Georges Klepfisch, the former chairman of NBN's board of directors, retired in 2020. Just before the whole of Belgium was locked up by corona. Meanwhile, we are 2 years on and we would have loved to have had this fascinating personality speak one last time in this farewell interview.
A graduate in structural engineering, he started his career in 1977 at the collective research center of the construction industry (WTCB). He worked there as a consultant in heating and energy. In 1990, he co-founded the Belgian center for home automation (BCDI). Here he was already introduced to international standards. As the person responsible for certification in the construction sector, he first came into contact with the Bureau for Standardization. In 2005 he became director at NBN as well as chairman of the Supreme Council for Standardization. Finally, in 2014, he was appointed chairman of NBN.
Georges: "For me, that was a very nice period because I had the opportunity to work with CEO Johan Haelterman. NBN has progressed tremendously under his leadership. I immediately had a good human connection with him. We complemented each other well. So we worked together to be better represented as a small country in the world of international standardization. Because even though we are a country of experts, that is not well known. We also put our collective research centers on the international standardization map. As a result, we currently have a small but balanced voice internationally. One that is taken into account. For me, these are great achievements."
Georges: ‘Direct contributions are always very modest, because the standardisation process is a democratic process. It provides a foundation based on compromises and agreements. Therefore, my goal was not to make personal contributions to the standardisation process, but rather to put Belgian standardisation on the map. And to give as many people as possible the desire to become experts.’
Georges: "We have grown from a classic, old-fashioned organisation into a highly computerized Organisation. We have put a tremendous amount of effort into ICT. There are few organizations that do it better. Our small team has a lot of expertise. The tools we use are of the highest world class. We have also worked hard on marketing. NBN has become a more commercial Organisation . One that is much more visible and accessible, promoting standardization across industries in Belgium. With increased customer satisfaction as a result."
Georges: ‘Standards are especially important for allowing trade without restrictions and to protect individuals. They serve the common good. Standards are a compromise that all of society accepts. The more complex our world becomes, the more important standards become.’
Georges: ‘Without standards, you simply cannot bring new products to the (international) market. But that’s not all: standardisation fosters competitiveness. Thanks to standards, we have an abundance of safe and high-quality products and services at a competitive price.’
Georges: "I think NBN needs to work especially on the user-friendliness of standards. Even smaller companies, individuals and consumers should be able to read them and thus work according to best practices. That is why it is important that they are written in a clear, understandable language. We also need to make our Belgian voice even better heard internationally. Fortunately, we are already well on our way."
As of 2020, Dominique Du Tré became the new Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Dominique Du Tré
She has now been working in the federation field for 29 years. First in the agricultural machinery federation, then in the technology industry federation Agoria. From her various positions, she often came into contact with national, European and international standards. Within Agoria, she became responsible for the regulatory and standardization entity and got to know NBN. Today she is responsible for the entity of experts that provides services to members. When Agoria became sector operator at NBN, Dominique took a seat on the NBN Board of Directors. To eventually become chairman of this board in 2020.
Dominique: ‘There are still certain projects I want to take on together with Johan and his team. We try to involve ourselves more and more internationally in the standardisation process. Johan is now also a member of ISO's governing body. It’s important to be closely involved in the international governance model of standardisation. Moreover, the NBN's future plans are aligned with the priorities proposed by European Commissioner Thierry Breton in February 2022 in his new European strategy on standardisation.
NBN is becoming a much more dynamic Organisation and is shaking off its corny image. We want to make it as easy as possible for the end user to find standards so that they are used effectively. Because that is ultimately the goal: for standards to permeate our society.
In education, therefore, there is still much work to do to make standards and standardisation more widely known. Students are the users and writers of tomorrow’s standards. The generational shift among standardisation experts will make this easier.
The top priority for the NBN is still to raise awareness among all stakeholders, attract experts, and then guide them through the standardisation process. At the end of the day, everyone should know what standards are, what their added value is, and why standardisation is so important.’