More Europe: the response of German testing laboratories to the crisis of globalization
Clicca qui per leggere la versione in italiano
Managing Director, German Independent Laboratories Association (VUP e.V)
Which sectors do the industries that require testing services in your laboratories mainly belong to?
There is almost no area of life and industry that can do without the testing services of laboratories. From food to soil, air and water to toys, medical and pharmaceutical or industrial products. In all these areas, our laboratories help their customers to fulfill quality, safety and security standards, whether they come from legal regulations, normative documents or self-defined standards. In general, we divide the laboratory market into the following 5 major sector: Environmental Analytics, Consumer Protection & Food Testing, Health & Pharma AnalyticsMedical & Pharmaceutical Analytics, Calibration & Physical Measurements, Material Analytics.
What has changed in these sectors with the introduction of digital technologies and how have these changes affected the services you offer to your customers?
The digital transformation is changing the way we live and work, how we consume and how we communicate with each other. It is also changing attitudes to the quality and security of products and processes – just think of the big issue of data privacy. As service providers for quality, safety and security, testing companies are challenged to meet these new challenges, demands and opportunities. That is what they are doing. They are building order portals for their customers, connecting their equipment in the lab to become faster and more efficient, or relying on artificial intelligence to offer new or better services. Digital technologies and solutions are also a way to relieve employees of routines, to offer them a smart and flexible working environment. This is a very important point at a time when the laboratory sector is also struggling to attract young talents.
How attractive are your country’s industries for talent from abroad? And which countries do they come from in particular?
The German automotive industry, the chemical or mechanical engineering industries have always been attractive and worthwhile destinations for foreign workers. From this industrial core also comes a lot of drive and demand in the direction of digitization. In general, the digital and IT sector is growing here, especially in large cities such as Berlin or Munich. Although this cannot be compared with the dynamism and attractiveness of Silicon Valley, I experience in my neighborhood that especially for young people from Southern and Eastern Europe, Berlin is not only an attractive sightseeing or party destination, but also a place to create or work in new, inspired and above all digital jobs.
Globalization, especially since the 1990s, has led to the relocation of production where labor costs were lower. The regionalization of supply chains, on the other hand, has affected European countries, in cases where, for example, a car sold by a German manufacturer to the United States very often uses components made in Italy. How is Made in Italy considered in your country?
Of course, everyone first thinks of Italian food or Italian fashion – and associates the highest standards and quality with them when they hear “made in Italy”. But Italy is also known and recognized for good design and precise engineering in industry and mechanical engineering. But let me mention this: In the end, testing companies like our laboratories ensure the manufacturers that their quality promises can be given to customers all over the world and that this quality promise can be trusted. That is why we have the claim for our association of German lab companies: “Our result is your success”.
Following the pandemic before and the war in Ukraine now, do you notice a trend towards reshoring by your country’s industries? In which sectors in particular?
Yes, there is a rethinking in politics, among consumers and of course in industry: How vulnerable and dependent are we as a result of globalization? Of course, the first glance falls on critical (infrastructure) areas such as health, energy or nutrition. During and because of the corona pandemic, for example, we wanted to quickly set up a German mask production again, in the pharmaceutical sector we have been complaining for a long time about “outsourced” production facilities in India and are surprised when medicines are missing. And now sunflower oil from Ukraine is missing. This also sharpens awareness of Germany as the “world champion of globalization”. However, no one can predict what the answers to these uncomfortable questions will be. In my opinion, the solution lies in Europe, and the answer lies in “more Europe”.