"Standards are our day-to-day guide in everything we do at Umicore."

13/4/2023
Tom Crickets

Tom Krekels leads the Strategic Insights and Analysis team at Umicore. Although he doesn't encounter standards much in his everyday work, Tom realises their importance better than anyone. "Standards are our day-to-day guide in everything we do at Umicore," he says.

The name Umicore will probably sound familiar to most people. Tom explains: "We're a circular materials company. What does that mean? That sustainability and 'closing the loop' are very important to us. In terms of sustainability, Umicore has been a forerunner. And it still is. We're doing our best to become climate neutral. By 2030 we aim to halve our CO2 emissions and by 2035, we want to get them down to zero. Compared to our competitors, this is very ambitious, but I'm convinced this ambition will only strengthen our competitive position in the market."

Do standards contribute to that?

Tom: "Standards are inextricably linked to our operations. We are an innovative manufacturing company operating in every aspect of the value chain. From research and development to production, supplying materials to the customer, and even recycling them if necessary. Both on the technical and business sides, standards guide everything we do. What do we use them for? A lot of different things. Like many companies, we would like to be ISO 9001 certified. ISO 9001 is the standard for a quality management system. ISO 14001, which describes environmental requirements, is another standard that we adhere to. What does adhering to these standards mean? That we can try to get certified as an organisation. Through our use of standards, the outside world knows what it can expect from us: the delivery of a quality product, defined using calibrated methods."

Does everyone at Umicore have access to standards?

Tom: "My department is also responsible for information and its flow within our organisation. As part of our mission, we made sure to introduce the NBN platform. Our standards collection is available on our internal digital system for all Belgian employees, so they can consult all standards on the NBN platform. For me, the biggest advantage is that all relevant information is available to those who need it. In addition, the wide access ensures that we're fully in line with all licensing obligations. And with the digital database, I can also be sure we have the latest versions in all necessary languages. The platform has completely won me over, and I'm of course very curious about the new version that's coming."

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Is it mainly your technical colleagues who turn to standards?

Tom: "They're not the only group that works with standards, but they are the group that's most heavily involved with them. Many standards are about safety, and that's highly relevant for them. Standards also offer good engineering principles when building structures, for example. So yes, Umicore's technical profiles are completely at home in the world of standards, but so are those on the business side. They know exactly what a specific standard means, how it is checked and how important the corresponding certificates are. We all work hard every day to make sure we're in line with the standards that are relevant to us. Safety is our main reason for working with standards, but it doesn't stop there. When we provide a service to a customer, it often happens that we refer to a standard for some part of that service. Whether or not standards are used can be the difference between closing and losing an order. An organisation that doesn't work with standards and certifications is at the back of the line when it comes to securing large contracts."

Safety is an important reason. What other value do standards bring an organisation ?

Tom: "They're a means of standardisation, but also a means of communication. If two companies use the same standards, they immediately have a good idea of what each other's operations look like. Standards are great for aligning processes between and within entities. And again: standards ensure safety. And that's important for everyone."

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