TÜV Rheinland Celebrates 150th Anniversary
Interview with Jennifer Wang, Managing Director of TÜV Rheinland Taiwan
This year is your 150th anniversary. Tell us about the founding and early history of TÜV Rheinland?
Technology is meant to benefit people, not harm them – this has been the core principle of technical monitoring ever since TÜV Rheinland was founded. On 31 October 1872, textile manufacturers joined forces to form the “Verein zur Überwachung der Dampfkessel” (Steam Boiler Monitoring Association) in the districts of Elberfeld and Barmen, one of the most heavily industrialised regions of Germany at the time. Their aim was to reduce the number of accidents involving steam boilers by having the boilers checked independently and professionally by engineers working for the association. This first steam boiler monitoring association (DÜV) in the Rhineland region was what eventually evolved into TÜV Rheinland.
Along with checking of steam boilers and related materials, training of specialist personnel soon become a key activity, as “human error” was one of the most common causes of accidents in factories. This gave rise to the first training courses provided by what we now call the TÜV Rheinland Academy. Since then, our activities and services have evolved in line with Germany’s industrial development. For example, in 1904, we started offering vehicle safety inspections. After that people started to become aware of the need for product safety, especially when companies started to become more international and produce products for export. This prompted the need for international safety standards and inspections. Today, over 20,000 people work for TÜV Rheinland globally.
In 1970, TÜV Rheinland set up its first subsidiary outside of Germany. Since 2006, TÜV Rheinland has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact to promote sustainability and combat corruption.
What about the history of TÜV Rheinland in Taiwan?
TÜV Rheinland Taiwan first began providing services in Taiwan in 1986 and has, in line with Taiwan’s rapid economic development, grown rapidly in the ensuing decades. Starting with just two German engineers initially, our team is now over 400. Just in the 10 years since I joined the company, we have introduced a number of new services in line with industry trends. In recent years we have gone through several phases driven by Industry 4.0, GDPR and Internet of Vehicles (IOV), in line with the government’s efforts to build smart cities, starting with smart transportation.
Now ESG is in focus. For example, we have just set up a Greenhouse Gas Reduction project team. They will help clients to measure their carbon footprints and then look at which areas we can assist them in reducing their emissions.
Can you give us an update on recent developments at TÜV Rheinland Taiwan?
We recently finished refurbishing our main office building in Taipei. Each floor of the office has been redesigned as open plan areas so that teams are seated together without cubicles or partitions. Special attention has been paid to improving comfort and interaction. For example, desk height can be adjusted so that employees can work seated or standing up. We removed partitions so as to allow better inter-departmental communication.
The main attraction of our office has been the redesign of the floor that used to be laboratory (the lab has been relocated to Taoyuan) into a casual open plan meeting and leisure space. It contains tables, chairs and various forms of comfortable seating areas, a stage for hosting events, a canteen and kitchen offering a variety of soft drink machines, refrigerators, an even a gaming area, equipped with a foosball table and exercise machines. Showers are available for those who choose to use the gym equipment or cycle to work. Employees are encouraged to use the area to eat lunch, hold casual meetings, work alone in an alternative space, or just take a short break. It will also be used for group functions like parties.
The whole concept of the new design is to make the workplace more comfortable to enable employees to be more creative and productive. The furniture used and design is also more environmentally friendly. TÜV Rheinland Taiwan has the lowest water, power and paper consumption per head among our offices in the region. Starting this year, we digitalised certificates for almost every service, which we encourage clients to use rather than printing them out.
I think it is important to tell people about our progress in order to lead by example. This year, for example, we installed a heat insulation film on the windows of our office and lab building that has succeeded in lowering the indoor temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. In addition to installing LED lights (which are standard), we are also working to reduce GHGs emitted by air conditioning.
All our labs, except for one in Taichung, have been centralised in Linkou and Taoyuan. The labs share common equipment, so it makes sense to have them located near to each other. This saves time as well as energy. Clients are happy because they don’t need to go to multiple locations.
How was your company’s performance in 2021 and what is the outlook for your business in 2022?
Performance was great in 2021 in line with Taiwan’s overall economic growth during the pandemic, especially in the electronics industry. The coronavirus pandemic changed the way we work, which created so many new business opportunities related to remote working.
Looking ahead, momentum is likely to continue given initiatives like the CBAM, and the European Green Deal. The Green deal, for example, includes a circular electronics initiative that would promote longer product lifetimes for electronic devices, the right to repair (including to update obsolete software) and improvements in the collection and treatment of waste electrical and electronic equipment. This will require companies to redesign products and think about how to reduce their carbon footprint and e-waste not just for products made for Europe but also for the North American market. Everyone is shifting gears. By 2024, we will probably see very different products.
Can you give some updates on your green energy business?
Solar is doing better than wind given fewer regulatory and NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) issues facing solar compared to onshore wind and the high costs associated with offshore wind. In EVs, we have some business in parts and components as well as tests of energy storage systems and charging stations. The battery testing business is going well since we opened our new battery testing lab in 2021 (located in Taoyuan). The location is convenient for our clients, since many battery makers are located in Taoyuan. We are now also spending more resources on IOV, mostly on the software rather than the hardware side.
How are you working to increase diversity and attract and develop new talent?
We are hiring new talent from universities. Admittedly, it is harder for us to attract talent, since we don’t have as much visibility as large tech companies and, even if young people have heard of us, they may not know our core values. Many young people today are looking for employers that share their values. One of these is to promote a good work-life balance.
We used to be a bit shy in the past, but we are now making more of an effort to explain that what we are doing is beneficial for society and share this with the general public. We are also working with the ECCT and NTU to hire interns with the aim of persuading them to stay and work full time for us. We have found that these young people bring new knowledge and fresh ideas and are more willing to experiment and try new things. About half of our new hires are recent graduates while the rest have various levels and lengths of experience.
Recruiting fresh graduates requires a lot of work on the part of managers to train them. It was difficult to managers to hire new graduates in the past but now they are starting to see the benefits. More managers are now asking for fresh graduates or those with less than five years of experience.
We believe our new office design will help to attract young talent. We also are continuing our policy of allowing staff the option of working remotely for 2 days per week and 3 days in the office per week. I believe this level of flexibility is important to attract and retain talent.
We are also arranging regular social events to attract young people. We are planning to invite a young colleague under the age of 35 to serve as a “Chief Entertainment Officer” to come up with new ideas for activities that would be attractive to young people. I am also arranging regular lunches with our young hires to allow them a platform to speak their minds without their direct supervisors present. All these initiatives are designed to find out what are young employees want so that we can better address their needs.