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Under 18 entrepeneurs on the rise?

Under 18 entrepeneurs on the rise?

A new generation of entrepreneurs is rapidly taking over, KIDS! The amount of under eighteen entrepreneurs seems to be quickly growing.

Especially Apps like Instagram, make it easy for kids to sell their products online. Usually these are home-made items. Like my daughter (12) and her friends. They are making rope products for horses and dogs, and selling these via Instagram. Officially, you need to be eighteen to have an Insta account, but obviously they have ways around that.

Those little entrepreneurs interested me, so I looked into the product group and similar products. Only to find there are many of these Instagram shops, run by kids. Selling home-made goods at low prices, but already doing their market research and having their online marketing campaigns. Some of them have a few hundred followers, where others have several thousands. Numbers that a “normal” store would be jealous of.

Obviously, they have a lot to learn about cost and pricing strategy, but learning quickly. It will be highly interesting to see how these entrepreneurs will develop themselves in the future, after starting at such a young age.

A very interesting trend, that is worth following!

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The lost art of choosing EN standards?

The lost art of choosing EN standards?

There is more and more confusion about chosing the correct standard for product testing. This increases the risk of accidents and recalls. So here a quick run through on how it is done. The above light chain is our example. Below we explain why it is actually NOT a light chain.

Step 1: choosing directives

In Europe, compliance with standards is only the second step. The first step is always compliance with the European directives. So we first need to assess which directives are applicable for our product.

What is our product?

At first glance our product looks like a light chain, which is the reason most labs will send it to their lighting department. However, until otherwise decided, it is a battery operated product, with LED bulbs and a metal wire to connect the bulbs.

Because of very low voltage, the Low Voltage Directive does not apply. It is not a toy, so that is out of the way too. There are no electronics, making the EMC directive useless. So in the end nothing remains, except the General Product Safety Directive (and RoHS/REACh, but for this example that is irrelevant).

Step 2: choosing standards

Regardless if we chose a directive or not, when choosing standards, we always look at the highest risk level for the leading standard. We may include other standards to cover other or similar risks.

Our item:

The highest risk of this product are the 2x CR2032 batteries and with that the risk is in the battery compartment. They can be highly dangerous for children and animals. Since it is not a toy, the risk of strangulation is not something we need to cover. There is no further risk in the light chain. It does not become warm, there is no electric shock and no risk of fire (although extremely thin copper PVC wire could be a risk, it is naked wire which is without that risk).

Step 3: All of the standard or just a part?

So in our case the light standard (EN60598-2-20) is irrelevant. Since now no standard is relevant, we either need to do our own risk assessment, or use a reference standard. Looking at the battery compartment there is only one standard covering this, the EN62115, which is a toy standard. Since this is not a toy, the standard may be too strict. Of course you can follow the complete standard, but you can also use the delicate art of analyzing the risks per paragraph and see if that risk is covered inherent in the product and its use, or if the paragraph is still relevant. Keep in mind that logic takes you a long way. Products must be idiot proof, not mad men proof and the user may be given a certain amount of responsibility, but this is limited. So, keep in mind that distribution channels and warnings are not enough to guarantee safety and even sane people can do weird things.

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A call for compulsory product testing

A call for compulsory product testing

After compulsory testing was changed to the voluntary CE scheme, testing services were outsourced to China. In the past 2 decades we set up great test and certification bodies in China and caused a total lack of experience and knowledge in the European test houses.

The end of the Notified Body is near

Currently notified bodies have been closed and more are likely to be closed. The knowledge of test houses and Notified Bodies is at an all time low, but also market surveillance is suffering hard. Experienced engineers are retiring and being replaced without transferring their knowledge. Nearly anyone is able to give interpretations of standards and directives, and more people will refer you to the legal system. However, a judge is not an engineer, let alone an expert in that specific area.

Product compliance is innovation

An experienced test and certification body, means products comply and keep consumers safe. However, it also means understanding of products that do not comply, yet are still able to be marketed. That knowledge is vital for innovation, since innovations usually deviate from the current standard.

 Compulsory testing in the EU

So we urgently need to transfer the knowledge back into the European Notified Bodies, and for this, there is only one method. Testing, testing, testing. Doing the job is understanding the standards. We saw this in China. Within 10-20 years we build up a strong engineering force in the various test houses there. So now we need to transfer that knowledge back to Europe. Since the production location and the cost of testing, make it logical to test local, this means this must be done by force. So the only way to achieve this, is to make testing compulsory and done only by notified bodies, inside the EU.

Online sales safety

The second problem we solve with this, is the hard to handle safety of online trade. If products coming into the EU must have a compulsory test report tested within the EU, it will be much easier to control the flow of online traded goods. In the International trade many countries have compulsory systems. However, I would urge to add the testing in the EU too, snce that is critical to build up knowledge.

How to do this?

I suggest a gradual method, starting with certificates that must be updated and new certificates. Since the EU Notified Bodies need time to recover. Finding and hiring more staff and train them, will take at least 10 years.. In this way we gradually integrate all products into the EU test scheme. When that is done, we all have the same costs. So from a trade perspective there is no real change, after the transit period.

Accreditation Bodies?

Finally, the Accreditation Bodies must undergo a vital change. Their work is questionable at least. The knowledge is flowing out of the Notified Bodies, which all people in the business clearly see. Yet they keep their accreditation. We even have seen labs lose their Notification, who still had their accreditation…

 

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