publication and will be applied after a further 30 months, automatically repealing the old Directive 2006/42/EC; operators will also have an additional time window of 42 months to place on the market machines complying with the old Directive 2006/42/EC, after which only those complying with the new Regulation will be able to legitimately enter the EU market.
Associations in Motion - AICA and Auto Care kick off regular global conferences among industry associations
"It couldn't get any better," is the warm comment of AICA Secretary General Renzo Servadei at the conclusion of the first Associations in Motion meeting, held online last June 22, which was attended by 14 professional aftermarket associations from around the world. The idea of a global industry conference sparked at a meeting in November 2019 in Las Vegas and successfully saw the light thanks to careful preparation by AICA and Auto Care, the American automotive aftermarket association, a steady collaboration also within the framework of their respective trade shows, Auropromotec and AAPEX. The declared ambition is to see the widest possible cross-section of the aftermarket world represented was amply fulfilled: the 14 associations around the table represented almost all of America with, among others, the USA, Canada, Mexico and Brazil, Europe with EGEA, as well as AICA for Italy, China, India, Australia and Turkey. As Bill Hanvey, president of Auto Care, noted, a significant part of an industry made up of 1.4 billion vehicles and more than 1 trillion dollars in annual global sales was present at the table. The meeting, whose primary purpose was to share major issues and identify areas of common interest to work on, began with Thierry Coton, president of EGEA-EU, and Jean Francoise Champagne, president of AIA-Canada, who spoke on automotive technological innovation and its consequences in the aftermarket. As vehicles and mobility in general become more digital, the sector finds itself facing a threat and an opportunity at the same time. Computers and software will make up 75% of the cost of a vehicle by 2035, which will be capable of producing 25 GB data/hour, thus evolving into a true IoT end-point; this entails great changes for the aftermarket sector both from a professional and a competitive point of view. Just one example: over-the-air software upgrades; will independent suppliers be able to offer compliant products? And the question is not only about the necessary guarantees that laws and regulations must provide, but also about the technological-productive evolution of the same suppliers who will have to deal with increasingly sophisticated standards and regulations. Coton compared the evolution of the sector to that of the medical world: we are facing a transition from “general practitioners” to specialists who must deal with the most advanced diagnosis and repair techniques. As Champagne nicely summarized, "If you're not compliant, you cannot provide your product or service." Against this backdrop, Bill Hanvey, president of Auto Care, raised the question of the role of associations and the services they can provide. The majority of those in attendance agreed that associations need to cooperate for up-to-date professional training especially for the independent market. But the changes taking place go beyond the technological aspect; the recent pandemic has reinforced important behavioural, social and economic changes that were already in embryo, and associations now find themselves having to review their activities to consolidate their position. Stuart Charity, president of AAAA - Australia, analysed important activities performed by associations such as membership, events, training and accreditation, publications, sponsorship and government subsidies, concluding in a few words that the only certainty is that everything has changed, and it takes extra effort, intelligence and courage to adapt to the new circumstances. The debate that followed highlighted the fact that the problem is global and for this reason the exchange of ideas and experiences between associations will be of enormous help for everyone to adapt and progress despite the changes. Many more were the topics of interest and points of discussion, but we preferred to focus on the most important ones because Associations in Motion does not end here. The next appointment is scheduled for November in Las Vegas at the AAPEX exhibition which will hopefully be a physical event. As stated initially, AICA and Auto Care intend to make the appointment a regular one to be held twice a year: in May, during Autopromotec, and in November at AAPEX. Thus, the associations will be able to discuss important issues and develop possible collaborations taking advantage of two Trade Shows such as Autopromotec and AAPEX, global references for the entire car repair sector.